Roberts safety group calls for support

By 
Alastair Baker
News Editor
Wednesday, March 18, 2020

 

The Roberts HWY 212 Improvement & Safety Committee (RISC) told a large gathering at the Fire Hall last week to “spread the word and write letters” to the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) and their local representatives in regards to the highway project going through the town. 

RISC and many Roberts’ citizens are concerned about MDT plans to build a two way left turning lane through the town and to increase the speed limit to 45 mph.  

RISC argue a turning lane will reduce the existing wide shoulders, presently at 11 feet each, to 4 feet on the west side of Highway 212 and 6 feet on the east side. With the influx of an Amish community to the area with their horse-drawn buggies safety issues in the community are even more paramount as the buggies primarily use the wide shoulders for travel and are on average 5.5 feet in width meaning they will overhang into the west side of the highway and just about fit on the eastside of the highway.

The group cited many other issues with the project that include the drainage ditches on both sides of the highway, the Roberts West Drainage Ditch, to cross walks and the New Cooney Dam Road.  So far the only item the group feel MDT has relented on is finding a way to reinstate land for the Veterans Memorials along the east side of the highway. 

MDT representatives were invited to the meeting but were unable to attend however Carbon County Commissioners Scott Blain and Bill Bullock were in attendance and came away in agreement with RISC over the 35 mph speed limit.

“I think 35 is an appropriate speed limit,” said Blain. “It only makes sense.  And I don’t think there should be a turn lane. I don’t know what to do with the ditches, that’s a huge challenge.” 

“I have no problem advocating 35 mph,” said Bullock. 

The group is accepting of a 55 mph speed limit between the ‘Welcome’ sign north of town to Selms Road and from West Bench Road to the ‘Welcome’ sign south of town.  

As far as the memorial markers went Bullock added, the focus should be on reestablishing them “for the mere fact of the legitimacy of being written into national record.” 

He said the markers “are very important to this town” and “time is going to be critical. We missed Veterans Day and we’re up against running into the same problem for Memorial Day and I find that unacceptable.” 

Present at the meeting was a former member of the Roberts Community Foundation member Elta Bertolino Ayre. 

She encouraged people to contact their representatives and to research the issues. 

Ayre has a long history with MDT’s plans for Roberts that stretches back over 20 years. 

In 2000 she wrote to MDT on behalf of the Roberts Community Foundation (RCF) regarding concerns about a project to widen the highway through the town.

The Foundation had plans she wrote to use $84,000 in CTEP money to create a lighted walkway along the highway through Roberts because it was then unlit and had barrow pits on either side of the road. The MDT plans would expand over this project. The RCF requested MDT to include in their plans these curbs, gutters, a sidewalk and lighting and RCF would redirect the CTEP money towards safety and beautification work to compliment MDT’s project. 

In 2008 Ayre again wrote to MDT to again express concerns that MDT were not going to take up this offer. The Foundation was so worried about safety concerns they installed 7 streetlights along that highway area. 

“A lot of requests were implemented by the Roberts Community Foundation but fell through the cracks,” said RISC chair Michael Gebhardt. “There have been lots of changes since then and we’re trying to address these to MDT.”

RISC and the RCF are obviously frustrated with MDT to a point that mistrust is fast becoming another issue.

“Their bureaucratic goal is to get this project finished which makes sense parse but we feel they are putting us off and in not showing up here… will people come back to the meeting they will present? We really ask for you guys to come back,” said Gebhardt. 

Ayre asked if MDT’s next meeting in Roberts required a community approval vote? 

“At first that was the understanding to get community approval, but things have changed,” said Gebhardt. 

The town is working with MDT and the Carbon County Commissioners to put in an electronic solar speed flashing sign, to give awareness to drivers. 

“This is not something the MDT pays for,” said Gebhardt. “The community raises these funds, and that could be channeled through the Roberts Community Foundation.” 

“They have proven to be pretty effective.  They have the capability to carry out traffic counts and a speed limit stamp. We could do our own traffic study if we wanted to,” said Gebhardt. 

As a parting note RISC member Frank Jarvenpaa  asked those present to “Please communicate with us.” 

“We need you and really appreciate you. In a few weeks MDT will be presenting their new wares,” he said.

The RISC website includes this list of contact information for State representatives: Governor Steve Bullock P.O. Box 200801 Helena, MT 59620-0801; Barb Skelton Transportation Commission 7256 Highway 3 Billings, MT 59106; Mike Tooley Director of MDT P.O. Box 201001 Helena, MT 59620-1001; Senator David Howard P.O. BOX 10 Park City, MT 59063-0010 and  Representative Seth Burglee P.O. BOX 340 Joliet, MT 59041-0340

Please visit the RISC website at riscmt.com or email them at elkpeak@gmail.com or call them at (406) 633-6315. 

 

 

 

 

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