The Montana Department of Transportation and its consultants are going to expand their look into the future of Highway 93 south of Missoula by expanding the analysis to cover more of the busy travel corridor.

MDT launched the Lolo to Florence Corridor study last year, a comprehensive look at ways to improve safety along 93 in the northern end of the Bitterroot Valley. Engineers say continued growth is leading to more heavy traffic, especially during the morning and afternoon commutes. And there's also interest in trying to make the highway safer, given the number of multi-vehicle fatality accidents in recent years.

The initial report was only going to focus on design changes between Lolo and Florence. But now, the state is going to expand the study to include the entire 93 corridor to the southern edge of Missoula. That will include the problematic Lolo "S" curves, which can become a major bottleneck with accidents during hazardous winter driving conditions.

People offered initial safety ideas at meetings last fall- Dennis Bragg photo

MDT and Robert Peccia & Associates will now look as far north as the Buckhouse Bridge over the Bitterroot River.

The expansion came because of public comments

"Crews have completed environmental, crash, and traffic data collection. Public comments and feedback are still welcome and encouraged throughout all portions of the study. The feedback we have received so far is incredibly valuable in understanding issues the community sees on the highway.” - MDT Missoula District Administrator Bob Vosen

Dennis Bragg photo

Some of the ideas suggested so far have included intersection improvements and under-highway wildlife crossings.

A second round of meetings with the public and stakeholders is expected later this summer or fall.

While the state doesn't have funding for improvements now, Vosen has said getting the analysis and design complete will prepare the way for making changes when money becomes available.

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