October 13, 2008

Missoula Contractor Wins Airport Road Bid

By Falstad, Jan

A Missoula-based contracting company won the $24.1 million bid to rebuild Airport Road across Billings' skyline, and some preliminary work on the complicated project may begin next month.

By unanimous vote this week, the five-member Montana Transportation Commission awarded the Airport Road bid to Riverside Contracting Inc.

Riverside Operations Manager Dennis Devous, who lives in Billings, said Riverside can legally start work Oct. 8 when it receives the notice to proceed.

"If we have a long fall, we may start serious work this fall, including blasting and removing rock," Devous said. "But most of that will probably be done next year."

Delays for drivers

Drivers can expect delays when the excavation work starts. All work on the 300-day contract must be done by Sept. 1, 2010, or the company must pay penalties to the Montana Department of Transportation.

Out of four bidders, Riverside Contracting submitted the low bid of $24.1 million. However, due to rising costs, including asphalt, that bid was 19 percent higher than the engineering estimate of $20.3 million.

This project involves widening Airport Road to four lanes - including adding turn lanes and exit ramps - and building a bridge and a roundabout.

Work will begin at Main Street and head toward Billings Logan International Airport. When work gets under way in earnest, the company will build two detours and then start on a new bridge over Airport Road.

The bridge will tie Alkali Creek, Swords Lane and Airport Road together.

The MDOT project also will link traffic into the Aronson Avenue arterial road and bridge over Alkali Creek now being built by the city of Billings.

"As you go up the road, it's a typical road job until you get to the airport intersection," Devous said.

Intersection redesign

Toward the end of the contract, the intersection at North 27th Street and Airport Road will be redesigned. That means dealing with a difficult section by the Yellowstone County Museum.

"There's a big roundabout that's going to be built there, which we have 55 days to complete," he said. "There are retaining walls and all kinds of fun things to build, including excavating the rocks.

When the work is completed, Heights residents will have a safer and more efficient route to town along Airport Road. However, for the next two years, drivers will have to be careful along this scenic stretch.

"They just need to pay attention to the construction signs because there will be blasting going on," he said.

Copyright Billings Gazette Sep 10, 2008

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