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Study suggests rest area near Happy’s Inn

May 24, 2019

A Montana Department of Transportation study released this week suggests new year-round rest areas along the U.S. 2 corridor, including one near Happy’s Inn.

The preferred Happy’s Inn rest area would be at mile marker 66.5 near where Crystal Creek Road intersects with U.S. 2. The location is currently the site of a Montana Department of Transportation maintenance yard.

The rest area would feature ample truck and passenger vehicle parking, along with single-stall restrooms, covered picnic shelters and a pet area.

The study looked for the biggest gaps between rest areas on U.S. 2., and identified a long stretch between Troy and Kalispell as a need. State highway officials are hoping to offer stopping opportunities for every hour of travel time, explained Chris DeVerniero, with the transportation department.

The segment between mile marker 50 and 87 near Happy’s Inn was noted as having the highest number of recorded crashes (101) of the six segments considered in the study, with most being non-injury incidents. There was one fatal accident in the study period between 2012 and 2017.

A total of 811 animal carcasses were recorded in this zone in that timeframe, with whitetail deer contributing to nearly 85% of the wild animals killed along this portion of U.S. 2. Eleven moose were killed, 27 elk, one grizzly bear and two black bears.

Documented occurrences of grizzly bear, North American wolverine, Canada lynx, and bull trout occur within this zone, the study notes.

The study shows an annual average of 1,240 vehicle trips per day in the zone. Commercial vehicles represent about 13 percent of all traffic, with 9 percent considered “large trucks.”

The mountainous corridor near Happy’s Inn is considered the most winding segment of roadway in the study area, with straight stretches and level grades relatively limited.

Capital costs to build the recommended Happy’s Inn rest area is estimated at 75,000. Maintenance would cover plowing, upkeep and janitorial services.

The study shows the Happy’s Inn rest area at third on the U.S. 2 priority list. A rest area just west of the Browning area is recommended to be built first, potentially followed by a new rest area in Savoy.

The public review period extends through June 22. The draft report is online at https://www.mdt.mt.gov/pubinvolve/us2restarea/documents.shtml.

Comments, questions, or concerns can be directed to Chris DeVerniero at cdeverniero@dowl.com, by calling 406-324-7415, or submitted in writing by mail to US 2 Rest Area Siting Study, DOWL, 1300 Cedar Street, Helena, MT 59601.

Comments may also be submitted online at: www.mdt.mt.gov/mdt/comment_form.shtml. Select the US 2 Rest Area Siting Study under the project or activity drop-down menu.

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