Public meetings were held, last week, to give the public a peek at preliminary designs for the Airport Road and Main Street intersection in Billings. The Montana Department of Transportation is seeking public feedback regarding their plans to improve safety and relieve congestion of what is probably the busiest intersection in the state.

The area involved in the plans for reconfiguration and construction extend along Main Street from 4th Ave. West, in front of Metra Park, including the intersection with 6th Ave, and then further along Main Street incorporating its intersection with Aronson Avenue, Airport Road, Bench Blvd. and  Lake Elmo. It will also involve Aronson Avenue and its intersection with Airport Road and the Sixth Street Bypass.

Construction on the project is currently anticipated to begin in 2024 – that is the earliest it will start, said Yuri Mereszczak, PE, with Kittelson & Associates, Inc. the company conducting the preliminary designs, studies and planning. The project is not in the current five-year plan that MDT follows, and as with all projects timing is dependent on federal funding. The project is estimated to cost $8.3 million.

Phase 1 — the concept and design phase of the project — began in 2016. The project is currently in Phase 2, which involves design and construction, environmental studies, development of construction plans and right-of- way impact studies.

The process of developing the proposed plan involved exploring 20 initial alternatives, each of which was grouped into one of the six intersection improvement strategies.

The proposed traffic movement is anticipated to reduce the average delay at the Airport/ Main Intersection from 150 seconds to 30 seconds in the morning, and in the afternoon, from 175 seconds to 80 seconds.

The plan involves placing a traffic signal at the Aronson Avenue / Main Street intersection to allow left turns from two lanes on Main onto Aronson, which would be the access to Airport Road, since left turns from Main to Airport Road, will no longer be allowed. North-bound Main Street traffic will access Airport Road after passing under it and taking a right turn clover leaf from the intersection of Aronson and Alkali Creek Road.

Airport Road will have only one lane headed west from a right turn off Main Street. Four lanes of traffic will allow traffic to move from Airport Road onto Main Street, a right turn lane will accommodate traffic traveling south on Main Street and three lanes that allow for left-turning traffic traveling north on Main Street. The inner left lane would also allow Airport Road traffic to cross Main Street onto the Bench Connector.

The design will be completed in 2021.

Videos of the project are available at https:// www. mdt.mt. gov/ pubinvolve/ blgairportmain/ videos.shtml