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Highway medians to be paved from Lolo to Hamilton

Published On: Jun 03 2013 05:40:48 PM MDT   Updated On: Jun 03 2013 06:00:24 PM MDT

Medians on Highway 93 from Lolo to Hamilton will be paved over and turned in to colored concrete.

The original plan was created to make the highway dividers more appealing and make the area safer. But the landscaped areas with trees and bushes weren't maintained the way they should be.

Some residents in the Lolo area say the medians are an eyesore, full of weeds and dirt. Montana Department of Transportation officials agree the areas aren't pretty to look at and say it's dangerous to send out volunteers across the highway to maintain them.

That's why the plan this month is to pave over 14 islands stretching from Lolo to Hamilton; the area in Victor will be left alone.

Dave Hansen, principal of 5-8 grade at Lolo School is fine with the paving.

"It's kind of an eyesore more than anything else," said Hansen. "It was done with good intention but I think things need to change.

Hansen says even if the medians are paved over with colored concrete they'll still serve the purpose of safety, especially in front of Lolo School.

"If those were paved over it might even give us a place where kids could stop off in case they were late getting across the roads," he said.

Lolo resident Jean Belangie-Nye agreed something needs to be done with the medians in Lolo.  "They need to be paved over, there's not much we can do."

But she feels differently about  the other areas south of Lolo in Florence, Stevensville, up to Hamilton.

"There's an incredible amount of money put into those in terms of landscaping, irrigation systems, etc. So to pave those over would be a tragedy."

She wishes area residents would have had a say in the decision. 

"The communities need to have input," said Belangie-Nye. "We don't want to wake up some morning and discover something that cost a quarter of a million dollars has all of a sudden been paved over."

Ed Toavs of the Montana Department of Transportation said his office did talk with some groups in the Bitterroot about the decision.

He said it's a safety issue waiting to happen if volunteers go out in the middle of the highway to clean up the medians, and that it's easier and makes more sense to just pave over them.

Toavs said the paving will likely start later this month. The project will cost about $430,000. Toavs said the end result will be colored, decorative concrete.