The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) installed a pair of Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons at the dangerous intersection of U.S. Highway 2 and Batavia Lane near Smith Valley School two weeks ago as part of an interim safety solution.
“We knew we needed to do something,” MDT Missoula District Administrator Bob Vosen said. “I wanted to find something we could do quickly and relatively inexpensively.”
The flashing lights are designed to get drivers’ attention to stop when pedestrians are crossing the busy highway. As a well-traveled intersection with the school and Kelly Rae’s Gas Station nearby, there are currently crossing guards at the intersection during school hours. But the flashing beacons will help drivers see pedestrians at all hours.
The solar-powered beacons are part of a temporary solution while the MDT works to find a permanent solution for the intersection.
“This is something we can do right now,” Vosen said. “This is focused solely on the one area of pedestrians crossing U.S. Highway 2. The most pressing need was the safety of the kids.”
Officials have produced four preliminary concepts to replace the intersection and realign Batavia Lane as it approaches U.S. Highway 2. Options include as top sign with raised medians, two separate traffic signal concepts or a single-lane roundabout.
The permanent project will take three to six years to complete, based on available funding.
U.S. Highway 2 sees an estimated 10,000 vehicles between Kalispell and Dern Road, which is four miles east of Batavia Lane, compared to 8,000 vehicles in 2010.
The Federal Highway Administration finalized a Road Safety Audit in 2014 and identified the intersection as a “location in need of safety and operational improvements.” In 2016, an MDT traffic study evaluated traffic signal and roundabout options, and determined a roundabout would “best address the safety issues outlined in the 2014 audit.”
Vosen reminds motorists that the area speed limit is 45 mph, seven days a week, whether the new lights are flashing or not.
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.