The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT), in partnership with the City of Great Falls, has contracted Sanderson Stewart to plan and design the reconstruction of Watson Coulee Road. This project is a joint effort between the City of Great Falls and MDT, nominated through the local Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) process. This project reflects MDT and the City’s proactive approach to growth and their desire to prepare for the future.
The project will reconstruct Watson Coulee Road from Vaughn Road to the NW Bypass, replacing deteriorating pavement and installing upgraded storm drains, ADA-compliant curb ramps, and sidewalks. A roundabout is proposed at the intersection of Watson Coulee Road and Vaughn Road.
Watson Coulee Road Reconstruction
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The next steps will be completing the project’s design and securing the necessary right-of-way (ROW) to construct the project. MDT, the City of Great Falls, and Sanderson Stewart will work directly with landowners and businesses to ensure the project design meets the public’s needs and will work to provide the smoothest ROW process possible. Construction is tentatively planned for 2027, depending on the completion of the design and the availability of funds.
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Transportation Improvement Programs (TIPs): Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) in Billings, Great Falls, and Missoula developed Transportation Improvement Programs (TIPs) in partnership with local and state governments as part of MDT’s ongoing commitment to a comprehensive, cooperative transportation planning process.
Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO): A group in an urban area of more than 50,000 people responsible for transportation planning. It is a partnership between a locale and the federal government that helps guide investment decisions for projects like this one. MPOs identify opportunities to improve safety, plan improvements, and analyze trends.
Right-of-Way: Right-of-way consists of the legal right to make a ‘way’ over, or use, someone else’s land. MDT may acquire right-of-way by buying a piece of land or purchasing an ‘easement’ for specific transportation or public utility use (fiber internet, natural gas, power lines, etc.). Most easements are on private property though some are owned by the state, city, or county.
Easement: A right created by an agreement to cross or use someone else’s property for a specific purpose. Examples may include placing utilities through a specific property or the necessity to access another property.