Are Some States Better Prepared For Winter Than Montana?

Driving on Montana Highways in winter can be a real nightmare. Why are the roads in the surrounding states so much better?

Hansen, Maria

Hansen, Maria

Last week I drove to Boise from Bozeman to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. The drive from Bozeman to Boise can be bumpy in winter. To be honest, I’m never really looking forward to it. Most of the time I take US Highway 287 south through Ennis until it intersects Island Park on Highway 20.

When I left on Wednesday, the road conditions on Highway 287 were terrible. Both lanes were snow-covered, the edges of the road were not visible. Semi trucks were stuck on Norris Hill because the roads were too slippery for them to make it over the top.

I checked the road report before heading out so I knew the roads weren’t the best, but they were a lot worse than I expected. I even got stuck behind a snow plow, but that didn’t seem to help much. I have quite a lot of experience with winter driving, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy it.

Montana Department of Transportation

Montana Department of Transportation

Here’s my problem. The roads got a lot better as I crossed the Idaho state line. Literally the moment I passed the “Welcome to Idaho” sign, I noticed an immediate difference. It was day and night. When I got to Idaho the roads were great. There was no snow or ice at all.

Why are the roads in Montana so bad in the winter? If other states that receive comparable amounts of snow can clear the streets, why is Montana having such a problem?

A big problem is the lack of funding. Montana does not have a sales tax while many states do. States use sales tax revenue to fund winter snow and ice removal. There is also a shortage of snow plow drivers in the state.

I know the Montana DOT does everything it can to keep the roads safe in the winter and I want to personally thank the crews and snowplow drivers for all their hard work.

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