The Evergreen sidewalk project takes the next step

Nov. 20 – It’s come a long way, but the sidewalk project run by the Evergreen Community is still marching on.

The survey phase of the project to construct sidewalks along US 2 between Montana 35 and Sunset Drive was completed by KLJ, the engineering firm selected by the Montana Department of Transportation.

KLJ completed the topographical survey and environmental report and assessed the site for traffic noise and air quality from hazardous materials. The company has also begun preliminary design for the layout of sidewalks and curbs.

According to Evergreen Chamber of Commerce President Daren Engellant, the next step for the company is to report its findings to MDT and provide an estimate of construction costs. The department then selects a construction company to carry out the project.

Engellant says he hopes the project will break ground by next spring or summer.

“That’s in MDT’s hands,” Engellant said. “If it were in my hands I would speed it up, but government agencies work at their own pace.”

Construction is funded by a nearly $1 million grant from MDT from Federal Transportation Funds. The application also required that a portion of the funds be raised by applicants, which presented a new challenge since Evergreen is not incorporated as a city with a tax base to fall back on.

In order to get the project approved, the community groups supporting the sidewalk idea, including the Chamber, had to get approval from the county and find an ongoing source of funding for maintenance.

To cover the obligatory co-payment of construction and ongoing maintenance costs, two new tax districts were established along the affected stretch of motorway with the overwhelming majority of the 61 property owners. Most of the properties along the stretch of road are commercial, and those business owners saw the benefits a sidewalk would bring to their bottom line as well as the community as a whole, Engellant said.

The taxes for the boroughs were calculated based on the length of the planned sidewalk in front of each property, and according to Engellant, the average landowner in the new borough pays about $3,000 for initial construction costs and about $300 per year over a 20-year period for maintenance.

The project is also important to the many students who walk and bike to and from Evergreen Junior High each day, said District Superintendent Laurie Barron. Because the district is too small to fund school buses, children who cannot travel to school face hazardous weather conditions and high speeds on the busy thoroughfare.

Engellant estimates the number of vehicles using the freeway stretch at up to 20,000 per day, often driving in excess of 40 miles per hour.

When roadside conditions worsen, Barron says, students often walk on the shoulder of the road itself, which can be even more dangerous than the icy footpath that forms on the other side of the curb.

“Having sidewalks would give students a really safe path,” Barron said. “Our goal is to have sidewalks in all directions [from the school].”

Reporter Adrian Knowler can be reached at [email protected] or 758-4407.