Sunday, June 16, 2024

Letters to the editor April 11

| April 11, 2023 12:00 AM

Lakeside coaster project

Over the last year, the communities of Lakeside and Somers have watched with fear and trepidation the construction of an alpine coaster on a dangerous curve on the highly congested U.S. 93, one mile north of Lakeside. The coaster is now advertising that it will open on May 28.

We were surprised and confused to see on March 27, the Montana Department of Transportation announced a hearing in Helena on April 20 concerning the coaster, specifically the installation of the northbound, left-turn lane at the coaster site. The announcement contains a strange comment that the staff was going to recommend construction of the lane, paid for by the developers, even though all the paperwork had not yet been submitted.

Even more confusing, the announcement indicated the public could acquire these “non-existing” plans, but the process to acquire them will take up to 30 days to received them, which is after the April 20 date of the hearing. As of this date, we are unaware of anyone in Lakeside receiving a copy of the plans.

In addition, Montana Code clearly states that hearings on local interest highway projects should be held in the local community. So why is this meeting being held in Helena? Why is the meeting starting at 8:30 a.m., which requires overnight accommodations to attend? And why is MDT only allowing 15 minutes for discussion?

The Lakeside/Somers community wants this agenda item tabled immediately by the MDT commissioners. We want to see the plans and have time to study them and provide relevant and thoughtful comments. We want the hearing moved to Lakeside. We want more than 15 minutes to discuss what will drastically affect the safety on our only artery to Kalispell.

Regardless of when or where the hearing is held, we demand that the MDT not grant a permanent approach for the coaster to open until after the northbound, left turn lane is constructed. The very fact that the coaster developers have agreed to pay for left turn lane is an acknowledgement that they are creating a highway safety hazard.

We know that the coaster developers are going to scream and yell that they have invested a lot of money and should not be denied the opportunity to open until after the left turn lane is constructed. But their lack of planning and delay in submitting all documents in a timely manner for construction should not result in a permanent access permit by the MDT.

MDT should not reward developers who operate under the principle that it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than get permission. The people of Lakeside/Somers deserve better.

— Lana Batts, Lakeside