Baxter and Love lanes

Baxter and Love lanes on Aug. 11, 2016.

A few construction projects around Bozeman will have drivers heading in circles — eventually.

Crews are working on three new roundabouts around town — at Durston Road and Ferguson Avenue, at Baxter and Love lanes, and at 15th Avenue and Beall Street.

The city of Bozeman closed the intersection of Durston and Ferguson on Monday as crews began work on a single-lane roundabout.

Project engineer Bob Murray said the work has been years in the making as the city improves Durston from Flanders Mill to Fowler and fills in missing pieces like sidewalks, bike paths, gutters and curbs along the road.

“The intersection itself has been failing during peak hours a few years now with all the added development,” Murray said.

“Failing” means long delays for drivers.

A detour will redirect traffic along West Oak Street for roughly three weeks. Then work will pick up on Cottonwood Road from Babcock to Durston. All together, the construction will last until mid-October or when snow begins to fall.

Another detour went in place Monday west of city limits as the Montana Department of Transportation continued work on a roundabout at Baxter Lane and Love Lane.

Brandon Coates, project spokesman, said the work revolves around safety.

He said there were 21 intersection-related crashes at Baxter and Love between 2009 and 2013. In those crashes, there were eight injuries and one death.

“If left unchanged, traffic safety issues are likely to increase,” according to the Montana Department of Transportation’s website.

Coates said the new roundabout should open to drivers in mid-October as work at the core of the intersection continues.

On a national scale, more cities and planners have looked toward roundabouts at intersections. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, roundabouts reduced injury crashes by 75% at intersections that replaced stop signs or signals.

Coates said a Montana study mirrored those findings on a Helena roundabout. Through the six years before the roundabout went in, the road had 27 crashes with two deaths. In the six years since the project wrapped up, there have been nine crashes, each logged as fender benders.

Drivers will also have to avoid the intersection at 15th and Beall in Bozeman as crews finish work on a single-lane roundabout.

Todd Swinehart, director of facilities for Bozeman High School, said it’s part of the overall effort to improve the campus.

He said the roundabout will help make the school’s west entrance the primary place guests arrive or people drop off and pick up kids. The work is set to end the last week of August, just in time for the first day of school.

For updates on city street projects, visit https://www.bozeman.net/government/streets/street-reports. To learn more about the Baxter-Love intersection work, visit https://www.mdt.mt.gov/pubinvolve/baxterlove/default.shtml.

Katheryn Houghton can be reached at khoughton@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2628. Follow her on Twitter @K_Hought. 

Katheryn Houghton is the city government and health reporter for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

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