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The Montana Department of Transportation is planning to swap the I-90 rest area on 19th Avenue in Bozeman for a new rest area in Three Forks.

Under the deal, a Bozeman developer will build a new rest area off of I-90 and Highway 287 in Three Forks in exchange for the rest area property in Bozeman. The project is undergoing design and permitting work, with groundbreaking on the project set to begin sometime next month and construction in September.

MDT Butte District Administrator William Fogarty said Thursday that though the city of Bozeman had at one point requested MDT move the rest area on 19th, the department previously did not have plans to replace the two-decade-old facility before the land swap was proposed.

Though nothing was planned for the 19th rest area, Fogarty said it is outdated. There isn’t adequate parking or safety features at the facility, Fogarty said, and it is 5 acres.

“The property that is occupied by the current rest area in Bozeman has a high value for development, obviously,” Fogarty said during a public meeting about the project Wednesday. “Replacing that rest area facility wasn’t necessarily on our radar screen, but from a business decision perspective and a steward of taxpayer dollars, when we were offered the proposal to replace a 21-year-old facility ... with a brand new turnkey facility that met the parameters and guidelines of our rest area plan, we opted to move forward with that proposal.”

The 12-acre rest stop planned for Three Forks will have better security features and more parking space, Fogarty said. It is planned to the north of I-90 and the west of US-287, near Wheatland Road.

Fogarty said they held a public bidding process for the project, which developer Craig Rickert won.

The state is not paying any money for the construction of the new rest stop, Fogarty said, as the land in Bozeman is being given up to Rickert in exchange. Rickert said he will also owe the state $1.1 million on top of the new rest area.

Rickert said Thursday that if everything works as planned, he is planning for a retail development on the current rest area site.

MDT staff presented the project and answered questions about it during a virtual town hall meeting on Wednesday.

Fogarty said a common complaint they’ve heard is people upset they are just learning about the project as it is well on its way to starting.

Due to the bid process, Fogarty said they couldn’t share details of where the project would happen publicly until the bid was awarded.

MDT has also heard concerns about law enforcement presence at the new rest stop, Fogarty said, and suggestions that the facility include an office for law enforcement. MDT is taking that into consideration, Fogarty said.

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Nora Shelly can be reached at or 406-582-2607.

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