Big Sky has received a $10.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to improve Highway 64, known as the spur road, which links Big Sky Resort to Gallatin Canyon.

“This project is going to be transformational for us,” said Candace Carr Strauss, CEO of the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce. “Our visitors, residents and workers, many of whom commute from Bozeman and Belgrade, use this road, so it will be a huge improvement for us.”

Gallatin County, which is administering the grant on behalf of Big Sky, will soon begin the process of hiring firms to design the project and estimates it will complete construction in phases over the next few summers, said county grant coordinator Jamie Grabinski.

The project will include new left turn lanes on Highway 64 at U.S. Highway 191, the Powder Light subdivision, Meadow Village, Huntley Drive, Big Pine Drive, Andesite Drive and Big Sky Resort Road. It also will include eliminating parking along the highway, installing road signs, adding a pedestrian tunnel at Little Coyote Road and extending trails that connect to the Big Sky Community Park and the area’s existing trail system.

Work on Highway 64, which also is called Lone Mountain Trail, will improve safety and reduce traffic and travel times, according to the county’s grant application.

The federal grant also will enable the Big Sky Transportation District to buy four motor coaches and six vans for the Skyline Bus, which provides service between Bozeman and Big Sky.

“The vehicles will allow Skyline to provide reliable transportation, reduce maintenance costs and have what it needs for the day-to-day routes,” said David Kack, who works with the Big Sky Transportation District and the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University.

Big Sky has continued to grow since the county submitted the grant request, and a few intersections along Highway 64 now warrant traffic signals, Kack said. If the proposed project costs less than $10.3 million, the county may be able to use the leftover federal grant dollars to install traffic signals at the intersections.

The county also may seek separate funding to add two or three right turn lanes along Highway 64, Grabinski said.

The Highway 64 project has been years in the making. In 2014, Keck held listening sessions to understand Big Sky’s transportation needs. Based on his work, the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce hired Sanderson Stewart, an engineering firm, to conduct a more robust transportation study.

Sanderson Stewart’s study, which was completed in summer 2017 and which was funded through the Big Sky Resort Tax Board and Gallatin and Madison counties, outlined the area’s transportation needs, which prompted the county to apply for the federal grant in October 2017.

The grant is part of the transportation investment generating economic recovery program, which works to improve rural infrastructure and which will fully cover the Highway 64 project. Only 6% of projects that apply for the grant receive funding.

Perrin Stein can be reached at 406-582-2648 or at pstein@dailychronicle.com. Follow her on Twitter @PerrinStein.

Perrin Stein is the county, state and federal government reporter for the Chronicle.

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