Highway 191

Traffic travels along U.S. Highway 191 between Four Corners and Big Sky on Thursday.

The Montana Department of Transportation is holding two events next week to gather input for a study on how to improve U.S. 191 between Four Corners and Beaver Creek Road in Big Sky.

MDT will share information about the study and solicit public comment at two open houses — one on Tuesday from 3 to 6:30 p.m., at the Gallatin Gateway Community Center, and the other on Wednesday from 3 to 6:30 p.m., at the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center in Big Sky.

MDT’s work will culminate with a report that identifies areas for improvement and serves as a jumping-off point for projects over the next two decades.

“It’s too early to tell what those improvements might be,” said project manager Katie Potts. “This is a planning-level study and we are not providing project-specific information at this time.”

The 37-mile stretch of road is “environmentally constrained” by the Gallatin River and has a wide mix of users from tourists to commuters, so it will require unique solutions, she added.

MDT began studying U.S. 191 in August and has since analyzed road conditions including traffic and crash data. Based on that information, MDT projects a 2.4% annual increase in use over the next 20 years.

“In recent years, the area has experienced substantial growth, which has put considerable strain on existing infrastructure resulting in increased traffic, reduced travel times and concern for safety,” MDT said in a recent newsletter.

MDT’s analysis and public comment from the two open houses will inform a draft report that will include ideas for improvement projects and potential funding sources. MDT plans to release the draft in July and will then accept public comment before publishing a final version in August.

Those who can’t attend either open house may submit comments online including via an interactive map that enables them to pinpoint places along U.S. 191 where they have concerns.

Over the years, MDT has worked to improve U.S. 191 including by upgrading guardrails in Gallatin Canyon this summer and fall for $1.6 million.

Perrin Stein can be reached at pstein@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2648.

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