ROCKVALE—It’s been slow going on Highway 212 near Rockvale this week.
As part of the reconstruction of Highway 212 between Rockvale and south of Laurel, which began early last year and won’t be completed until 2017 at the earliest, the asphalt surface of 212 from Rockvale to a point about a mile northeast of there is being milled off this week.
As a result, traffic has been restricted to one lane near Rockvale, backing up cars and trucks for a mile or more during busy times of the day. The milling, which began on Monday, is expected to be completed by Thursday.
T.J. Ramaeker, project manager for the state Department of Transportation, said two lanes of traffic should remain open for the rest of the construction season, though the roadway will be dirt or gravel.
The full project is about 11 miles long, extending from the railroad crossing a little south of Laurel to just past Rockvale, where Highway 310 runs south from Highway 212. The project began in 2013 with construction of a four-lane overpass at the railroad crossing. The highway used to run under the tracks at a sharp turn in the road there.
Two lanes of the overpass are open for traffic, with all four lanes expected to be open by the end of this construction season.
Work on the southwest end of the project, near Rockvale, began last fall and involves widening about a mile of 212 to four lanes and making improvements to the 212-310 intersection.
Work will begin on the 10-mile middle section next year and is expected to take two years. That will involve moving the highway alignment north and west of the existing road, to higher ground that will be nearly 4,000 feet northwest of the existing road at some points.
That stretch of road will be mostly two lanes, with some stretches of four-lane road. The whole corridor will be wide enough to accommodate eventual expansion to four lanes all the way from Laurel to Rockvale, according to Stefan Streeter, Billings district administrator for the MDT.
Old Highway 312 will remain open for local access. Ramaeker said the cost of this summer’s phase is $6.8 million, and the cost of the four-lane overpass is $10.5 million. The final phase has been estimated at $28 million.