Major facelift planned for Makoshika entrance road

Makoshika State Park’s cracked and pothole-riddled entrance road will soon get a major facelift, as a $1.85 million project to repair it is scheduled to begin in mid-August of this year.

According to Makoshika manager Chris Dantic, the road project is tentatively scheduled to begin around Aug. 20. The project will start at the base of the “switchbacks” section, which was already rebuilt a couple of years ago, and work back out to the park visitor center, though the final length of the project will depend on what the project bids from contractors come in at, Dantic said.

“It’s going to go from the switchbacks to the visitor center if they can afford it,” he said.

Since State Parks doesn’t have enough funding for a complete rebuild of the road but recognizes it is in too bad of a condition for a simple resurfacing, Dantic said their hope is to employ a newer road construction technique known as Full-Depth Reclamation with a Cement-Treated Base. He said other agencies around the region, including the Montana Department of Transportation, have employed this technique in road rehabilitation with good success. The technique involves grinding up the existing asphalt surface and then injecting Portland cement into the mixture to create a stronger, more durable road surface.

“It’s cheaper than a total reconstruction. Basically, you’re taking the current road and recycling the road you have, and then you add concrete to it,” Dantic said. “It’s stable, it’s strong and it’s perfect for these soils. We can get a 20-year or more lifespan out of the road if we do the FDR with CTB treatment.”

While that’s the way State Parks wants to go, Dantic noted whether they can actually employ that technique will again depend on what the contractors’ bids come in at.

“Everybody’s in agreement on it and hopefully we can afford it,” Dantic said.

Besides potentially being stronger, Dantic said the new road surface will be significantly higher — with the “crown” of the new road 2.5 inches higher than the current road — allowing for much better drainage than the current surface is capable of. He described the current road surface as “flatter than a pancake,” something which has not helped its condition.

One thing that won’t be included in the project is construction of a new pedestrian footbridge across a coulee on the Diane Gabriel Trail.

A new footbridge to replace the one state engineers declared unsafe and closed off a couple of years ago was originally part of the project plan, but Dantic said Helena officials have decided to remove the footbridge replacement from the road project.

At present, Dantic is also unsure of what the full impacts to park access will be once the road project begins, but he said park visitors can definitely expect to see more limited access while the project is in progress.

“We’re still working on closures and stuff. It’ll be closed for a time period but we don’t have any dates yet,” he said.