More work to do

Jack Creek Road improvement update

Madison County Commissioners met with Great West Engineering Principal Jeremiah Theys at their Dec. 14 meeting to discuss the currently inactive but ongoing Jack Creek Road improvement project.

When Theys asked how the road was looking heading into the winter, Commissioner John Heckler gave it a C- grade.

“The last time I did it, it was passable, but it was rough, muddy, and rutted,” said Heckler, referring to six areas he’d encountered as of early December. Theys said his site representative hadn’t been in the area since the work stopped back in October.

Before the project’s official work order was suspended the commission requested that several small sections of especially muddy and rutted roadway be regraded in soft areas before the roadway experienced a hard freeze. Theys agreed to set up the grading work and will have the contractor, A M Welles, ensure it’s kept up as needed.

“Next spring, they’re going to have a lot of work to do, but we know that,” Theys said, referring to the challenging, muddy portions of the road. “They’re going to be bringing material out, building up that base and redoing most of the road section.”

According to Theys, 15% of the project has been completed, including the installation of culverts as well as the upper-most section known as section eight. The eight-segment project begins near the juncture of Jack Creek Bench and Jack Creek Road and ends near the gate leading to Big Sky.

The intent of the design, said Theys, was to stay within the right-of-way, to widen the road, where possible, to county standard, to push feasible areas of the road away from Jack Creek, and to establish ditch sections and culverts to improve drainage. The road’s width varies from 18 to 24 feet with ditches established in most areas except along portions where fiber optic lines would be affected.

The project will start back up in the spring as soon as weather allows. Work hours are set as Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Two lanes of traffic are required to be open before 9 a.m. and after 3 p.m. and between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. closures of up to one hour are permitted as well as one-lane traffic.

The work order suspension, dated for Dec. 31, 2021, was mostly formality since billable work has not taken place since October. Heckler said he saw the suspension as incentive to the contractor to get the rutted sections smoothed. Region 3 road crews will be responsible for assessing the road conditions and conveying maintenance needs.

 Commissioners tabled the approval of the Dec. 31 suspension due to the absence of Theys at their Dec. 21 meeting, in the hopes they could catch up with him later in the day to set up a time to get the remediation work around the newly culverted areas done before winter sets in.

“The road’s in pretty good condition, other than the culvert crossings,” said Commissioner John Heckler on Dec. 21. “That’s what’s been stated several times… and we went out and inspected it, right after the last meeting, providing enough time for the contractor to respond before Dec. 31, and we’re still sitting here. So, I really do believe something needs to be done, at least three areas are exceedingly rough… This has been an ongoing situation since October and the engineer needs to get involved.” 

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The Madisonian

65 N. MT Hwy 287
Ennis, MT 59729

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