When the Johnsrud-McNamara Road along the lower Blackfoot River reopens after paving this fall, there will be no more dirt, no potholes, no washboard and no dust — but that could mean a lot more traffic on the already busy access road for a popular stretch of the river northeast of Missoula.
Right now, there are no cars on the approximately 5.7 mile stretch of road between Messina Drive near Montana Highway 200 and the Whitaker Bridge upstream. The road has been closed for paving since May 31 and is slated to reopen at the end of October. The $5 million project, undertaken by the Bureau of Land Management and the Federal Highway Administration, aims to reduce long-term maintenance costs on the road while also eliminating potholes and washboards on the dirt road. Paving the road should also eliminate the cloud of dust that choked the adjacent river when a high volume of cars traveled the route.
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But, with pavement, road and river users are worried the volume of traffic and the speed of traffic could increase even more.
“I think we got 12 comments from the public when