Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Road closure planned for Little Joe Road this summer, work starting

by Mineral Independent
| May 22, 2024 12:00 AM

The Lolo National Forest began a large two phased road improvement project on Little Joe Road, Forest Road 282, late last month to resurface the road, improve drainage, and upgrade two stream crossings.

The project will improve access to the St. Joe Scenic Highway and St. Joe National Recreation Area, benefit the local communities that rely on tourism travel through the Little Joe and support the hauling of timber products. This road is located within a priority watershed for bull trout and the improvements will reduce sediment delivery to the North Fork Little Joe Creek.

The first phase of work will take place from the end of pavement on Forest Road 282 and end at the State Line. This work will include ditch reconstruction, ditch relief culvert replacement, brushing, subgrade preparation, and the placement of a new gravel surface. The work began in late April and as weather permits it will be ongoing throughout the spring and summer. The nature of this work will not close the road to traffic, but heavy truck traffic will be present and delays can be expected.

The second phase of this project will include the upgrade of two stream crossing structures. The first at the mile post 10 will replace the existing culvert crossing with a bottomless arch structure. The second at mile post 7.4 will replace the existing culvert with a precast concrete bridge. Both new crossing structures are designed to accommodate flows from a 100-year flood event and provide passage for all aquatic organisms. The nature of this work will require the closure of the Little Joe Road, Forest Road 282 from its junction with South Fork Little Joe Road, Forest Road 221, to its junction with Two Mile Road, Forest Road 431. The road closure will begin on July 8 and will be in place until September 1 unless construction is completed sooner. Please refer to the Alerts and Notices webpage to view Forest Closure Order 24-007-Lolo-D7 for more information.

The work has been split into three different contracts. The Forest awarded two contracts to Stone Ridge Construction, Inc. for the stream crossings and partnered with Mineral County who awarded a contract to Wood’s Crushing and Hauling to complete the resurfacing work. Everyone involved will be working together to minimize impacts to Forest users.

“We recognize this project will impact visitors and locals this summer, however, the long-term benefits of a resurfaced road and less sediment impacting critical aquatic habitat outweigh the short-term inconvenience,” said Abby Lane, District Ranger, Superior Ranger District on the Lolo National Forest. “We couldn’t do this project without the help and support of our partners; we appreciate their contributions.”

This $2.5 million project, funded in part ($1.4 million) by the Legacy Restoration Fund established by the 2020 Great American Outdoors Act, will address the condition of the road by resurfacing it with new gravel and improving drainage features.

The Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund provided through the Great American Outdoors Act responds to the growing backlog of deferred maintenance, which is currently $7.66 billion, comprised of $4.7 billion for roads and bridges, $540 million for trails and trail bridges, and $2.4 billion for buildings, visitor centers, campgrounds, and other types of facilities.

Forest visitors are reminded to follow posted speed limit signs, obey flaggers or temporary traffic control devices, and exercise increased caution through any construction zone.

For more information about the Lolo National Forest, please visit the website at https://www.fs.usda.gov/lolo or follow updates on Facebook and X.