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‘It was a turbulent ride:’ Cottonwood Road construction detours through neighborhood

Posted at 10:49 AM, Jul 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-23 12:49:11-04

The days of Cottonwood Road’s bumps and potholes are numbered.

It’s a $5 million improvement plan set to give the road in Bozeman a face-lift, but the detours could be long-lived.

We’ve been bringing you back to Cottonwood Road for months and it’s a problem the city has been setting its targets on for even longer.

But while the bulldozers are digging into the dirt, the detour signs are sending all of the traffic into the neighborhood nearby.

“It was a turbulent ride, I’d say, to put it mildly,” says Celine Valentin, who lives near Cottonwood.

Valentin is not talking about a recent flight.

To her, that’s just how’d you describe another drive down Cottonwood.

“Cottonwood has been very troublesome,” Valentin says. “Ever since the thaw this spring, like, I don’t know, 12 inches deep, at minimum. They tried to patch them. The patches came out.”

Something I’ve been getting familiar with, too, alongside many that drive the stretch every day.

As of recently, this is new: a detour, bringing the traffic of Durston and Cottonwood to Celine’s and Erika Thompson’s neighborhood.

“Even just coming out for going to work, it just takes quite a bit of extra time, waiting for all of the traffic to go by,” Thompson says.

“There are tons of children in this neighborhood,” Valentin says. “I see little three, four-year-olds running around on their little bikes all the time. They’re not prepared for this traffic. They’re not used to it.”

And it’s not just during the day.

“There’s significant traffic noise until really late at night and early in the morning that would normally be through Cottonwood and Durston so it’s definitely been troublesome,” Valentin says.

Take those living close to Cascade Street, for example.

They say they are afraid that this detour might bring some people here, closer to places like near the Valley West Park playground.

They’re also worried that if that happens, some people might not mind the speed limit through there.

“The speed limit is 15 through there and a lot of people are trying to cut this detour by going through that park and they are coming through at 25, 30 miles an hour,” Valentin says.

When you look at Cottonwood though, both Celine and Erika agree that something needed to be done, which is also something the city has agreed with.

Judging by the little mementos left by cars that hit the bad side of a pothole (i.e., hubcaps, car parts, etc.), the holes needed to go.

“It’s a good thing, overall, especially for the high school,” Valentin says. “It’s just a tough detour to have to deal with, temporarily.”

Bozeman City Engineer Shawn Kohtz says the $5 million project goes far beyond putting down band-aids. 

“We basically want to take that street configuration that is south of Babcock and extend that north, all the way past the new high school,” Kohtz says.

And when you’re talking expanding a road this big, that takes time.

Kohtz says all of this won’t be done until next summer — but the roadblock shouldn’t take that long.

“Ideally, we’ll have at least pavement down on everything before the wintertime comes,” Kohtz says. “It’s a badly needed project, not just from a street capacity standpoint but we’re talking about accommodating the high school traffic, but really, to upgrade that section of Cottonwood that did have structural failures and the road so we are correcting that issue, as well.”

That could still mean that this detour will last a while.

“I just hope that everyone will keep going slow,” Thompson says. “We’ve got lots of animals, lots of kids in this area.”

“Be conscientious of the neighbors,” Kohtz says. “Those local streets really aren’t intended to be throughway traffic zones but we use them that way when we are in a construction scenario.”

The project will stretch all the way from Babcock to Durston and eventually all the way up to Baxter.

Kohtz says what you see currently is all just utility work that needs to be done before the road can be rebuilt back on top of it.

Once that’s done, the detour might change.