HELENA – The East Helena viaduct on US-12 has always been a bit of a problem spot for crashes, but now the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) is working to change that.

Beginning in April or May, crews will install concrete barriers on the viaduct to prevent cars from crossing into oncoming traffic, which they say has been one of the biggest causes of crashes.

Traffic data shows 75 crashes were documented between 2005 and 2014 on that section of the road.

Story continues below

Most recently, one person was killed on that stretch when a vehicle veered out of its lane and hit the person’s car on a snowy December day.

“Roadway improvements could not have prevented all of those crashes,” Roy Petersen, MDT traffic and safety engineer, said in a release. “But we determined that engineering improvements that separate opposing lanes of traffic, enhanced visibility of all traffic lanes, delineated the the center of the roadway and increased traction on the bridge surface would benefit drivers.”

Workers will add a raised median to the center of the roadway as well new lighting, improved signage and a new surface treatment to improve traction and reduce skidding. According to MDT, the majority of the construction work will happen between July and November.

Civil engineering firm DOWL, in partnership with MDT, is working to raise awareness about the project.

Project Manager Sarah Nicolai said the project is all part of MDTs effort to save lives on the road.

“MDT is focused on eliminating deaths and serious injuries on Montana roadways and this is one project in pursuit of that Vision Zero initiate,” Nicolai said.

The improvements are funded through the Highway Safety Improvement Program. According to MDT, the section of roadway was nominated for improvements at the beginning of 2017.

To raise awareness about the project, MDT and DOWL are hosting an open house at the East Helena Volunteer Fire Department Fireman’s Hall at 2 East Pacific Street.

The open house goes from 3 to 7 p.m. An overview of the project will be presented at both 3 and 5:30 p.m.