The plan is officially underway to link Lockwood and the Heights via the Billings Bypass. This new road system will not only make traveling between the two areas of Billings much faster; it will also make it easier on truckers as they will no longer have to drive down Main Street to continue their truck routes on Roundup Rd. The plan will eventually connect the Johnson Ln. Exit in Lockwood to both Roundup Rd. at the northern end of the Heights as well as HWY 312.
The first section scheduled to begin construction this coming fall will build a new segment of 5 Mile Rd. from Dover Rd. to HWY 312, with a new roundabout positioned at that intersection, and reconstruction of the stretch of 5 Mile between Dover and Mary St. That intersection will also have a roundabout placed there. They hope to have this segment finished within the year so that they can begin construction of a new bridge, with a separate bike path, over the Yellowstone River in 2020. This $25 million bridge is the only stretch of the project projected to take two years, but it will be built to last. It will have eight pillars and nine spans. While this is larger than technically necessary, it will allow the bridge to hold up for much longer and able to fare fine against even a hundred-year flood.
After these two phases – hopefully by 2022 – serious work can begin at the Johnson Lane Exit on I-90. This will be Montana’s first diverging diamond interchange. While the interchange may be strange at first, this type of interchange is growing in popularity across the country because it creates less conflict points, provides better sight distance, and it is extremely difficult to enter a ramp going the wrong way. While the construction at that Exit may become frustrating, the end product should make it all worth it.
In 2023 work is tentatively scheduled to start on RR O’Pass, a stretch of road starting off from the end of the bridge over the Yellowstone and working its way southeast before crossing Coulson Rd. in Lockwood. There they plan on picking up work the following year to connect RR O’Pass to the new Johnson Lane Interchange, making it a straight shot from the Johnson Lane Exit to HWY 312. The final stage, tentatively set to begin in 2025, will see construction from the roundabout at the intersection of 5 Mile Rd., Mary St., and the new bridge over the Yellowstone and running perpendicular to Mary St. all the way to the intersection of Main St. and Roundup Rd.
This project is just the first of two major plans to better connect the city of Billings, making it easier to travel around the city. The other piece will be the Inner Belt Loop, which will eventually connect W. Wicks Ln. to the intersection of HWY 3 and Zimmerman Trail. This piece will cut the time it takes to travel between the Heights and the West End in half, removing the need to drive through Downtown and Midtown or going out of your way to jump on the Interstate.