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Potholes and dust: City of Billings on a mission to pave gravel roads

Posted at 6:04 PM, Feb 18, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-18 20:05:08-05

BILLINGS — There are nearly 80 gravel roads in Billings, and the city is trying to pave them one road at a time. But in residential areas, it's a project that requires the support of homeowners in the neighborhood, to come to fruition. It's something Heights resident Kelly Higbie knows all too well.

Higbie is very familiar with gravel roads as she lives on Steffanich Drive. It's a road that's been dirt and gravel for the nearly 30 years she's lived there.

“The potholes in the summer, the amount of times that the city has to come and grate them, you know, flatten it out,” said Higbie on Sunday.

Kelly Higbie and her dog, Dexter

The problem has been on the city's radar since 2017.

“Gravel streets cost the Public Works department a lot more to maintain. They have to come in and grate it and roll it. And then potholes develop again,” said Mac Fogelsong, Billings city engineer.

There are several reasons why they're trying to pave these roads.

“The city has a storm water permit with DEQ and so obviously when it rains and snows, those streets discharge sediment into the storm drain systems,” Fogelsong said.

A photo of Vaughn Lane and Hillview Lane before it was paved.

There's a reason why Higbie's gravel road hasn't been paved.

“They’re paid primarily through an SID, so a special improvement district. So, the residents pay a portion of that,” said Fogelsong.

If homeowners in a neighborhood wanted to get their gravel road paved, the city would need at least 50% of that neighborhood's support to move forward with the project.

“There are cases where they’re aren’t supportive and we kind of keep moving to the next one,” Fogelsong said.

An aerial view of Vaughn Lane and Hillview Lane after it was paved.

“Every time I sign one, I hope it passes,” said Higbie.

For now, Higbie will just have to wait.

“I’d be happy if it was done. And yea I’d be willing to pay my part, absolutely,” Higbie said.