Jackrabbit Main Railroad crossing

Montana Department of Transportation is considering building an underpass at the railroad crossing at the intersection of Jackrabbit Land and Main Street.

What started out as a pipe dream is one step closer to a reality now that the Montana Department of Transportation issued a release Tuesday calling for an underpass to burrow under the railroad tracks to ease traffic woes at the Jackrabbit Lane-Main Street intersection.

Belgrade City Manager Ted Barkley has briefed the Belgrade City Council for months now on the possibility of an underpass.

MDT has one final leg – from Madison Street to Main Street – on the Jackrabbit Lane widening project that started at Four Corners in 2010, according to state records.

Belgrade officials rolled the dice this winter during a meeting with agency officials on another project and pitched the idea of an underpass since the final stretch was already in the works. And to their surprise, MDT bit, Barkley has told the council.

But what was once a $5 million project scheduled to start soon has burgeoned to more than $20 million. And it’s not quite certain the project will happen, said William Fogarty, MDT Butte District Administrator.

“MDT is in support of this solution but we need to know what risks there are first,” Fogarty said in a release. “Adding an underpass would be a large change to the project and requires Transportation Commission approval before proceeding down that path. We’re asking for the public’s continued patience and support as this work continues.”

As it stands, the agency is conducting the “risk assessment process” to ferret out any potential hazards to determine whether or not the project will work, officials said in the release.

It’s no secret to Belgradians that traffic at the intersection can build up so far it almost reaches the four-way stop. The line can cause impatient drivers to take risks, which lead to crashes.

“MDT recognizes that Belgrade and the entire Gallatin Valley is expanding at an unprecedented rate and we are especially seeing growing pains on Jackrabbit Lane,” Fogarty said. “We are studying this solution specifically because we want to be responsive to the needs of the Belgrade community.”

The three-phase project has widened the busy road to four lanes with a middle turning lane along with other amenities.