Colored lines outline the footprint of a new rest area planned to be built near Three Forks.

The Montana Transportation Commission has awarded a construction contract for a new rest area near Three Forks, intended to replace the existing facility at the Interstate 90/19th Street interchange in Bozeman.

William Fogarty, district administrator for the Montana Department of Transportation, said the commission on April 22 awarded the contract to Montana Rest Area JV Partners, a partnership of C.A. Rickert & Associates and Diamond Construction, Inc.

The team submitted what the commission felt was the “apparent best value” bid of $2.69 million to build a new rest area facility about a half-mile north of the Wheat Montana Bakery and Deli on the west side of Highway 287.

The other bidder, Dick Anderson Construction/Town Pump, submitted a bid proposal in the amount of about $3.818 million, the same amount of the appraised value of the Bozeman rest area property, Fogarty said. That proposal was for a new rest area south of the same I-90/287 interchange.

Under the terms of the deal, “DOT is going to get a new rest area facility built to standards required in the requests for proposal in exchange for the property that the Bozeman rest area facility currently occupies,” Fogarty told the Belgrade News.

In addition, he added, the developer will pay a $1.1 million credit to the state upon the project’s completion to offset the value difference between the new facility and the Bozeman rest area site.

“Not only are we transferring land and facilities, there will be a credit to the state’s general fund,” Fogarty said.

The permitting process through Broadwater County and Montana Department of Environmental Quality is expected to take up most of the rest of the 2021 calendar year, Fogarty said, adding that there will be ample opportunity for the public to comment.

Completion of the new facility is expected in fall 2022.

Fogarty said the new rest area will offer several advantages over the current Bozeman facility, which opened in September 2000 and is nearing “the end of its design life.”

He said that though the Bozeman facility is located at an extremely busy intersection, access points are hidden from public view, making users feel unsafe.

It’s definitely not built to safety standards as far as visibility goes,” Fogarty said.

The Bozeman rest area also can accommodate only eight or nine semi-trucks and trailers. By contrast, there will be more than 30 such parking spaces at the new facility, Fogarty added.

Water and sewer service to the new rest area will be provided by a utility department being developed in the Wheatland area to provide service to a new Bridger Brewing location and public safety building in the vicinity of the rest area site, Fogarty said – “an innovation in the contractor’s proposal that helped their score.

“We’re very confident that this rest area would be connected to a public utility,” he added.

In an earlier interview with the Belgrade News, Fogarty said MDT hadn’t planned to replace the Bozeman facility until approached by the city of Bozeman, which felt the rest area no longer fit the character of the area. He said he believes the winning bid team for the new rest area owns property adjacent to the Bozeman rest area site, but he did not know what the developer’s plans there will be.

Montana Rest Area JV Partners did not return a phone call seeking comment by press time on Wednesday.