Even with unfinished shoulders, new pavement on Reese Creek Road and gorgeous fall color provided a pleasant backdrop for a Sunday drive last weekend near Belgrade.

The four-mile stretch of old dirt road bridging Reese Creek Road to Dry Creek Road was finally paved last week – a project that started around Memorial Day weekend, said Gallatin County Road Foreman Preston Pierce.

Local residents “are very happy,” Pierce told the Belgrade News. “It’s a good cut-across for residents. They can pick up Springhill Road to get into town. And the fire chief is happy; it’s great to have it done for that neck of the woods. Just for the emergency vehicles, they’re thrilled it’s done.”

Springhill Road starts at the Riverside Country Club and runs about nine miles north until it peters out into the little community of Reese Creek, where it continues north. (The northerly stretch has been renamed as Rocky Mountain Road.) Reese Creek Road proper continues west until it meets Dry Creek Road just north of Belgrade and the airport.

Gravel shoulders will be installed on that stretch next week, and it will be chip-sealed next year, according to Pierce.

“It was finished too late to get chip-sealed this year, he said. “And it won’t be painted until year. No center stripe, no fog lines this year.”

Other recent dirt-road-to-pavement projects include a stretch of Wooden Shoe Lane and Gravel Pit Road, both in Manhattan, Pierce added.

What gets paved is a complicated process, he said, including the availability of used asphalt from other projects, the condition of the original road, what kind of use does the road get, and the distance from the site to the asphalt plant.

For Reese Creek, “We recycled asphalt from a freeway project, and we saved the taxpayers a bunch of money.

“We’d like to pave a lot more roads. But first, the road must be built correctly. Does it get frost heaves? You can’t just go in and put pavement on top of dirt.” (In fact, the Reese Creek project took longer than anticipated because a piece of the original road had been constructed incorrectly so was prone to frost heaves and had to be rebuilt.)

“A lot of people say, ‘why don’t you pave my road?’ “ Pierce said. “Pave my road out in the middle of nowhere.”

Traffic burden on a road moves it up the list, Pierce added.

“We’ve got a lot of traffic on trailhead roads lately,” he continued. “A lot of people moving here,” which could move those access roads higher up on a hypothetical to-do list.

But when the county is paving roads, “That’s all we get done. It takes us away from everything else. A paving project in one area turns into a county-wide project because it takes us away for everything else in the county.”

Years ago, traffic studies were done on the Reese Creek area, Pierce said, but he didn’t remember the results.