Travelers get creative to bypass I-90 closure at Livingston
LIVINGSTON — Travelers on I-90 in southern Montana have not been happy for the past two days as a route between Big Timber and Livingston was closed for nearly 24 hours. And it forced many on the west side of the closure to stay where they were, but some had to get creative.
Some took shelter in area hotels, others turned around and returned to where their journeys began, and Josh Markovich got creative.
“It’s typically about a three-hour drive from where I live in Absarokee to Butte. Took me about five and a half hours to get there. Coming back, I’d say we were probably a five and a half hour drive from Butte to get to Livingston,” Markovich said Wednesday.
Markovich was in Butte on his way home and had to turn north from Livingston, through Harlowton and Lavina and back through Billings to return to Absarokee.
“I lived in Butte and drove back and forth between Billings and Butte every week, and I’ve never seen the highway closed,” Markovich added.
The highway reopened Wednesday after being closed for almost 24 hours. Closing is not an easy decision.
According to the Billings National Weather Service Office, the last time this section of I-90 was closed was 2016 — two separate times. The highway was closed for an undisclosed period of time on Sunday December 18th. Then on New Year’s Eve the 75-mile route from Livingston to Columbus was closed from 7:43 a.m. to 1:21 p.m., a tough end to the year, though not nearly as long as this week’s closure.
Authorities say the roads have looked more like an ice rink than a highway for the past two days.
“This snow and this blowing wind almost turn the road into a pane of glass. So the roads are getting so icy that it’s almost impossible to walk on them, let alone drive them,” Park County Sheriff Brad Bichler said Wednesday.
Dozens of accidents were reported before the shutdown, including an overturned tanker carrying asphalt oil.
But as in Big Timber, the Livingston freeway closure caused another headache when many motorists were suddenly stuck.
“The city is definitely busy, but by reducing traffic on the freeway and trying to do that as best we can, we’ve managed to still be able to function and move around the city,” Bichler added .
Although the road is now open again, authorities say travel is dangerous and not recommended.
“I would just encourage people to take their time, be patient with other drivers, be respectful of each other and just be careful,” Bichler said.