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Guest Opinion: The Perfect Storm

The Bozeman Rest Stop at 19th Avenue is planned to be relocated to Three Forks off Interstate 90 on North SR 287 between USF Reddaway and Wheatland Road. Recent mailing from MDT of Frequently Asked Questions noted,” MDT has not experienced noticeable crime activities at rest stop facilities.” Could that notion be because of better design or is it because of ample policing and or rest stops are typically built in places where there is not as much opportunity to commit crimes.

I can understand why the City of Bozeman wants to rid itself of the rest stop due to the many issues this rest stop generates: crime, congestion, outdated design and a barrier to growth. However, relocating it to Three Forks is not a win-win solution. First and foremost, the top priority needs to be keeping residents and businesses safe and preventing crime for both communities. Moving Bozeman’s problem rest stop to this location will make it a Three Forks problem which is counterproductive. As it sets up very similar conditions to the Bozeman rest stop: crime, traffic congestion and noise. Rest stops are typically outside of residential and business areas along major highways to minimize crime, congestion and noise. The relocation site in Three Forks has business and residential subdivisions surrounding this location. Currently Teasers strip club, Adam and Eve sex shop, and a bar, are all in the vicinity of the future rest stop. Worst of all is the lack of policing resources. All the ingredients for a perfect storm! Crime will escalate if this rest stop is constructed. MDT boasts the new rest stop will be two times larger than the current Bozeman rest stop, creating more congestion and activity. MDT predicts that rest stop traffic will be at a rate of 70 trucks per peak hour. Truck noise will be emanating from the rest stop as they stage and wait for business hours to enter Bozeman. Pulsating engine brakes will echo as they approach the rest stop.

The lack of policing resources is a serious concern to the Three Forks area where two officers were murdered. After speaking with Sheriff Meehan, he indicated the need to have three officers policing the southern end of Broadwater County, there is currently only one. As a top priority proactive and adequate policing resources to keep police and citizens safe is a must.

According to sources from MDT the Bozeman rest stop relocation is a land swap transaction, which is not the normal protocol, also boasting that it will save taxpayer dollars. Taxpayers want their money spent on projects that promote safety not crime and improve and sustain the community. Improvements need to benefit all communities. This rest stop puts a burden on the community and residents of Three Forks that will adversely shape our future. The citizens in the surrounding Three Forks community live, work, play and sleep here and we do not need outside interests to dictate what’s best. Not only does this effect the surrounding community but it will also adversely affect the traveler who unknowingly stops to use the rest stop and may fall victim to criminal activity. Many families traveling with their children are not going to appreciate driving into a rest area that has a sex shop and strip club across the road.

How does a project of such magnitude that has a large impact on the surrounding community of Three Forks get so little attention? We learned about the relocation project in April 2021. Wells drilled and zoning has been completed before a public open house event is scheduled to take place. Construction is scheduled to start up this fall. It appears there is little concern for public input. This rest stop project will adversely shape the future of “Montana’s Favorite Small Town” of Three Forks.

Make your voices heard, let community leaders know and inform your elected officials that there is a better way to relocate the Bozeman rest stop or not have a rest stop at all. Help make our Favorite Montana Small Town a safe place to live and visit. Help us avoid the storm.