Last week we received a call about a broken-up section of Highway 12 just outside of Melstone towards Forsyth.  Here is that call.

He even sent a quick message: "Why can’t we find out why the Hwy US 12 from the Musselshell River to almost Sumatra is not being fixed? New road that is so bad it is going to get someone killed!"

This is a seriously hazardous issue that should be investigated.  So on my day off I drove up north to Roundup and east to Melstone to experience this traffic danger.

Credit: Travis Lee, TSM
Credit: Travis Lee, TSM

What a Nothing Burger

First of all, the road is not new.  Been there for many years.  And over that time the crack seals have held up while the road in between has settled into gentle dips.

Second, I took this picture of the Rough Road Next 8 Miles sign not far east of Melstone.  It is the friendly reminder from the MDOT that you should drive carefully and slower.  This is also called a "Hint".

The lifting and descending reminded me of interstate 90 from Billings to Forsyth back in the 70s when I was a kid.  One particular rise and dip at 60 miles per hour gave the stomach a moment of zero gravity.  It was a weirdly cool feeling.  Over time I had looked forward to the sensation.  The dips in Hwy 12 didn't match that feeling at all.

Credit: Travis Lee, TSM
Credit: Travis Lee, TSM

This little stretch of Highway 12 was repaved years ago and is uneven.  The driver of a semi or a pickup pulling a horse trailer can easier be caught off guard and lose some control of their vehicle.  Again, Driver, you were warned.

So where's the broken road?  I surmised from the caller that some of the state road had disintegrated into loose asphalt and gravel.  I didn't even encounter a pothole.

Credit: Travis Lee, TSM
Credit: Travis Lee, TSM

This cottonwood tree limb was the most serious hazard I found.  After pulling over on the near-totally deserted roadway, only took seconds to remove the obstruction.

Do You Really Want MDOT to Smooth Highway 12?

That's my question for the nice caller and messenger.  Are you sure about that request?  Because doing so likely means shutting off that whole road down for a full summer at least.  Every truck and trailer and car from Melrose to Sumatra would have to take miles of gravel roads south to I-94 to get anywhere.  Musselshell would have to access Roundup; Ingomar has to circle through Forsyth.  North from Melrose to Sumatra would be inaccessible except by smaller gravel roads. Think the trip was long and slow before?

Widening the road is a great idea.  Plan on a couple summers shut down.

Here's What You Should Do for Now:

Slow Down.

Highway 12 is a narrow two-lane road.  Set your maximum speed to 60 miles per hour.  Any faster is too fast for the conditions.  If you are pulling a horse trailer or cattle truck, then the caller's suggestion of 45 mph is prudent for the health of the animals.  Please don't injure them in your haste.

Have both hands on the steering wheel, at 10:00 and 2:00, just like you were taught in Drivers Ed.

Pay attention and control the vehicle with both hands as you rise and dip with the road.

Enjoy the slightly wilder ride.

Thanks to the Caller

The drive into the pretty countryside was a peaceful use of a morning off.  After lunch came other work to do.

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