County approves agreement with Defense Department, highway agency for missile roads

Cascade County and others in the region contract with the Defense Department and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration for the access roads throughout the missile complex operated by Malmstrom Air Force Base.

Cascade County commissioners recently approved a contract with those federal agencies and Teton and Chouteau counties for the Defense Access Roads program for fiscal year 2019.

The program supports the road requirements for safe transportation of the transporter-erector vehicle, which transports the missile booster, and weighs 73 tons loaded and has a maximum axle loading road of 17,500 pounds. The transporter-erector has a minimum turning radius of 45 feet, according to the contract documents.

The project includes reconditioning roadways and providing stabilization and/or aggregate surface, replacing, reconditioning or cleaning designated culverts, replacing cattle guards and livestock crossings as needed.

This project includes about 64 miles of roadway across the three counties, with about 22 miles of that in Cascade County.

Funding for the project is allocated to the Federal Highway Administration from the DoD. Project costs include environmental assessments, preliminary engineering, acquiring rights of way, utility relocation, physical construction, construction modifications or overruns and construction engineering.

Once completed, maintenance costs are the responsibility of the respective counties as the DAR program doesn’t provide for maintenance of the roads funded by the program, except for maintaining the structural capacity of designated gravel roads that support the Minuteman program.

Access roads in the missile complex  fall into a portion of the program that DoD funds annually for the “extraordinary maintenance, extraordinary snow removal and regravelling of the transporter-erector routes supporting the missile program,” according to the Federal Highway Administration.

The defense access road program has existed in some form since 1919 to provide a means for the military to pay their share of the cost of public highway improvements necessary to mitigate an unusual impact of a defense activity, such as a significant increase in personnel at a military installation, relocation of an access gate, or the deployment of an oversized or overweight military vehicle or transporter unit.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, the defense access road program has averaged $20 million annually since 1957.