Traffic on the Rise. The 6 Busiest Two Lane Highways in Montana
We all cringe a little bit whenever we read another news piece about how many people are moving to Montana. Despite our "Go Home! Montana is Full" bumper stickers, growth can't really be stopped. A not-so-fun side effect of more transplants means our infrastructure is having a tough time keeping up. Traffic in Bozeman and Missoula is a nightmare and things are starting to get a little crowded on urban streets in Billings.
Let's talk busiest two-lane highways in Montana.
Unless there is an accident or road construction, traffic generally flows along at a steady 80+ MPH pace on I-90, I-94, and I-15. But when you're stuck behind a slow-moving vehicle going 55 mph on a curvy, hilly two-lane highway, it can get pretty frustrating.
I looked at 2021 traffic count data from the Montana Department of Transportation to see what state highways are the busiest and found some interesting highlights. I eliminated US Hwy 87 in Billings Heights because it's a four-lane road. As is MT Hwy 85 from Belgrade to Four Corners. Both of those roadways rank near the top most-traveled, with 14,742 daily vehicles and 18,091 daily vehicles respectively. US Hwy 287 between Three Forks and Helena is also nearly 100% four-lane now. Otherwise, it would have made this list.
#6 - US Hwy 310 at Fromberg
This stretch of highway sees an average of 4,705 vehicles per day. I'm sure at least half of them are Wyomingites, driving up here to jam our Costco parking lot. Minimal passing lanes and curves make this road frustrating when you're stuck behind a slow-moving motorhome.
#5 US Hwy 212 at Joliet
The road to Red Lodge is certainly busy, clocking 4,843 daily cars and trucks whizzing by. The new four-lane section from Laurel to Rockvale really helps, but things bottleneck a bit from there and on the weekends this stretch of road is packed.
#4 US Hwy 89 Paradise Valley.
4,849 vehicles per day cruise down this scenic stretch of road. Few turnouts or passing lanes can cause driving frustration.
#3 Old Hwy 312 east of Billings.
With 7,447 daily vehicles, this road between Billings and Shepherd is jammed with traffic.
#2 US Hwy 93 at Arlee
It's no surprise that one of the main roads to Flathead Lake is busy. Like, really busy. This stretch of highway received 9,143 vehicles per day.
#1 US Hwy 191 at Gallatin Gateway
This road sees the most annual traffic of any two-lane highway in the state, with a whopping 14,939 vehicles driving by each day. The expense to make it a four-lane highway all the way to Big Sky would be astronomical.