a detailed history of the romantic old routes of MacDonald,
Priest and Mullan passes, click on the image below to download
a pdf file of Jon Axline's "The Frenchwoman and MacDonald
Pass", in the June 2005 Newsline - the Newsletter of
the Montana Department of Transportation. Mr. Axline's history
begins on page six...
TO DOWNLOAD PDF FILE
the Montana State Highway Commission began the work of locating
a new road over the Rockies west of Helena. They looked at the
three existing routes: MacDonald, Priest, and Mullan Passes.
controversy arose in 1925, when Lewis and Clark County commissioners
proposed simply upgrading the Priest Pass road. It was pointed
out by concerned citizens that not only was the east slope road
on Priest Pass winding and dangerous, but the road on the west
slope, in Powell County, was not maintained; much of it lying
in low, wet ground. It was also noted that MacDonald Pass offered
better scenic views, and that the area's decomposed granite
would provide a superior roadbed. The cost of building a highway
over MacDonald Pass, however, would be higher as there was no
existing maintained roadbed over the grade.
Lewis & Clark County Commissioners had turned their attention
to upgrading Mullan Pass, an old road some seven miles north
of MacDonald Pass. This proposal was likewise met with objections,
the main one being that it would effectively reroute a great
deal of traffic past Helena. As
late as 1928, an Independent Record editorial objected
to money being spent on the MacDonald Pass route, saying that
improving other area roads was more important than building
"...another pass over the mountains to the west."
a federal Bureau of Public Roads survey was made of the MacDonald
Pass route. On May 15 1930, it was announced in Helena by State
Highway Commission and federal roads officials that 14 miles
of highway would be constructed over MacDonald Pass. Most of
the money would come from Forest Service funds. Contracts were
let, and construction began in 1931...