KALISPELL – Montana Department of Transportation calls the award of a nearly $13 million grant to complete more of the Kalispell Bypass a “big win”, and is promising to have the section built in a couple of years.
But just as importantly, Missoula District Engineer Ed Toavs says this is a jump forward in efforts to finish the entire 93 Alternative Route from north to south.
Thursday’s announcement that MDT would receive a $12.75 million BUILD grant is being celebrated by state and local officials. The state plans to couple the money with other available federal highway funds to finish a two mile stretch of the Bypass from the Ashley Creek Bridge to the Airport Road roundabout.
And using a “design-build” contract, MDT should be ready for construction in about a year.
“And we will get proposals, and firm will be selected,” Toavs said. “A designer and a contractor. And they will build the project on an accelerated pace.”
That means building out the two lane “interim bypass” opened in 2010 to match the newer, four lane section opened two years ago, complete with a “flying interchange” to replace the Foys roundabout.
“It’ll basically mirror what the public sees on the north half.”
Local government and business leaders are thrilled because it will help the flow of traffic and advance plans for downtown Kalispell.
“Oh yeah. It will be great for residents to be able to move around the valley,” said Joe Unterreiner. “It’s great for tourists coming to town. And it’ll also be good for commercial truck traffic because they’ll be able to get around the downtown and all the signals to the points up north and south where they need to go. That should be good for the City of Kalispell’s plan to really create a more dining and entertainment and pedestrian friendly environment.”
A big part in securing the money was the advanced analysis of the “cost-benefit” of building the new section, amplifying a report Toavs had done on the economic benefits of the Bypass. He says having that info made Kalispell’s case stronger, and should make it easier to attract the final funds to finish the remaining two lane south of Airport Road.
“It makes it fully-fundable. And it eliminates that unfunded liability,” Toavs said. “And so then we can focus on finishing the design for this other piece, acquiring the remaining property and then that makes that, obviously, a very attractive project to get those national highway construction dollars in the future.”
Toavs believes the Foys section of the Bypass could be finished by the end of 2020.
Reporting by Dennis Bragg for MTN News