KALISPELL – West Reserve Drive is experiencing major traffic issues thanks to an average of over 20,000 vehicles a day using the road.
“I think the public is starting to get insistent, you have a crisis which was mentioned in the meeting, how are you going to address the crisis?” These are the words of Ed Toavs with the Montana Department of Transportation.
Toavs now lives in Missoula but grew up in Columbia Falls and knows first hand at how quickly the Flathead has expanded. West Reserve Drive is a major focus of MDT in Northwest Montana.
West Reserve Drive has become severely clogged with traffic as the road is an easy way to get from US Highway 2 to US Highway 93.
Toavs recalled a time that he took some colleagues on West Reserve to show them how congested it becomes.
“It was about four o’clock on a Friday afternoon, and we started at the end of the bypass, so at Highway 93. It took us eight cycles to get from Highway 93 to make a right turn at Whitefish Stage Road,” he explained.
Kalispell Chamber of Commerce President Joe Unterreiner has been in his position for 20 years and has seen first hand the serious growth and congestion — particularly during peak tourism season.
“Getting into May and June we see a gradual increase in and around town especially on US Highway 2 and US Highway 93,” Unterreiner said.
However, MDT says the solution to this problem isn’t simple. In order to get the appropriate funding which costs millions Toavs says the road’s classification needs to be changed and designated as a main artery.
The change would allow the road to qualify for state funding. Toavs says, in the future, the two-lane road could be expanded to a five-lane road and construction would take place in two stages.