The end is in sight for the prolonged construction of the Kalispell bypass.
LHC, a locally based contractor, will break ground on the final phase of the project Oct. 12 with the goal of completing the U.S. 93 Alternate Route by winter 2016.
Over 25 years in the making, the massive infrastructure enterprise has faced numerous setbacks and delays throughout its development. But now the plan is culminating with the final stretch of road being built over the next 15 months, a milestone that city, county and state leaders are hailing as a turning point for the community.
“Today we are participants and witnesses to one of those defining moments in time that will be one of the most transformational events for our community since the railroad gave birth to our town in 1892,” Kalispell Mayor Mark Johnson told a crowd gathered Wednesday at a groundbreaking ceremony near the future bypass along West Reserve Drive.
Johnson was joined by former Mayor Tammi Fisher and Flathead County Commissioner Gary Krueger in praising the long-awaited bypass as a boon to the local economy and vital to the city’s future, saying it will relieve congestion through downtown and provide critical transportation needs to a growing valley. Representatives from Montana’s congressional delegation also added congratulatory messages, further illustrating the widespread support of the alternate route.
Over $100 million has already been poured into the project, and the final contract, awarded to LHC at nearly $34 million, is the largest single contract in the state’s history, according to Montana Department of Transportation Director Mike Tooley.
“This project absolutely needed to succeed,” he said Wednesday. “Successful communities begin and end with quality infrastructure.”
The agency combined the final three phases of construction into one contract to expedite construction, and in the process saved an estimated $9 million, according to MDT officials.
Crews will begin building 4.5 miles of road from West Reserve Drive near Glacier High School to Foys Lake Road, connecting the new north route with the existing south section that was built from 2007 to 2010. The alternate route will feature four lanes along the north half. A stretch from the Foys Lake Road roundabout to U.S. Highway 2 will also be expanded to four lanes.
Crews will work at both ends and build inward toward Three Mile and Four Mile drives. A pedestrian pathway will be built along the entire north section, similar to the southern end. A sound wall will be erected near Empire Estates.
A bridge will be built over Ashley Creek, and an overpass will span U.S. 2. Once completed, the new road will continue north from U.S. 2 toward Two Mile Drive, where the bypass will run under a new bridge. The road will continue to Three Mile Drive, where a bridge is already in place over the future bypass. The road will go to Four Mile Drive and a new bridge will be built similarly over the bypass. Four Mile Drive near Kidsports Complex will also be completed west to Stillwater Road with a flatter grade. The hill will be reduced by 30 feet. The fifth and final bridge will span Old Reserve Drive near Glacier High School.
There are plans to potentially expand the southern stretch of bypass from two to four lanes in the future, according to MDT.
Public information meetings will be held regularly during construction with updates for residents. The meetings will be held every Tuesday in October and November starting at 5 p.m. inside the Glacier High School auditorium.
For more information, contact LHC at 406-758-6400 or 406-858-0303.