The Montana Department of Transportation is looking to improve safety at a dangerous intersection on U.S. Highway 2 west of Kalispell.
On Sept. 13, MDT and engineers from Robert Peccia & Associates presented two alternatives to rebuild the intersection of U.S. Highway 2 and Springcreek and Dern roads. According to MDT data, there were 48 crashes at the intersection between 2004 and 2014.
“The main goal is to address the accident cluster at this location,” said Kelly Williams, MDT project manager.
Over the last year, MDT and engineers at Robert Peccia & Associates studied a number of options at the intersection. Eventually, they narrowed them down to two alternatives: a rebuilt four-way intersection with a traffic light or a roundabout.
Currently, Springcreek and Dern roads approach U.S. Highway 2 on a grade, reducing visibility at the intersection. That, combined with fast highway speeds, results in drivers struggling to see what’s coming around the bend and having little time to react to an oncoming vehicle.
Expanding the junction would require more land, said Scott Randall, an assistant manager from Robert Peccia & Associates, to ensure that the approaches from Springcreek and Dern are flatter.
“We feel that these two options – the roundabout and the new intersection – are the best ways to address safety and operation issues,” he said.
Randall said either option would also help the intersection handle expected traffic increases in the coming years.
The project will cost between $3 million and $5 million. Randall said the roundabout would be more expensive – mostly because of the additional land it would require – but noted it would be the safest option because it will slow down drivers.
On Sept. 13, MDT and engineers gathered public input. Among the people who attended the open house was Bob Schneller, a local resident who drives through the intersection almost every day. He said he supported either option to rebuild the intersection, noting that he’s seen the aftermath of accidents there.
“I think these are great options and I think they’re going to save a lot of lives,” he said.
The public is encouraged to send comments about the proposed rebuild to Missoula District Administrator Ed Toavs, Montana Department of Transportation, PO Box 7039, Missoula, Mont. 59807 or online at www.mdt.mt.gov/mdt/comment_form.shtml.
Officials will review the comments and hope to make a final decision on the direction of the project before the end of the year. Design is expected to start in 2017 and construction could begin in 2018.