The Kalispell City Council unanimously approved a strategic plan for the downtown area that local officials hope will revitalize the heart of the city. The council backed the plan during its Dec. 4 meeting.
The plan calls for the number of lanes on U.S. Highway 93 to be reduced from four to two, with a center turn lane. The change would allow for the construction of wider sidewalks and corner “bump outs” to protect pedestrians at crosswalks, which city officials believe would encourage more walking traffic downtown and slow down vehicle traffic.
But not everyone is onboard. Montana Department of Transportation studies predict traffic will only increase along Highway 93 in the years to come and that reducing the number of lanes through downtown Kalispell would exacerbate the issue. Earlier this year, the Flathead County Commission sent a letter to city officials agreeing with MDT and opposing any plan to reduce the number of lanes through town.
City Manager Doug Russell said the vote signals the city’s support for any effort to reduce the number of lanes downtown. Russell said MDT is planning to create a steering committee to discuss the future of downtown Kalispell sometime in early 2018.