The beginning stages of the Kalispell bypass may seem like a “road to nowhere” if county officials go forward with a plan presented Monday by Stelling engineers and the Montana Department of Transportation.
Phases one and two of the plan would include preloading — reinforcement of soft grounds that are expected to sink as much as four feet — two bridges over Ashley Creek and a road between U.S. Highway 2 and Airport Road. Phase one’s estimated cost is $7 million; Phase 2’s cost is estimated at $11.4 million for a four-lane road.
“All the pieces will make something happen once they are together, but in beginning phases it may seem like roads to nowhere until they’re connected,” Mitch Stelling, of Stelling Engineers, said.
Members of the Kalispell City Council and Flathead County Commission met at noon Monday with Stelling and MDT Director Jim Lynch to discuss the 10-phase plan and financial situation of the project.
No beginning dates were announced, though Stelling said with approval “preloading could begin soon.” Community officials were encouraged to decide which phases, if any, they would like to proceed with given their current budget.
Lynch said the project budget is at approximately 2.7 million, but said the group “could lean toward expecting the 6 million” in appropriations being decided in the Senate now. Approximately $21 million has already been spent on right-of-way acquisitions. Stelling estimated total cost for all 10 phases for four-lane roads at $75.3 million.
Lynch said the discrepancy between funding raised and needed isn’t cause for “doom and gloom” because progress so far “puts the community in as good a position as anywhere in the country to take advantage of available federal funds.”
Several area officials agreed it would be best to move forward with construction while still gathering funds, including Kalispell mayor Pam Kennedy who said, “Let’s get something going, and if it makes it all the way to the airport great, and if not, well we’ve got something moving and a case for more funding.”
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