Warm weather in Montana usually means road construction season, and crews in the Flathead are digging the mild temperatures.
Construction work on the southern section of the U.S. 93 Alternate Route, also known as the Kalispell bypass, is currently on schedule and a new road connecting West Reserve to the new Wal-Mart Supercenter may become a reality this year, according to transportation officials.
Ed Toavs, district construction engineer for the Montana Department of Transportation, considered the bypass progress a feat for a project that began while winter still gripped much of Montana. Most of the work done already has been “out of sight, out of mind,” Toavs said, but valley residents will soon be able to see more evidence of the bypass on their everyday drives.
Already, work on the southern half of the section – running from U.S. Highway 93 up to Airport Road – can be seen from the highway near Gardner RV. This part of the project, done by Knife River, is already heading toward asphalting the new road.
“It’s nice to see that happening in April already,” Toavs said.
The crews also made significant progress with soil consolidation at the bridge at Ashley Creek, which they finished in late March. There is a three-month soil-settling period before more work can be done, Toavs said.
On the north half of the bypass section, Ames Construction Inc. crews are close to completing muck excavation at the old sawmill site on Appleway Drive, Toavs said. They have also built roadwork with a three-month settling period.
The north half of the segment connects Airport Road to U.S. Highway 2.
There have also been significant excavation and water projects, with the next challenge between Foys Lake and Airport roads. That area has a high water table, Toavs said, and constructing an intersection will take considerable time.
A connector road between West Reserve Drive and the new Wal-Mart Supercenter could also begin to take shape, according to MDOT Director Jim Lynch. The road would connect with West Reserve east of its intersection with U.S. Highway 93 and run southwest behind Home Depot and into Hutton Ranch Plaza.
The road could go to bid this year if the state can purchase the remaining property right-of-ways, the bulk of which are owned by Flathead Valley Community College.
The road would attempt to reduce congestion on U.S. Highway 93 near the shopping centers by diverting traffic away from the highway, Lynch said.
Wal-Mart will foot the bill for the road from U.S. Highway 93 almost all the way to the back of their store, Lynch added.
The project would be paid for with bypass money left over from a federal earmark, Lynch said. The state received such competitive bids for the U.S. 93 alternate route that he is confident there will be enough money left in the earmark for the new road.
Lynch said several pieces still need to be added to the puzzle, but the state should have a clearer picture of possibilities in May.
MDOT is also seeking public comment on a proposal to replace the bridge on U.S. Highway 2, eight miles east of West Glacier. The proposed project would include a newer, wider bridge in place of the old one, which was built in 1950.
The purpose of the project is to enhance safety for drivers traveling on the bridge over Deer Lick Creek, according to MDOT. Construction is tentatively planned for 2014, depending on project design completion and availability of funds.
To submit comments online, visit www.mdt.mt.gov/mdt/comment_form.shtml.
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