Construction on a pedestrian and bike tunnel underneath U.S. Highway 93 near Flathead Valley Community College is expected to begin in mid-May.
The 140-foot-long tunnel will provide safe crossing for pedestrians between the FVCC campus and Kidsports Complex. It will also serve as a link to bike and walking trails in the area.
But much of the tunnel’s purpose is in its future practicality, according to Ed Toavs, Missoula district construction engineer for the Montana Department of Transportation.
Toavs said the tunnel is part of an overarching plan to improve pedestrian connectivity throughout Kalispell. Calling it a “community-driven project,” Toavs said multiple groups worked together to make the project happen, including local governments and Rails to Trails representatives.
The board of trustees at FVCC approved a right-of-way agreement in March to allow for the tunnel’s construction.
An immediate benefit of the tunnel, Toavs said, is that bikers and walkers using trails on the highway’s west side will be able to cross through the tunnel and head north to visit Hutton Ranch Plaza and other businesses in the area, and vice-a-versa.
“In the future, it will provide even more benefit as more trails are built,” Toavs said.
The tunnel will be located 200-250 feet north of Grandview Drive, which turns into Four Mile Drive on the west side of the highway, and will be 14 feet wide and 10 feet tall. Weather permitting, Toavs said construction will begin mid-May. The goal, he said, is to have the tunnel in place and the road re-paved by Memorial Day, with crews working 24 hours a day.
“The goal is 10 calendar days,” Toavs said. “We want to get in and get out as fast as we possibly can and still reasonably do the job well.”
Traffic will be reduced to two lanes and slowed considerably during construction, Toavs said, with some complete stops possible. Letters are being sent out to residents in the nearby area notifying them of the work and signs will be placed throughout Kalispell in advance.
“It will slow traffic down to 20 to 25 miles per hour through there,” Toavs said.
As of April 13, Toavs said the Department of Transportation hadn’t yet bid the project and he was unsure of the final price tag. The tunnel will be funded through the department.
“We’re working out the full estimate,” Toavs said last week. “Hopefully we’ll know that shortly.”
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.