County Receives Bids for Blacktail Road Paving Project

Four bids came in under anticipated cost, paving could begin by late June

By Molly Priddy
A truck navigates potholes along Blacktail Road. Beacon File Photo

Flathead County received bids on May 12 from construction companies vying for the job of the first phase of paving portions of Blacktail Road in Lakeside.

The county, in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, will start paving the popular road, which runs from Lakeside up to Blacktail Mountain Ski Area. The 14-mile road has some asphalt, but the county and Forest Service are working on paving more of the gravel sections to improve the roadway.

On March 12, the Flathead County Commission opened the bids from companies competing for the contract to pave the first section of the road, spanning 1.96 miles from the end of the current asphalt.

Knife River bid $492,366.25; HK Contractors, Inc. bid $698,798; AGC, Inc. bid $747,571; and LHC, Inc. bid $477,995.

The bids came in well under the estimated construction costs, Dave Prunty, the county road director, said. Originally, when applying for a grant through the Federal Land Access Program in conjunction with the Forest Service, they expected the first phase to cost about $1.2 million.

The Forest Service was awarded the FLAP grant, with Flathead County slated to pay the 14 percent match. Though there are considerable costs to add, such as engineering, the project will likely cost less anticipated.

“It’s less than the estimate that we put in to the application,” Prunty said. “That’s the nice part about putting out a bid.”

The second phase of the project will cover nearly the same amount of road as the first, but will cost significantly more, at about $5 million. There is another grant for the cost of that section.

Phase 2 will cost more due to the geologic and hydrologic issues engineers and construction crews will encounter on the second section, Prunty said. The mountain slumps into the road, and there are water issues.

“There is going to have to be significant engineering and construction when the road goes through that stretch,” Prunty said.

Construction on this first phase of the paving project, however, is much more straightforward, he said, with crews adding drainage improvements and paving the gravel road.

Prunty said if the weather holds, crews could start their work as early as late June, but he said construction is more likely to begin after the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

Blacktail Road runs through county, federal easement, and Forest Service jurisdiction on its way from Lakeside to the ski resort, and Prunty said it would be up to the Forest Service to determine how far the pavement goes once the second phase of the project is completed, since the second phase ends at the forest boundary.

As a roadway, Blacktail Road allows access not only to the ski area, but to other recreational pursuits as well, such as cross-country skiing, hiking, and off-highway vehicles in the Flathead National Forest.

As of May 15, the county commission had not yet scheduled a time to award the construction bid for the project.