Kalispell Bypass Named Finalist in National Transportation Contest

Voting underway for People's Choice award that could win $10,000 for Montana charity

By Beacon Staff
The Kalispell Bypass on Oct. 5, 2016. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

The Kalispell Bypass continues to gain national recognition but needs some local love in its pursuit of $10,000 for charity.

An independent panel of judges has selected the local infrastructure project as a finalist in the 2017 America’s Transportation Awards contest. A total of 92 project nominations were reviewed during this year’s contest, which showcases the best highway and road projects in the nation.

The U.S. Highway 93 Alternate Route is a finalist in the competition and is vying for two awards: Grand Prize and People’s Choice.

The People’s Choice Award will be decided through online voting. Individuals can vote for the Kalispell Bypass project once every 24 hours through Thursday, Sept. 21. The votes will be weighted to each state’s population, allowing for more competition between larger and smaller states. Voting began Aug. 21.

According to Mike Tooley, director of the Montana Department of Transportation, if the bypass wins, the prize money will go to the Montana Hope Project. The Montana Hope Project is a nonprofit organization funded by charitable contributions and sponsored by the Association of Montana Troopers.

“From keeping our economy strong, to putting more folks to work and helping businesses expand, it’s heartening to see this much-deserved recognition,” said Montana Gov. Steve Bullock.“The economic benefits gained by the development of local construction projects – to towns like Kalispell and all across Montana – should not be overlooked.”

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), AAA, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce scored the bypass project among the three highest in the western regional competition held in June. A panel of experts will select the grand prize winner.

The bypass, stretching more than seven miles from the south end of Kalispell to the north, was made whole in October 2016. The highway project, which took 16 years to construct, cost roughly $140 million.

A new economic analysis, conducted by a transportation authority and an economist, shows the total economic impact of the bypass for the Flathead Valley exceeded $1 billion over the life of the project.

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