Public Infrastructure Projects Underway Across the Flathead

Kalispell, Whitefish will be working on major projects over the summer

By Justin Franz

Municipalities across the Flathead Valley are gearing up for a number of large public works projects. The projects – including a new sewage main in Kalispell and numerous paving projects – could disrupt traffic and everyday life for local residents, but officials say each one is necessary in the long run.

“We have an aggressive construction season coming up,” said Kalispell Public Works Director Susie Turner, and the same could be said for much of the valley.

Here’s a look at some of the most prominent projects happening over the next few months.

Kalispell

Kalispell West Side Interceptor: This wastewater project has been on Kalispell Public Works’ wish list for more than a decade and will help alleviate an over-burdened sewage system and clear the way for additional development on the west side of town. The project will see the construction of 45,000 feet of sewage main line from downtown Kalispell north to the intersection of U.S. Highway 93 and West Reserve Drive. The new sewage main will provide service for about 4,936 acres on the northwest side of Kalispell, enough to support more than 17,600 households and 44,195 people.

New Pump House: Kalispell is also constructing a new pump house on the northwest side of town, not far from the 911 Center. The three-room pump house and water pump will serve an existing well that will provide fresh water to local residents.

Wastewater Plant Upgrades: The city will spend the next two years upgrading digestive systems and wastewater tanks at the water treatment plant south of town. The project will include the rehabilitation of two secondary digestive system covers (the system helps break down solids).

Paving: The city has two dozen paving and road reconstruction projects around town that are already underway and will likely wrap up sometime this fall. The projects range from small pothole filling projects to larger alley paving initiatives. The Montana Department of Transportation is also working on a number of paving and chip sealing projects in Kalispell, including on West Reserve Drive and on Whitefish Stage Road.

Whitefish

Somers Avenue Reconstruction: The City of Whitefish is rebuilding six blocks of Somers Avenue from East Second Street to East Eighth Street. Public Works Director Craig Workman said the road and the old cast iron water main below are in disrepair and both have been on the city’s to-do list for a number of years. The $2 million project is being paid for with resort taxes. The street will feature new pavement, curbs, sidewalks and lighting.

Central Avenue Improvements: The south end of downtown Whitefish is also getting an upgrade this spring. Central Avenue between Third and Fourth Streets, near the former site of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building that was recently torn down for redevelopment, is being upgraded with wider sidewalks. Workman said the effort to essentially extend the downtown area one block should be completed by June.

Downtown Lighting Project: In an effort to save energy, Whitefish is replacing more than 180 streetlights in the downtown area with more efficient LED lights.   

Columbia Falls

Leak Detection Project: Columbia Falls will be installing 16 flow meters this summer along 41 miles of water pipe to determine where exactly the city is losing 20 million gallons of water a month. City Manager Susan Nicosia says unlike Whitefish and Kalispell, which have a lot of clay in the ground that makes it easier to detect leaks, Columbia Falls has especially rocky soil making it hard to find where water is leaving the system. The flow meters will be installed throughout the city and will require some minor street closures at times.

U.S. Highway 2 Upgrades: The Montana Department of Transportation is continuing a $3.2 million project through Columbia Falls that will include repaving parts of the road and adding American Disabilities Act compliant sidewalk ramps.

Elsewhere in Flathead County

New South Fork of the Flathead River Bridge: One of the biggest road projects underway in Northwest Montana this summer is the construction of a new U.S. Highway 2 bridge over the South Fork of the Flathead River in Hungry Horse. Construction of the $12.7 million bridge began last year and it is expected to open in late 2018 or early 2019.

Creston Paving Project: Nearly 8 miles of Montana Highway 35 from Creston to the Flathead River Bridge will be repaved and covered with chip seal starting in June. Most of the work will take place at night to reduce impacts on local traffic.

Whitefish River Bridge Deck Replacement: The Whitefish River Bridge on Montana Highway 40 between Whitefish and Columbia Falls will receive a new deck this fall. Ed Toavs, MDT Missoula district administrator, said the current road surface was last upgraded in the 1970s and it is one of the roughest bridges in the western part of the state.

Helena Flats Intersection: The intersection of Helena Flats Road and Montana Highway 35 near Evergreen will be upgraded this summer and receive a new traffic signal.

New Swan River Bridge: A new bridge over the Swan River on Montana Secondary Highway 209 near Bigfork will be constructed this summer. A detour bridge is currently being built and once it is done, the old bridge will be torn out and replaced with a new span.

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