An additional 2.8 miles of gravel road will be paved on Blacktail Road this summer, continuing a project that began years ago and, officials hope, will one day end with asphalt all the way to the top of Blacktail Mountain.
Paving crews plan to begin their work by the middle of this month and will pick up where pavement currently ends, creating a smoother, more reliable surface on a particularly steep stretch of road that runs alongside Stoner Creek and one mile into U.S. Forest Service land. The project includes slope stabilization, improved road drainage and new culverts for fish crossing in locations where the creek and road intersect.
In 2015, nearly two miles of the 14-mile road was paved during the first phase of the project. Even after this second phase is completed, approximately seven miles of gravel road will remain on the way to Blacktail Mountain Ski Area, where the road ends.
Blacktail Road, No. 917, will remain open while the paving is completed, although officials say travelers could encounter delays of up to 30 minutes on weekdays through October. To accommodate those visiting the area to recreate, no work will be done on weekends.
The $3 million project was made possible primarily through the Federal Lands Access Program, a directive that provides funds to improve local access to recreation and give an economic boost to surrounding communities. In a press release announcing the project, Lakeside-Somers Chamber of Commerce President David Feitveit hailed the project as a win for his community.
“Public access to Blacktail Mountain is critical to our local residents and seasonal visitors,” he wrote. “This paving project is improving access to this significant natural resource year-round.”
The U.S. Forest Service and Flathead County also contributed funds to make the project possible.
“(The Flathead County commissioners) are great folks to work with on this project and equally the community of Lakeside,” Gary Danczyk, a staff officer with the Flathead National Forest, said. “They’re trying to improve the recreation activities that are in and out of the community of Lakeside.”
The road provides access to several trails in the Swan Lake Ranger District, including Nordic skiing trails, the Wild Bill off-highway vehicle trail, several communications installations and some private residences. Spokane-based N.A. Degerstrom, Inc. was awarded the contract for the project, with local support coming from LHC, Inc., CMG Engineering and Glacier Precast.
Project stakeholders remain hopeful that day the entire length of the road will one day be asphalt, but at the present time no future funding has been secured. If money is made available from the Federal Lands Access Program, Danczyk believes the Blacktail Road paving project would be in line to receive those funds because of how well it aligns with the program’s mission.
“This is a project we think that would be competitive,” Danczyk said. “The next time there is a call, we will put in for it.”