It is a sad and shameful fact that, to a large extent, those we elect as our “voices” seem to represent their own interests first and then those who control money and power. Following these current tenets leads to disillusionment and frustration on the part of the general citizenry. So it has become at the highest levels of our government, so it has become even on the local, municipal level. The concerns and desires of the general population often become secondary, despite the fact that these officials are essentially our employees!
Those in government who would wash their hands of their duties as proscribed by the office, turn their backs and walk away from issues of public safety, welfare and common good, not only are guilty of negligence, but also betrayal. Betrayal of what is right and what they know they should do. Whatever their justifications or reasoning for said actions (or inactions) may be, they are without merit placed against the risks to public safety.
Such is an apt portrayal of the current behavior of both the Flathead County Commission as well as the Kalispell City Council in regards to the very real (and growing) problem of traffic along Rose Crossing – specifically between Whitefish Stage and U.S. Highway 2. Despite numerous attempts to get concrete action to rectify the issue, the behavior of these two groups is to either claim “it’s not their problem” or simply ignore it. This, in spite of the truth that all concerned (council members, commissioners, developers, even law enforcement), have acknowledged the legitimate concerns of the residents and that “something should be done,” inaction seems to be the pattern. The responses tend toward passing the buck rather than taking initiative and doing the right thing.
The concerns were itemized in a previous editorial (all concerned groups are aware of these facts): 30 percent narrower roadway than standard width, no shoulders, no clear lane lines, insufficient speed limit signage, a very hazardous 90 degree blind turn, limited sun exposure and icy conditions over same stretch in winter, insufficient safety barricades.
There have also been serious concerns whether the Kalispell City Council overstepped its bounds, approving the opening of a major thoroughfare without conducting a thorough and proper Traffic Impact Study to assess the safety and viability of the project. It’s troubling that no consideration was given to the obvious: of course people will use the connection as a bypass from LaSalle and all of Rose Crossing will be impacted by the increased traffic, not just the 1-mile stretch of new roadway. An adequate Traffic Impact Study was never done between Whitefish Stage and Highway 2. The studies only assessed the impact between Highway 93 and Whitefish Stage. In essence, the Kalispell City Council created an enormous mess for the county and is now turning its back, claiming there’s nothing they can do.
Many suggestions and possible solutions have been proposed to both council and commissioners: increased signage, reconfiguring the roadway, widening, traffic circles, shoulders, barricades, flashing lights, more patrolling, restricting truck traffic. Most, if not all, of these suggestions are completely within the power of the county to enforce and/or pursue. Yet still, there is inaction and lethargy.
The very real risk here is to innocent human life. Motorists are at risk. School children on busses are at risk. And we are rapidly approaching winter driving conditions. I dread the day there is a fatality along this section of roadway. Is a death the price of action? Sadly, and as devastating as that would be, I fear that may be the case. After the fact, though, is a poor time to apologize for what should have been done – “the right thing,” when all along the problems were manifest and heels were dragged.
Stacey Neary lives in Kalispell.