Opinion

|

Like I Was Saying

Another Boom Year

Here are a few of the largest projects expected to break ground or be completed next year

With the announcement that Kalispell has secured another federal grant — this time to widen two miles of the bypass from two lanes to four, taking the massive project one step closer to completion — 2019 is already shaping up to be another banner year for construction around the city even if the housing and commercial sectors soften.

Here are just a few of the largest projects expected to break ground or be completed next year.

Last week, Montana’s U.S. delegation announced that Kalispell would receive a $12.7 million Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant to widen two miles of the U.S. 93 bypass south of town and replace the roundabout near Foys Lake with an overpass.

Local officials lobbied hard for the project. They traveled to Washington D.C. in September to state their case, citing numbers that showed the road was far busier than initial estimates. Traffic flow along the Foys Lake stretch of the bypass was predicted to reach 16,000 to 18,000 cars per day by 2040. It’s already reached that number.

The BUILD grant was formerly known as the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recover, or TIGER, grant, which may sound familiar. Just three years ago, Kalispell and the Flathead County Economic Authority were awarded $10 million through the program to establish Glacier Rail Park and replace railroad tracks slicing through the heart of the city with a pedestrian trail.

Construction continues at the rail park in Evergreen and new facilities for both Northwest Drywall and CHS Kalispell should be completed next year, which will allow removal of the tracks. The project has been called “transformative” for downtown and soon residents will begin to see tangible evidence of what that transformation will look like.

For the city to land two eight-figure federal grants in just three years is a credit to local officials who have remained steadfast in their support for Kalispell’s core area amid rapid growth on the north side, where more large projects are set to be finished or begin in 2019.

The biggest of those is the $40 million Montana Children’s Medical Center located on the Kalispell Regional Healthcare campus. The pediatric center will be 190,000 square feet and is expected to open during the first half of next year. This follows the recent $14 million expansion of the Emergency Department, from 8,000 square feet to 37,000 square feet, and the construction of the $13 million Digestive Health Institute.

Nearby, another of the region’s flagship institutions, Flathead Valley Community College, continues its ambitious expansion. In January of this year, the FVCC ONE campaign announced its goal of raising $18 million to fund a pair of large construction projects, by far the largest private fundraising push in the school’s history. Less than a year later, it has almost reached that goal.

The school has already broken ground on a 12,000-square-foot Library and Learning Commons expansion. The $3 million project should be completed next year. The second phase of the campaign, constructing the $15 million College Center, is expected to start next year and will be transformative for Kalispell in its own right.

The 50,000-square-foot center will include a performance and lecture hall, outdoor amphitheater, basketball courts and indoor track. It will allow the valley to attract more prominent concerts and guest speakers. It’s also the future home of Glacier Symphony.

Development in the valley’s largest city is poised for another big year in 2019, which follows several years of already rapid growth.