The Flathead County Commission voted unanimously on Aug. 25 to approve a road redesign along Rose Crossing to address an unsafe, 90-degree corner along the roadway.
Rose Crossing is a mostly straight road connecting U.S. Highway 2 in Evergreen to U.S. Highway 93 at the Kalispell North Town Center. About a quarter-mile east of the intersection with Whitefish Stage Road, Rose Crossing makes a sharp 90-degree turn to the north, drops down a hill and swings back around to the east.
Residents in the area have raised concerns over increased traffic in the area, which, combined with the poorly designed jag in the roadway, makes for a safety hazard in the area.
In addition to the corner, the road is shaded, leaving it icy during the winter. Flathead County Commissioner Randy Brodehl also notes that since Reserve Drive is widely considered inept at handling its high volume of traffic, Rose Crossing has become the new “pseudo bypass” between the highways. Heavy truck use has been a concern, as the large vehicles have trouble navigating through the square corner.
In 2018, resident Debbie Street, who lives at the bottom of the Rose Crossing hill, brought her concerns about the corner to the Kalispell City Council, but was referred to the Flathead County Commission as a matter of jurisdiction.
In February of this year, Street and an engineering consultant she hired, Mike Fraser, presented their concerns to the county commissioners. As part of their presentation, Street and Fraser noted a significant increase in traffic on the road, with a 44% increase in vehicle trips between 2018 and 2019.
Street requested the commission conduct a full traffic-impact study to create a plan to help ease the problems in the area.
The commission opted to go straight to working on the solution.
“A study would have told us what we already know — it’s seeing heavy use and it’s a poorly designed corner,” Brodehl said. “The road department has been great in putting this together and working with a traffic engineer on this to help design this to be effective.”
While the road department began looking at options for rebuilding the curve, concrete barriers and additional signs, including a blinking LED radar warning sign, were put in place in early 2019 as a short-term improvement.
The county retained engineering firm Robert Peccia & Associates (RPA) to develop geometric design options for the roadway. Three projects designed for road speeds between 35 mph and 45 mph were proposed to the Thompson family, which owns land south of Rose Crossing where an easement would be needed to complete the road project.
Because of the amount of easement needed to achieve a large enough radius for the three proposed speeds, the landowners requested a new design. County Public Works Director Dave Prunty and RPA determined that a 30-mph design curve would be a significant safety improvement over the current condition, and the landowners agreed to donate the necessary property for the needed easement. A landscaped berm will also be constructed to mitigate headlight traffic on the properties adjacent to the berm.
The new turn will have a 250-foot radius and a 30-mph limit, five miles per hour lower than the rest of Rose Crossing. Funding for the project will come from the Bridge and Road Safety and Accountability Act.
“I think it’s the start of a long-term solution,” Brodehl said. “The reality is when Reserve is fixed, that will take pressure off Rose Crossing, because people don’t want to maneuver around that corner if they don’t
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