Transportation

MDT to Add Roundabout at Intersection of U.S. Highway 2 and Batavia Lane

The project will begin in roughly five years or when funding is available

By Maggie Dresser
Crosswalk signs with flashing lights were installed at the crosswalk at the junction of U.S. Highway 2 and Batavia Lane in front of Smith Valley School, as seen on Dec. 2, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) will install a roundabout at the intersection of U.S. Highway 2 West and Batavia Lane, just west of Kalispell, to improve safety.

MDT collaborated with Robert Peccia and Associates (RPA), a transportation consulting group, to reconstruct the intersection and provide access to Smith Valley School, which lies to the southwest, and Kelly Rae’s Gas Station and Convenience Store to the northwest.

“Safety will always be MDT’s top priority,” MDT District Administrator Bob Vosen said in a press release. “When it came right down to it, our analyses show a roundabout will be the safest option.”

MDT hosted three open houses over the past year and a half to give the public an opportunity to engage in the project. The most common concern was pedestrian safety.

“Roundabouts have a proven track record of improving safety,” Vosen said. “Slower speeds and a single direction of traffic give drivers and pedestrians more time to react to one another. Roundabouts reduce fatal crashes by 90% and injury crashes by 75%. Those numbers are hard to argue with.”

Large commercial and logging truck traffic circulation was also considered a priority for intersection reconstruction, and Vosen reassures the public that the roundabout will accommodate large vehicles.

The Federal Highway Administration finalized a Road Safety Audit in 2014 and identified the intersection as a “location in need of safety and operational improvements.” In 2016, an MDT traffic study evaluated traffic signal and roundabout options and determined a roundabout would “best address the safety issues outlined in the 2014 audit.”

While the project is in its beginning stages and is unfunded at this point, officials estimate intersection reconstruction will start in roughly five years unless funding becomes available sooner.

MDT installed a pair of rectangular rapid flashing beacons at the crosswalk in December as part of an interim safety solution.

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