Kalispell Officials Aim to Promote Safety with New Main Street Design Proposal

After launching the Main Street Kalispell Safety Action Plan this year, city planners have proposed reducing U.S. Highway 93 to three lanes through the city’s downtown corridor

By Maggie Dresser
Main Street in Kalispell on May 16, 2024. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Kalispell city officials on Wednesday hosted a second open house to inform the public about its Main Street Safety Action Plan, an initiative designed to improve roadways and accommodate growing traffic while reducing accidents.

The city is working to implement a $25 million U.S. Department of Transportation Safe Streets and Roads for All planning grant as they launch the project that aims to prevent fatalities and serious injuries on Main Street and surrounding streets.

Some of the designs include reducing Main Street to three traffic lanes, adding bicycle lanes to neighboring streets and widening sidewalks while creating more connectivity. There are also several proposed roundabouts in the planning area, which extends north to Four Mile Drive, east to Shady Lane, south to about a half-mile south of the Flathead County Courthouse and west to the Kalispell Bypass.

“This goes back to the 2017 downtown plan and to make sure Kalispell is walkable and safe for all users,” Kalispell Development Services Director Jarod Nygren said at the open house. “At that time, there were conversations about reducing the intensity of traffic on Main Street and removing unnecessary traffic, how traffic on Main Street functions and making it more suitable for all users.”

Since the grant was awarded, Kalispell has partnered with Flathead County and the Montana Department of Transportation and the city hired Kittelson & Associates, a consulting firm based in Boston, to collect data and identify potential projects for the city.

Kalispell has been identified as a “transportation disadvantaged community” with an outsized number of traffic accidents, likely due to its lane configuration and because Main Street is also a major highway.

According to traffic data, there were 2,234 crashes within the planning area between 2018 and 2022, 258 of which occurred on Main Street. There were seven fatalities within the planning area and 38 serious injuries.

“While there were no fatalities on Main Street, eight of those 38 serious crashes happened on Main Street, which is an outsized number of crashes,” said Rachel Grosso, a transportation planner with Kittelson & Associates.

Nygren said one proposal to help promote safety on Main Street is by reducing traffic lanes from four to three while widening the sidewalks to promote other modes of transportation.

“There’s a higher percentage of serious injury crashes on Main Street than otherwise in the city and the goal of this plan is to reduce that,” Nygren said.

Other priority areas include streets running parallel to Main Street, Woodland Avenue, Woodland Park Drive, Meridian Road, Grandview Drive and Conrad Drive.

In the coming months, partners will develop a safety action plan that will head to the Kalispell City Council for approval by July with the project expected to begin as soon as 2026.

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