Kalispell Council Reviews Lane Reduction Proposal on Main Street

The council this summer will vote on the Main Street Safety Action Plan, a design proposal that would reduce U.S. Highway 93 to three lanes through the downtown corridor while adding bicycle lanes and connectivity throughout the city

By Maggie Dresser
A rendering of a proposed design at the Main Street and First Street intersection as part of the city's Main Street Safety Action Plan. Photo courtesy of Kittelson & Associates, Inc.

The Kalispell City Council on June 24 reviewed the possible road infrastructure design options outlined in the city’s Main Street Safety Action Plan, which includes reducing Main Street to three traffic lanes.

In the coming weeks, councilors will vote on the initiative, which is designed to improve roadways and accommodate growing traffic while reducing accidents. City officials are working to implement a $25 million U.S. Department of Transportation Safe Streets and Roads for All planning grant as they launch the project.

Main Street was identified as the priority in the project, with proposed plans to include a reduction from its current four lanes to three lanes with a turn lane in the center. Additional space would be reallocated for widened sidewalks and landscape space along Main Street.

“We heard from businesses that they want this space — we heard from residents and a lot of families want to feel like their kids can walk on the sidewalk,” said Rachel Grosso, a transportation planner with Kittelson & Associates. “There’s just a lot of community sentiment about pedestrian and community space on Main Street.”

First Avenues east and west would also undergo significant changes, including separate bicycle lanes on the northern section and shared bicycle lanes on the southern end known as “sharrows.”

To further enhance safety, officials also hope to add curb extensions and crosswalks with flashing beacons and leading pedestrian intervals, which allows a 3- to 7-second start ahead of vehicles.

The safety plan proposal entails the addition of several roundabouts at intersections including Center Street and Woodland Park Drive. An extension of Grandview Drive to Evergreen Drive is also being proposed to add more connectivity from Kalispell to the east and safety upgrades would be added near Logan Health on U.S. Highway 93.

A rendering of a proposed design at First Avenue West as part of the city’s Main Street Safety Action Plan. Photo courtesy of Kittelson & Associates, Inc.

“I’m excited about Grandview and Evergreen for safety reasons and connection to the community college and of course the north and south upgrades,” Councilor Jessica Dahlman said. “The hospital and college complex are just so dangerous, and we need more pedestrian safety in that area.”

Since the grant was awarded, Kalispell has partnered with agencies including Flathead County and the Montana Department of Transportation, while the city hired Kittelson & Associates, a Boston-based consulting firm, 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.

Educators hope the project will enhance safety on Main Street for students walking to school. Currently, the elementary school districts are divided by Main Street to prevent students from walking across it.

“So, you could live on the west side with the closest school on the east side, but they said ‘we can’t have our kids crossing Main Street,’” Kalispell Planning Services Director Jarod Nygren said. “They have literally segregated their school district boundaries based on Main Street because of safety concerns.”

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