Kalispell embarks on transportation plan update

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The city of Kalispell has one of the most outdated long-term transportation plans in the state, despite being part of the second fastest growing county in Montana, but city officials and the Montana Department of Transportation are looking to change that.

KLJ Engineering submitted a final draft “scope of service” for the creation of the new transportation plan to the Kalispell City Council on Monday, with the council awarding the multiple-year undertaking to the firm. The scope was greenlighted by the Kalispell Transportation Coordinating Committee in late July.

The state will be responsible for funding 60% of the project and the city will foot the remaining 40% of the bill. In addition, Kalispell’s Special Street Maintenance fund has allocated $150,000 to support the update.

Kalispell’s last transportation plan was created in 2006 and adopted by the City Council and Planning Board in 2008. According to the 275-page document, it is a “tool for managing growth and accommodating development needs” and is used to “predict future growth — where it is likely to happen, when it is likely to happen and how much of it is likely to occur.”

The intentions for the new plan are similar, as it will “guide and facilitate planned improvements for the Kalispell Urban Area that incorporates current and future transportation network deficiencies for the community.”

The plan is estimated to be complete in May of 2021.

“These things are pretty robust and take time in order to be done right,” said Bob Vosen, acting administrator for the state transportation department’s Missoula District. “This plan will be in place for a long time and requires a lot of oversight.”

KLJ has pinpointed nine tasks and subsequent deliverables for the plan’s creation, ranging from details of project management and financial analysis to standards and policies and public involvement.

According to the document, KLJ is proposing a Study Review Committee be formed as the “primary technical guiding element of the plan.” The team will consist of state, city and transportation coordinating committee members who will meet regularly to discuss key milestones of the planning process. The review committee is just one arm of the project management team that will monitor the plan’s creation in the coming years.

The first deliverable listed in the scope of service is a “Baseline Conditions Report,” that will, among many other items, include a “concise and visually appealing summary of existing surface transportation conditions in the Kalispell area.” The summary will look at multiple conditions including traffic data, high crash locations and public transportation systems. A part of the report will involve taking an in-depth look at growth projections in Kalispell for the year 2040.

According to the document’s timeline, the Baseline Conditions Report is estimated to be complete by 2020.

The transportation plan will eventually include many other facets such as an Active Transportation Needs map which will demonstrate existing and needed bike and pedestrian system needs for Kalispell and recommendations for improving safe routes to existing schools.

Vosen says one of the most instrumental parts to creating the plan will be public input.

“We have made sure to set aside plenty of opportunities for the community to voice their opinions about the plan,” Vosen said. “We want to know what they think we should be focusing on as well.”

According to the schedule for the creation of the transportation plan, multiple public input sessions are planned, beginning in October of this year up until a few months before the plan is complete in 2021.

The city of Kalispell is the local authority facilitating the update of the plan and will collaborate with the state and the Kalispell Transportation Coordinating Committee throughout the document’s development.

Reporter Kianna Gardner can be reached at 758-4439 or kgardner@dailyinterlake.com

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