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Public input sought for West Reserve Drive expansion

by JEREMY WEBER
Daily Inter Lake | March 19, 2021 12:00 AM

The proposed expansion West Reserve Drive in Kalispell was the focus of a virtual public meeting Wednesday to solicit public input and share the preliminary findings of a corridor study for the high-traffic east-west corridor.

The meeting was hosted by the Montana Department of Transportation and DOWL planning firm.

The corridor study will examine the roadway between the intersection with U.S. 93 and U.S. 2 and north one-half mile along Whitefish Stage Road and hopes to identify the long-term needs of the area and develop a plan to address them.

“We get a lot of benefits from conducting corridor studies, including providing improvements throughout the process,” MDT engineer Jacquelyn Smith said. “It is also a way to screen out and eliminate alternatives that would not be feasible due to financial or environmental constraints. In the end, these studies can save us a lot of time and money.”

Using traffic data gathered in October 2020, the study determined the western portion of West Reserve Drive is already operating at capacity, seeing an average of nearly 20,000 vehicles per day, while the section between Hutton Ranch Road and Whitefish Stage Road sees 18,300 vehicles daily. The traffic level drops off slightly between Whitefish Stage Road and the intersection with U.S. 2, which sees between 13,600 and 15,300 vehicles per day.

According to the study, the planning level capacity of a three-lane road (one lane each way plus a turn lane) is 18,300 vehicles per day.

According to the study, two intersections (West Reserve and Whitefish Stage Road as well as West Reserve and County Way) already fail to meet traffic-flow needs with all intersections along West Reserve Drive projected to have failing marks by 2040.

IN ADDITION to the increasing traffic, the study also found the number of accidents along West Reserve Drive have doubled in the past decade, with the majority occurring west of the Reserve Drive and Whitefish Stage Road intersection. Most occur between 3 and 6 p.m. with the majority being rear-end collisions.

In addition, the study found the two bridges along West Reserve Drive, both built in 1983, are in good condition, but pavement conditions of the roadway east of the Whitefish Stage Road intersection are in poor condition. Sidewalk accessibility along the drive also was found to be inconsistent.

While these are all issues the state and DOWL are looking to address moving forward, they know the public may be able to provide insight into other issues.

“Public involvement is very important to the study process. We compile a lot of information and do a lot of homework, but at the end of the day we do realize that we sometimes miss the little nuances and details,” DOWL Project Manager Cody Salo said. “That’s why we need to hear from the people who live near this corridor and travel it every day. It is a very important step in the process.”

Several online options for public input were presented at the meeting, including the MDT comment form available at www.mdt.mt.gov/pubinvolve/westreserve/ and the interactive map at www.tinyurl.com/westreserve.

Public input will be taken into account as the planning group compiles its Improvement Options Report, which it plans to unveil at another public meeting in July.

“We want to get this right when we finally do get the construction project going,” Smith said. “Now is the time to gather the input we will need as we move forward, so people should reach out to us with any ideas or concerns they might have.”

Reporter Jeremy Weber may be reached at 758-4446 or jweber@dailyinterlake.com.

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