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Kalispell transportation plan proposes 90 improvements over 20 years

by BRET ANNE SERBIN
Daily Inter Lake | May 27, 2021 12:00 AM

A draft of the city of Kalispell's urban transportation plan unveiled Wednesday includes 90 recommendations that could be implemented over the next two decades.

Dubbed "Move 2040," the draft plan prepared by KLJ Engineering represents the first comprehensive look at the city's transportation infrastructure since the late 2000s.

The engineering firm recently conducted a series of assessments to understand transportation trends around the Kalispell area.

Wade Kline with KLJ gave the public its first look at the project during two open houses Wednesday at Kalispell City Hall. His presentation covered substantial changes that could be coming to the city's infrastructure to meet projected demand over the next 20 years.

Proposals include a three-lane road along Four Mile Drive, another three-lane road along Rose Crossing and an extension of Whitefish Stage Road south to the intersection of East Center Street and Woodland Avenue.

Kline also offered a list of 90 recommended improvements, some site-specific and others that would affect the whole transportation corridor.

The larger-scale improvements mostly involve lane expansions, predominantly on the north side of the city. Montana 35, the plan suggests, could grow to five lanes from its intersection with U.S. 2 to the connection with Montana 206 near Creston.

When it comes to individual intersections, possibilities include the installation of roundabouts east and west of downtown Kalispell, at the intersection of Woodland Avenue and Second Street East, and at the intersection of Seventh Street West and South Meridian Road.

Kline said pedestrian and nonmotorized traffic also figures into the recommendations, and improvements should benefit those who get around by foot or bike, too.

THE RECOMMENDATIONS also are based on a set of priorities the city established through a public-input process over the last year. Kline said community members identified safety, congestion and the conditions of existing infrastructure as top priorities.

Kline said his firm recorded just under 400,000 trips throughout the greater Kalispell transportation system on an average day in 2018.

KLJ projects the area will add about 12,000 jobs by 2040. That equates to an increase of about 80% in the number of vehicle miles traveled on Kalispell roadways, and a 43% jump in the number of vehicle hours spent on those roads, Kline said.

While the draft plan spells out a long list of proposed improvements, there's no guarantee every one will come to fruition.

The plan still has a long way to go before it is put into action. The city's Urban Transportation Advisory Committee will take it up on June 23, and then it will proceed through a series of meetings of the Kalispell Planning Board and the City Council.

The council could vote on adopting the transportation plan as early as Sept. 7. More information about the plan can be found at kalispellmove2040.com.

Reporter Bret Anne Serbin may be reached at 406-758-4459 or bserbin@dailyinterlake.com.