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Transportation plan heads before Whitefish Council

by HEIDI DESCH
Daily Inter Lake | September 19, 2022 12:00 AM

Outlining a list of recommended major street improvements needed for the next 20 years, the Whitefish Transportation Plan heads before City Council on Monday.

The document is an update to the last transportation plan, adopted in 2010, and takes into account the areas that could see growth out to 2040.

City Council meets at 7:10 p.m. at City Hall, 418 E Second St. Council will hold a work session prior to the regular meeting beginning at 5:30 p.m. to discuss the plan.

Council had been set to review the plan at its Sept. 6 meeting, but the item was postponed.

The plan is meant to be a guide for the transportation system including vehicles, public transportation, and foot and bicycle traffic. It describes the existing systems and looks forward at travel demand forecasting and projected travel conditions.

The vision for the plan is for it to serve as an anchor for future development of the transportation system.

“The city will champion multimodal transportation policy and investment that enhances the city’s unique character, preserves its natural resources, promotes walkability and accommodates future growth,” the plan says.

The plan projects a total cost of $178.9 million needed to be spent on the transportation system through both roadway exertions and reconstruction.

Major roadways in Whitefish experience periodic congestion, especially during seasonal peaks, the plan notes. Traffic modeling shows that several intersections along U.S. 93 South already function poorly.

Looking at future conditions, the plan says portions of Montana 40, U.S. 93, Baker Avenue and Wisconsin Avenue are projected to be congested or congesting by 2040. That totals more than 8 miles of roadway.

Two of the community’s key corridors — U.S. 93 from the Montana 40 junction north to 13th Street and Wisconsin Avenue from Edgewood Place to Big Mountain Road — were analyzed as part of the plan with the goal of exploring opportunities for improving safety, level of service, connectivity and access along the corridors and adjacent roadways.

For U.S. 93, the traffic already exceeds the threshold set for requiring medians. The plan puts forward and expands the recent median concepts developed in the city’s Highway 93 South Corridor Study. It also shows the potential for a roundabout on U.S. 93 at Montana 40 and also at Greenwood Drive.

The plan calls for a logical parallel roadway system to U.S. 93 to support improved traffic circulation adjacent to the corridor, specifically the extension of Baker, Columbia and Whitefish avenues to the south.

For Wisconsin Avenue, the plan recommends the city continue to coordinate with the Montana Department of Transportation and Flathead County on needs along the street. The plan shows a proposed two-way left turn lane on a section of the southern end of the road, a potential light at Marina Crest Lane and a potential roundabout location at Big Mountain Road.

Beyond the key corridors, the plan identifies specific problems with intersections and signals and outlines potential improvements to the network throughout the city. It prioritizes goals and objectives to improve transportation and set policies and tasks to achieve those objectives.

TWO OTHER items are on the Council agenda for the night.

Council is set to hold a public hearing on a resolution to establish City Council and committee rules and procedures.

City Attorney Angela Jacobs in a memo to Council says that the city code sets forth general rules regarding meetings, which it has consistently abided by in addition to any requirements of state law.

“However, given the complexity of some issues that have come before Council in the past few years, there has been a need identified for a policy that clearly and definitively sets forth the procedures and rules Council will follow at public meetings as well as the rules the public should follow when participating in meetings,” she said.

Finally, Council will consider a request from Birch Hill Homeowners Association for a Whitefish Lake and Lakeshore Protection Minor Variance to extend an existing grandfathered community dock at 20 feet out to 163 feet in length. The dock is located on Parkway Drive.

Features Editor Heidi Desch may be reached at 758-4421 or hdesch@dailyinterlake.com.

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