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Kalispell Bypass Listed as Priority in State’s Construction Plans
U.S. 93 alternate route could be completed by 2017 unless federal gridlock hampers funding
Paving continues near the intersection of U.S. 93 and West Reserve Drive Friday, Nov. 1, 2013. - Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon
Although uncertainty looms over future federal funding for Montana’s highway program, completing the U.S. 93 Alternate Route is among the state’s list of priorities in the next five years.

Last week the Montana Transportation Commission approved the state’s five-year project plan for 2013-2017, providing a blueprint of the state’s top construction projects.

The plan estimates an overall cost of $679.6 million in projects, but that figure is far from guaranteed.

Lawmakers in Washington, D.C. remain gridlocked over a new highway bill. Congress has passed a continuing resolution extending the legislation in the short term, but the current funding mechanism expires in October 2014. This happens to intersect with the midterm election season, a period when any semblance of action historically stalls on Capitol Hill.

The state’s transportation department is one of the largest recipients of federal funding in Montana. It received $392 million in fiscal year 2014.

Nevertheless, the Montana Department of Transportation has identified its future plans, and a bulk of the regional work could occur in the Flathead Valley.

The project list includes the final remaining phases of the Kalispell bypass, estimated to cost $36.6 million and see overall completion by 2017.

“We want to finish that project,” said Mike Tooley, director of Montana Department of Transportation, which crafted the long list of planned projects under the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program.

“We don’t like leaving things undone and we know it’s important to mobility and safety in the Kalispell area.”

The latest section of bypass is emerging toward Reserve Loop near Glacier High School and is expected to open later this month. Earlier this fall, Schellinger Construction rebuilt the intersection at U.S. 93 and West Reserve Drive, which has been rerouted and renamed Reserve Place.

Work is expected to begin next spring on Three Mile Drive, which will aid congestion at Kidsports Complex while accommodating the future bypass with a bridge and full interchange.

The final two phases would extend the bypass from U.S. Highway 2 to Three Mile Drive around 2015, and connect Three Mile Drive with Reserve Loop.

The state’s five-year plan also includes intended funding for the $26 million highway project on U.S. 93 in Ronan. The proposed plan includes reconstructing a 3.5-mile section of U.S. 93 that runs through town. It is expected to break ground in 2017.

Funding for the Whitefish urban highway project is also included in the state’s latest plans. A total of $31.5 million is slated to go toward reconstructing portions of U.S. 93 and an additional $8.2 million is tabbed for the proposed west corridor project.
 
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