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  Comments (1) Total Wednesday Apr. 16, 2014
Senator Vows to Help Finish Kalispell’s Bypass
Tester says he will try to secure funding for final alternate route phases
Sen. Jon Tester told Kalispell city officials that he would try to secure funding for the final phases of the U.S. Highway 93 Alternate Route and supports protecting the valley’s firearms industry amid possible upcoming changes to the nation’s gun regulations.

Speaking to members of the city council and staff last week, the Democrat acknowledged that both the Kalispell Bypass and the collection of gun manufacturers play important economic roles in the Flathead Valley.

Both subjects remain sensitive. Development of the bypass has screeched to a halt since federal funds evaporated, and tighter gun control proposals are resurfacing since the shootings at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., and a movie theater in Aurora, Colo.

In regards to the current gun debate, Tester emphasized preserving “a way of life” and an important sector of jobs in Montana and across the nation while also recognizing issues of safety.

Tester was in Kalispell for the first time since being reelected in November. He surveyed city officials about their concerns and questions, which began right away with City Manager Doug Russell bringing up the unfinished bypass.

Kalispell Planning Director Tom Jentz told the senator that the four remaining phases of the bypass are prepared to begin any day, but the bulk of the necessary funding has disappeared since the recession. An estimated $32 million is needed to finish the northern stretch and each $8 million phase could be completed each year, Jentz said.

“We’d love to do that and we were on track for that for awhile,” he said.

The city lost out on the state’s lone Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation last summer.

Tester urged city staff to be persistent in applying for federal grants while vowing continued support.

“I will work hard to try to get you guys some money,” Tester said, adding, “Everybody understands that infrastructure is an incredible driver of business through the country and the Flathead is no exception. The bypass here is very, very important.”

The senator was asked about successful federal programs and those that were not beneficial and could be eliminated to cut spending.

Russell touted the work of the Economic Development Administration and the local efforts of the Flathead County Economic Development Authority, which secured land for an industrial rail yard.
On 01-23-13, hotfishmt commented....
Oh Boy…more useless round abouts to make truck drivers not use the bypass?  It does not take too many trips with snow on the ground down/up the current phase completed….to see the many tire tracks on top of the round about contruction maze of design.…
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