Study shows that the completion of the Kalispell Bypass has provided over $1 billion in economic benefits. (MTN News photo)
The Kalispell Bypass is the most expensive single project in Montana Department of Transportation history. (MTN News photo)
They’re figures surprising the people who crunched the numbers.
The $1.35 million Kalispell Bypass created an economic tsunami of more than $1 billion and those benefits are expected to continue in the years to come. When the Kalispell Bypass was completely opened last year it marked the fulfillment of an idea that dates all the way back to 1948.
Because it was also the most expensive single project in Montana Department of Transportation history. MDT Missoula District Administrator Ed Toavs was curious about the economic change.
So, while working on his MBA degree, Toavs turned his spreadsheets on the 16-years of the highway’s development. What he found, with independent verification from the city and others, is remarkable.
Even using very conservative models, his report shows the Bypass generating hundreds of millions in development, $75 million in annual sales and created over 700 hundred new jobs.
“That 75-6, multiplied by the 16-years of the study period, your gross number is $1.21 billion, and so that’s the number that gets people’s attention and rightfully so," Toavs explained.
That’s a 9-to-1 ratio on investment to output, driven largely by new residential and business development.
“I think 85-plus parcels identified. But the two-million square foot and $140 million, and that’s without multipliers. That’s without any of the ripple effects the model produces," Toavs said.
Kalispell leaders praised the report and the cooperation of using a protected corridor and an executed plan key to the Flathead’s future…
“I can sit and talk a long time, and I do that, about the glories of this area. But when you actually have some numbers and facts that you can put behind it, it’s literally a jaw dropper," Kalispell Planning Director Tom Jentz said.
The total doesn’t include Glacier High School, Flathead Valley Community College or Kalispell Regional Medical Center which have also expanded since the Bypass plans were resolved. It also doesn’t speculate on future development when the south end of the Bypass is eventually completed to four lanes.
“That to me was the most astonishing part of it," Toavs said.
“And that’s the story that this type of information comes out and says. Because no one wants to pay a $135 million for a piece of highway. But would you like to receive a billion dollar gift in the mail? Oh yes, you would! And that’s really what we’re seeing here," Jentz added.
“We’re celebrating a success from something that’s really taken a long time and a lot of community support across multiple jurisdictions, great community support," Kalispell Chamber of Commerce President Joe Unterreiner said.
While many communities struggle with bypass highways, Kalispell leaders say it’s actually helping revitalize downtown.