KALISPELL — If everything remains on track, drivers should be using the newest stretch of the Kalispell Bypass this winter. Then attention will turn to completing the southern end of the important route.
It's been a long, hot summer of construction for workers, and residents, along the Kalispell Bypass. The good news is, the dust should settle with some return to a more efficient "normal" in the next few weeks.
"We're really hoping to have traffic on the final configuration by December of this year," explained Montana Department of Transportation Construction Engineer John Schmidt. "And then there will be follow up work in the spring of 2022."
"There's just some things we can't do once it gets cold. So, we can get traffic and everybody shifted around and moved to where they're using the interchange as designed. But then we do have to come back, kind of get back in the way a little bit if you will and just finish things up," Schmidt continued.
That includes completion of the Foys Lake interchange, one of the central challenges ever since the Bypass was first conceived years ago. Crews have been busy over the past several weeks moving tons of dirt and getting the final configuration worked out.
Even as construction progresses on the middle of the Bypass, engineers are looking at what they want to do here at the southern end, where it intersects with Highway 93.
That's where the Bypass' original design is still in play, including the so-called "roundabout to nowhere", which was completed more than a decade ago and still waiting for an upgrade. And the final solution where Bypass traffic intersects with Highway 93.
"There's definitely some added congestion," acknowledges MDT Missoula District Administrator Bob Vosen. "The more we build up the Bypass the more difficulties we have at that intersection with the Bypass and U.S. 93 on the south end. So trying to figure out what we need to do to make sure that we have a good level of service at that intersection."
As with any highway project nowadays, funding remains the challenge. Vosen says MDT is hoping the massive federal infrastructure bill may help.
"Still don't have a funding solution yet. We're definitely interested to see what's going on in D.C. right now as there's all the different infrastructure bills being talked about and moving back and forth. But nothing's passed yet. But yeah, we're excited to be moving forward towards that final phases of the Kalispell Bypass project."
MDT did a complete analysis of accidents and other traffic data on that "Basecamp Drive" section of the Bypass earlier this summer and is completing a study of the different alternatives.
The House could vote on the Senate-passed infrastructure bill by the end of the month.