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MDT, KLJ Engineering showcase design changes to southern end of Kalispell Bypass

Kalispell Bypass
Posted at 4:56 PM, Feb 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-24 19:05:45-05

KALISPELL — Transportation officials say change is needed on the southern end of the Kalispell Bypass to keep us with the increase in traffic as the population continues to grow in the Flathead Valley.

The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) and KLJ Engineering unveiled three new design concepts for US 93 and Basecamp Drive intersection during an open house in Kalispell.

“In 20 years, this is where we’re seeing this intersection break down essentially, especially in those major turning movements at the peak hours of the rush hours,” KLJ Engineering Design Project Manager Dillon McLain told MTN News.

Multiple traffic studies and a crash analysis show the current intersection near basecamp drive is not sustainable with traffic already backing up. McLain said the three alternative design concepts would help alleviate those traffic issues for the next 20 years.

“Again at least 20 years with projected growth and that includes multiple high-density developments that are potentially springing up here on the south end of Kalispell,” added McLain.

The first option includes dual left turns, meaning the intersection functions essentially how it does currently, except another left turn lane is added for vehicles driving north.

A second option would include a displaced left turn lane meaning vehicles wanting to turn left onto the bypass would cross over traffic south of the main intersection and travel against opposing traffic with separated medians.

“Effectively this option spreads out the conflict points and it makes for a little bit more efficient movement at the main intersection of the bypass and U.S. 93,” said McLain.

A third option is a so-called a “green T as-grade” design in which northbound traffic would not have to stop at the intersection, allowing free flow movement with dual left-turn lanes

“This one’s kind of unique to Montana and it’s generally reserved for T or 3-way intersections,” said McLain.

McLain said officials will look over public comment on the design concepts before making a final decision later this year.

“Really what we’re trying to do now is just gauge the public’s interest in some of these solutions and then maybe sort of tailor-make our final solution based upon their input,” added McLain.

Kalispell resident Austin Pauly hopes the final design concept alleviates current traffic flow problems.

“I’ve noticed driving south you can hit those traffic lights and be stuck there for a really long time so, to see an increase in flow would be awesome,” said Pauly.

Once a final design is picked, McLain said construction of the project will be at least 5 years out based on funding.

Those interested can leave public comment through the project hotline at 406-207-4484, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.