New Reserve Drive South section opening Thursday

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Under construction since mid-November last year, Kalispell’s newest road, Reserve Drive South, opens Thursday and connects Hutton Ranch Road with West Reserve Drive.

Traffic lights for the new road have been up and flashing yellow for several days, and the road should open by 3 p.m.

“There’s still some cleanup and touchup work to do, but it’s nearly complete,” said Bob Vosen, a construction engineer with the Montana Department of Transportation. “The road will be fully open to traffic with working signals.”

LHC Inc. of Kalispell was awarded the Reserve Drive South contract and built the new road for $2.998 million. 

The road runs from West Reserve Drive south and west to Hutton Ranch Road, the main entrance off U.S. 93 for Walmart, Signature Theaters and Sportsman & Ski Haus, along other stores and restaurants in Hutton Ranch Plaza.

Reserve Drive South includes two traffic signals. 

One is at the old four-way stop on Hutton Ranch Road near Walmart. The other is at the intersection with West Reserve Drive. The road also has a roundabout with a third leg that runs back to Flathead Valley Community College property.

Similar to the Reserve Loop built on the west side of U.S. 93, Reserve Drive South was designed and built as part of the northernmost phase of the future U.S. 93 alternate route. 

“It’s to help alleviate congestion at the intersection of Reserve and 93, but people won’t see the full effect until the bypass is completed,” Vosen said of Reserve Drive South. 

Without the new road to function as a “relief valve,” the heavily traveled intersection of U.S. 93 and West Reserve Drive would immediately fail when the alternate route’s northern half goes in, Vosen said. U.S. 93 sees about 24,700 vehicles a day in that area.

Jon Whitmore, a salesman at Radio Shack in Hutton Ranch Plaza, said he looks forward to having a new way in and out of the heavily used shopping center.

“Personally, in my opinion this whole Hutton Ranch Road system was poorly designed in the first place,” Whitmore said.

“Getting in and out of here can be difficult. It might just be that there’s too much here, not enough entrances, exits. I think this might bring in more options for people trying to come in and get out, which may be helpful,” he said.

Reporter Tom Lotshaw may be reached at 758-4483 or by email at tlotshaw@dailyinterlake.com.

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