Crash-prone intersection could become roundabout

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The Montana Department of Transportation is considering building a roundabout at the intersection of U.S. Route 2, Dern Road and West Springcreek Road west of Kalispell.

The three roads form a four-way intersection, meeting at a point where U.S. 2 bends and hugs a hillside.

“This combination of geometric features creates limited sight distance for eastbound traffic approaching the Intersection,” the state agency explained in a press release.

The site has seen many crashes over the years, including a 2007 collision that killed two Flathead Valley residents. Now the aim is to make the intersection safer.

“The intersection needs to be reconstructed, and now we need to figure out what’s the most appropriate solution for that intersection,” Montana Department of Transportation Missoula District Administrator Ed Toavs told the Daily Inter Lake.

Cars approaching the juncture from Dern or West Springcreek Roads currently have to stop at a stop sign. The state recently added electronic warning signs, but “that’s really only a temporary solution,” Toavs said, “and we’re well aware that we need a permanent solution at that location.”

He described the roundabout as a “traffic-calming device,” one that provides speed reduction and adequate access in a way that additional signals at the intersection — another change under consideration — could not. He said it’s also cheaper and technically easier than building a larger interchange.

The plans show a design similar to that of the roundabout that joins the U.S. 93 bypass and Foys Lake Road on Kalispell’s southwest edge. The roads’ lanes split before feeding into the single-lane circle, and sidewalks and crosswalks connect its different sides. According to the state, “this configuration was found to address the major concerns identified in the safety analysis.”

The idea was presented to Kalispell’s Transportation Advisory Committee last month, and at an open house on Monday. The agency now is collecting public comments.

“We’ve gotten comments from folks who say they don’t like the roundabout proposal, and from people who agree with it,” Toavs said. He estimates total reconstruction costs for the 0.3-mile-long segment of U.S. 2 at $6.5 million.

After the public-comment period and further discussions within the Montana Department of Transportation and with the city of Kalispell, the agency will choose which design to pursue. Toavs expects the process to last until winter or early spring. Comments can be submitted at http://www.mdt.mt.gov/mdt/comment_form.shtml.

Reporter Patrick Reilly can be reached at preilly@dailyinterlake.com, or at (406)758-4407.

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