Blacktail Road to get more pavement

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Frost and snow cover the trees on top of Blacktail Mountain on Tuesday. (Aaric Bryan/Daily Inter Lake)

Blacktail Mountain’s main access road will soon gain nearly 3 more miles of pavement.

Local, state and federal agencies have been working to improve Blacktail Road, No. 917, for years. Its first 3.8 miles leading away from U.S. 93 are paved.

On Friday, the Flathead National Forest announced that it had secured funding to proceed to the project’s second phase: paving the road up to milepost 6.61, and completing associated stabilization and revegetation work.

Spokane-based N.A. Degerstrom Inc. was awarded the contract to complete the work, which will begin in 2018 and is scheduled to last until October. Flathead Forest staff officer Gary Danczyk told the Daily Inter Lake that the contract was worth just over $3 million.

Blacktail Mountain Ski Area is accessed via the road.

“It would be a game-changer for summer operations,” said General Manager Steve Spencer. “We do special events up here in the summer...but we don’t really push it because the gravel road can be dusty.”

The stretch now scheduled for paving, he continued, is the most dusty part.

Spencer predicted that the project wouldn’t just benefit the ski area.

“It’s a pretty important road for recreation and timber management,” he said, citing the mountain’s growing network of cross-country ski trails.

An environmental assessment has already been completed for paving the road up to milepost 13.78, the top of Blacktail Mountain.

“It’s the most shovel-ready project in [Forest Service] Region 1,” Spencer said.

Flathead’s Danczyk said that after this phase reaches milepost 6.62, “we’ve still got a fairly long ways to go to get to the top.” Completion “will depend on the next highway bill” – in particular, whether the Federal Lands Access Program is continued.

He added that “we will continue to compete [for funds] to finish the Blacktail Road.”

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

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