Whitefish street rebuild comes with detour

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The Whitefish City Council has selected a construction option for State Park Road that will have traffic detouring through the adjacent neighborhood.

Earlier this month the council approved a $1.3 million bid for the first phase of construction with Sandry Construction Co.

The roadway is being reconstructed from Lion Mountain Loop Road to the BNSF railway crossing. Phase 1 of the project is set to begin this summer and includes the section of the road from Lion Mountain Loop Road to Haugen Heights Road.

The city will hold an information meeting on what to expect during construction of State Park Road at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, June 27, at Whitefish City Hall.

The city advertised for bidding the project with two options — one that would implement a detour route to remove public traffic from the construction site and one that would have put traffic control efforts in place including the use of flaggers to keep the road up to public traffic.

The low bid for work with no detour came in from LHC, Inc. at $1.49 million.

Public Works Director Craig Workman said that although the detour will be an inconvenience during construction, the city could not justify the additional $180,000 in cost to keep the road open to traffic.

“Many motorists will utilize the adjacent public roadways in order to avoid the delay, regardless of whether or not there is a posted detour,” he said. “If we were to try to build the road under traffic there could be a considerable number of dust complaints form the residents directly adjacent to the project if motorists are permitted to travel the roadway during construction.”

Under the detour option, a vehicle traveling from the south end of State Park Road to the north would be required to take Lion Mountain Loop Road to Meadow Lark Lane turn onto Stumptown Loop, then Haugen Heights Road and then following Patton Lane to State Park Road.

One-lane local traffic only access will be maintained to Forest Ridge Drive and Eagle Ridge Circle.

The State Park Road project is being paid for with resort tax funds. The total project budget is $5.3 million.

— Whitefish Pilot

Mineral County bans e-cigs in public places

Electronic cigarette users will no longer be able to “vape” in public facilities after Mineral County commissioners passed a motion to add them to the county-wide Clean Indoor Air Act at a public meeting on June 7. The vote followed a proposal by the Mineral County Board of Health, which said electronic cigarette use is a health hazard. Electronic cigarette, or e-cigarette, aerosol that is exhaled contains chemicals, metals and nicotine that can cause cancer, respiratory conditions and heart disease. “You’re not telling that person they can’t use them, they’re just telling them they can’t use them in a public space,” said Barb Jasper, a public health nurse at Mineral County Health Department. The Mineral County Board of Health began its proposal for the Clean Indoor Air Act’s expansion due to an increased use in e-cigarettes, especially among high school students. According to the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior data survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 percent of youth in Montana are current e-cigarette users. A Mineral County survey showed that 49 percent of youth have used an e-cigarette, and 26 percent have used in the last 30 days. “Mineral County is higher,” Jasper said. “I was hoping it would show a big decline because we have been trying to do education.” E-cigarettes are banned on high school campuses, but Superior High School Principal Chris Clairmont says the devices are so small that the kids can hide them. “It makes investigating much more difficult,” Clairmont says. “We’re working on educating kids on harmful effects.”

— Mineral Independent

State plans road work to protect bighorns

Since 1985 the stretch of Montana 200 between Plains and Thompson Falls has been a hotspot for bighorn sheep-vehicle collisions, with roughly 440 incidents involving vehicles, some causing major vehicular damage and even death or severe injury.

Four herds are monitored by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks in the area, but the herd most in danger of being impacted by vehicles is the Thompson Falls herd that calls this stretch of highway home.

The state agency has been searching for a way to mitigate the danger to the herd, and the area between mile markers 64 and 65 has accounted for around 85 percent of sheep loss due to traffic.

One of the first things that was tried was lowering the speed limit, which had some limited success, but was controversial. Meanwhile the Montana Department of Transportation has been planning on doing road work to two areas, which also happen to be the areas where most sheep deaths have occurred. The first is between mile markers 64 to 65, just before Thompson Falls, which is now under construction. The second is the bad-rock section halfway between the towns of Plains and Thompson Falls, that is in the works for around three years down the line.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks then tagged on some construction concepts that have had positive results in other areas for preventing vehicle collisions with large hooved animals such as elk. According to Bruce Sterling of the FWP, “I believe they (the protective additions) will be very effective.”

These additions would include heavy-duty 8-foot fencing along the stretch of road, various jump-outs for any sheep caught in the fencing, electric mats near the beginning and end of the area, and an underpass which will include monitoring cameras for the FWP to use to keep eyes on the project’s effectiveness and sheep population.

The project cost, for only the current construction between markers 64 and 65, was determined by a bid put in by the contractor hired to complete the project, LHC Inc. The bid was $6,854,895. A large additional cost of that is because of the animal protection elements.

— Clark Fork Valley Press

Lincoln County, school explore land-use swap

Lincoln County and the Eureka School District are collaborating on a possible lease swap.

Lincoln County Commissioner Josh Letcher recently laid out plans for the county to use 20 acres of school property for soccer fields and an ice-skating rink, in exchange for the school’s use of the track and softball field, which are located largely on county property, with a section on U.S. Forest Service ground. Letcher said the proposed arrangement is still in the works.

“We’ve been trying to be real accommodating with each other,” he said in a Tobacco Valley News article. “If the school puts anything into it, they don’t really have ownership into it, or a guarantee.”

The article noted that if the plan goes through, the fairgrounds soccer fields would move to the new location, and a future ice rink proposed at the fairgrounds would instead be built at the sports complex.

— Tobacco Valley News

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