Preliminary work for final phase of bypass begins

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Beginning this week, the Montana Department of Transportation will begin to study what will become the final phase of the U.S. 93 bypass in Kalispell.

Crews with the department’s contractor for the project, TetraTech, will be taking soil samples along the bypass and at the Airport Road and Siderius intersections, according to a press release. The soil sampling, which will help engineers determine how solid the ground is and will “be helpful in designing the widened roadway,” is expected to last into September.

During this preliminary off-roadway work, drivers can expect limited impacts to their commuting, including a speed reduction in the area to 35 miles per hour in the limited work zone. Residents also will notice large equipment and machinery near the bypass area beginning Wednesday.

“This is the first of many, many steps that will allow us to make the best researched decision as to the intersections at Airport and Siderius roads with the bypass and what those intersections will look like,” said Bob Vosen, acting Missoula district administrator for the state Department of Transportation.

The first segment of the bypass opened to Glacier High School in 2008 with the construction of what is now called Old Reserve Drive. The full bypass began carrying traffic around Kalispell beginning October 2016.

However, during that time, the bypass was not fully complete. The south section — from Siderius Roundabout to south of U.S. 2 — originally was constructed as an interim project with only two lanes of traffic. Officials had always planned on widening that section to a four-lane roadway when funding became available.

According to the press release, the transportation department is also beginning the design phase of the project and in the coming months will be seeking input on how the Airport Road and Siderius intersections will be rebuilt. As traffic data is collected, and as studies and recommendations are prepared by KLJ, the project consultant, the public is encouraged to share their feedback.

The press release also stresses that “it is important to note that this particular project does not include the Foy’s Lake Road intersection as that is a separate project MDT is currently planning to begin construction as soon as the fall of 2020.”

“Flathead residents and travelers are eager to know the future of the bypass and we really want everyone to engage with us on this project,” Vosen said.

Vosen said the best way for residents to learn more about the project is by reaching out to the state’s local public involvement firm, Big Sky Public Relations. The firm can be reached at 406-207-4484 or the project communications manager can be reached at katie@bigskypublicrelations.com.

Reporter Kianna Gardner can be reached at 758-4439 or kgardner@dailyinterlake.com

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