Kalispell Bypass Opens Friday with Public Ceremony

by Dillon Tabish

At long last, the full-length Kalispell bypass is opening.

An opening ceremony for the U.S. 93 Alternate Route is scheduled for 1 p.m., Friday, Oct. 28.

Local, state and federal officials will lead a procession north from the bridge at U.S. Highway 2 to Old Reserve Drive. As the procession progresses along the new four-lane road, the bypass will officially open to traffic, including the overpasses, adjacent walking path and Four Mile Drive near Kidsports Complex.

When the procession arrives at the bridge at Old Reserve Drive, a ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place featuring Gov. Steve Bullock. U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke and a representative from U.S. Sen. Steve Daines’ office. There will also be city and county officials on hand to celebrate the historic event.

The public is invited to attend the ceremony and parking will be available on the north side of the Old Reserve Bridge.

The opening of the bypass marks the completion of the single largest transportation project in Montana history. Valued at a total of roughly $140 million, the project is roughly 70 years in the making. Community residents have long hoped for a bypass, primarily for large trucks, that would reduce congestion on Main Street, which is also U.S. 93.

“There’s no other project in the whole state that impacts a community and area like this one does,” Jim Mitchell, the Montana Department of Transportation’s engineering project manager for the bypass over the last 10 years, told the Beacon earlier this month. “It totally changes the whole landscape and infrastructure of the area.”

LHC, the Kalispell-based construction company that was awarded a $34 million bid to complete the project, finished the final stretch in 12 months.

While the entire project was originally planned to feature four lanes and overpasses, the south half of the bypass was built with only two lanes to get the project off the ground in 2007. State transportation officials still hope to expand the south portion to four lanes and add overpasses at Foys Lake Road and Airport Road for an estimated cost of roughly $20 million, but there are not any immediate plans in the near future.