About a year ago the city began looking at possibilities for improving vehicle and pedestrian circulation in South Kalispell along Airport Road and US Hwy 93 to mitigate impacts associated with the new Rankin School and provide better access to the Downtown. WGM Engineering of Kalispell was hired to develop conceptual designs addressing traffic flows in this area of South Kalispell.
Based on public input and engineering standards, nine possible projects were narrowed to three: improving the 18th Street/Airport Road/1st Street West intersection (discussed below), a new traffic light at either Hwy 93/Airport Rd/13th Street intersection or at Hwy 93/1st Ave East intersection and then installing sidewalks along the west side of Airport road from Rankin School to the downtown. The Montana Department of Transportation, which controls US 93, reviewed the traffic counts for both Hwy 93 intersections and found that traffic is insufficient to warrant signalization at either intersection at this time. That left the 18th Street West and Airport Road improvements intersection and sidewalk work as the remaining viable alternatives. WGM has now reached the 30% design level on these improvements that will occur in four separate phases to be completed this spring and early summer.
1. The closure of 18th Street West from Airport Road westerly and replacing it with a new alignment two blocks to the north at 16th Street West connecting Airport Road with 1st Avenue West.
- This project will eliminate the dangerous off set intersection at 18th Street West and Airport Road.
- The new 16th Street alignment will be built to city standards and contain curb, gutter, sidewalks, landscape boulevard and street trees on both sides.
- The new alignment will also continue the painted and signed bike lane off Airport Road in place of on street parking.
2. The construction of approximately 7,500 linear feet of sidewalk extending:
- Along the west side of Airport Road from Rankin School to US 93 South,
- Along 1st Avenue West From Airport Road and 16th Street West, 12th Street West and westerly along 12th Street West to just past Legends Field,
- Along the north side of 18th Street from Airport Road east to US 93 South, and
- Along the south side of Begg Park Drive from Airport Road to Ashley Creek.
- This component will provide continuous pedestrian access via sidewalks from Rankin School north to several new subdivisions and apartment complexes and to existing sidewalk which connect the Kalispell Downtown, Legends Field and Flathead High School.
3. Signing Airport Road shoulders as a designated bike lane.
- The city has officially signed Airport Road shoulders as “No Parking”. This provides an excellent opportunity to designate both sides of this road as bike lanes.
- This road is a popular commuter and recreational road for bicycle traffic.
- The initial sidewalk design proposed in #2 above was intended to be an 8 foot wide detached shared path for pedestrians and bikes. With the advent of “no parking” along Airport Road, it makes sense to reduce the width and cost of the sidewalk program (now proposed to be a standard 5 foot sidewalk width) and move bikes out to the Airport Road shoulders.
- The Bike Lane would be designated with both signs and painted bike emblems on the roadway shoulders.
4. The conversion of the vacant lot at 18th Street West and Airport Road to an improved public parking facility.
- Land owned by the city in the airport clear zone can only be used for parking or road development. The site will accommodate approximately 166 parking spaces, have internal landscape islands, comply with city storm water standards and contain landscape boulevards, street trees and sidewalks along the perimeter.
- This parking lot will provide a controlled snow storage area during winter months as well as overflow parking for Legends Stadium.
- The lot will serve the Airport Road neighborhood and will be managed in compliance with our MS-4 (stormwater) requirements.
The City is now looking once again to hear your thoughts on this project now that the alternatives have been narrowed. If this area is of interest to you, we invite you to either of two open house events. Share your comments through November 22nd.