Montana Department of Transportation

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Public Involvement

Downtown Whitefish Highway Study

Downtown Whitefish Highway Study logo

Public Open House #1
Thursday, March 5, 2020
3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Location: City Council Chambers, Whitefish City Hall
418 E Second Street

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Project Overview

The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) is in the early phases of a project on US Highway 93 through the Whitefish downtown area. The goal of the project is to find ways to improve traffic flow and safety of the highway that align with local planning desires and maintain multimodal transportation connections.

Purpose

The Whitefish community has experienced significant growth in traffic volumes over the last two decades. US 93 runs through the center of the community and serves as the primary travel route through the city for residents, visitors, and other traffic. When congestion and poor operations occur on US 93, the effects extend beyond the highway and translate into delays and congestion on local cross streets, ultimately affecting broader traffic operations. The lack of alternate continuous north-south or east-west routes in the community further complicates the congested conditions.

Improvements to the corridor, including intersection modifications, are needed to improve capacity and operations of US 93. Additional modifications may be necessary to accommodate truck traffic as well as bike and pedestrian users. Preliminary options from past studies and plans include providing an alternate north-south route, bolstering existing east-west routes, and constructing a new bridge connection over the Whitefish River. These and other options will be considered to determine a set of improvements that best meet operational, safety, and additional community needs.

Project Background

Over the past several years, numerous design solutions have been proposed for the US 93 corridor through downtown Whitefish in various local planning documents.

In 1994, MDT developed the U.S. Highway 93 Somers to Whitefish West Environmental Impact Statement in partnership with the Federal Highway Administration. The purpose of the study was to determine potential improvement options to reduce congestion on US 93, improve safety, accommodate planned growth and development, improve intermodal connections, and provide visual enhancements. The report identified a preferred alternative for US 93 through downtown Whitefish.

When design work began in 2005, three additional configurations were proposed. At the time, initial efforts were also underway on the Downtown Business District Master Plan, which resulted in the development of another design configuration for the corridor.

In 2010, MDT and the City of Whitefish initiated work on the Whitefish Urban Corridor Study in tandem with the Whitefish Transportation Plan. The corridor study considered all previously proposed options for the corridor and ultimately presented two design options for further consideration.

Through the current Downtown Whitefish Highway Study, project partners aim to analyze past design options and ultimately arrive at a solution that addresses safety and operational concerns for all users over the next 20 years. The project team will employ a variety of public involvement strategies to engage key stakeholders and the public in the planning process.

What phases and activities are included in the present study?

Before a final solution can be selected and constructed, MDT must study the feasibility of all options for making improvements to US 93 and associated streets through downtown Whitefish. This includes assessing considerations such as the scope of work, cost and available funds, timing, and impacts and benefits for the community.

  • The Visioning Stage of the study will gather available information to understand known issues, needs, and desired outcomes for study area roadway corridors.
    • The project team will review past planning studies, environmental data, and cultural resources in the project area.
    • An interactive Land Use Forecasting Workshop during this stage will include stakeholders in efforts to project future population and employment conditions. Stakeholder feedback from this workshop will influence future traffic projections for the study.
    • Public Open House Meeting #1 will provide an opportunity for the public to weigh in on their concerns and desires for the study area.
  • The Analysis Stage will involve preliminary geotechnical analysis, bridge concept development, and traffic analysis. During this phase, engineers will confirm areas of concern, determine the feasibility of improvements, and share other relevant findings.
  • During the Recommendations Stage, the project team will assess a range of alternatives, resulting in the selection of a preferred set of improvements. At Public Open House Meeting #2, the project team will request feedback on corridor improvements to address operational, safety, and other corridor needs.
  • A Steering Committee will meet regularly to provide feedback and direction throughout the study process. Public input is a crucial part of each step in the study process, and all interested parties are encouraged to reach out with thoughts and comments on needs and improvements to the area.
Downtown Whitefish project schedule
Click to view a larger schedule.