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CSKT Seeks Funding For Bike Path Along Highway 93

A legislative proposal to slap a $25 tax on out-of-state bicyclists visiting Montana turns out to be a big joke, but it's going over like a lead ballon.
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A proposal to connect existing bike paths in western Montana received widespread support at a meeting on the Flathead Reservation today. The big hurdle now is securing funding.

The proposed 34-mile multi-use path would follow U.S. 93 from its intersection with Interstate 90 to St. Ignatius.

This new section of the so-called "People’s Way" would bring long-held dreams of connecting existing bike path networks spanning from Hamilton to Glacier National Park one step closer to reality.

Jennifer Knoetgen was one of 50 people at a community meeting Wednesday at the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes’ tribal council offices.

"I think it's an excellent opportunity for local residents as well as tourists to see our great state, our area of the state, and connect with other multi-use paths that already exist or are already underway," Knoetgen said."

Would you use it?

"Absolutely," Knoetgen laughs.

Interest in a bike path along the U.S. 93 corridor has been around since the highway was redesigned nearly two decades ago. Last year, the tribes applied unsuccessfully for a grant from the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery — or TIGER — Discretionary Grant program through the federal Department of Transportation. This same grant funded the Missoula to Lolo Trail.

This year, project managers divided the proposed path into five independent segments. They say this will give DOT a menu of options to potentially fund instead of one massive lump sum. Altogether, they’re seeking $38 million.

Despite the big ask, Casey Ryan, project manager for the CSKT, is optimistic the application will be funded:

"I think what’s really neat about this project is that it has so many benefits. It would increase transportation safety for all residents here on the Flathead Reservation. It would also provide economic ladders for success for people who have compromised access to motor vehicles. It would make local transportation more sustainable."

Ryan says many of the potential challenges of bringing this project to fruition -- like permitting and environmental impact studies — have already been addressed when the highway was redesigned. Future problems, such as who would be responsible for maintenance, were also discussed at Wednesday’s meeting.

The tribes will submit their grant application later this spring.

You can find more information about the project at  http://www.bikerunwalkus93.com/

Nicky is MTPR's Flathead-area reporter.
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