An intersection west of Kalispell has clocked 50 crashes in the past 11 years. The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) says a new roundabout could bring that number down. MDT will make its case at an open house this week.
The roundabout will replace a blinking light on US Highway 2 as it heads west out of Kalispell toward Libby.
Bob Vosen with MDT says poor sightlines, a slight dip in the road and heavy east-west traffic has made the intersection of Dern and Springcreek Roads an area of particular concern for his department.
"It's been on our radar for quite a while," he said. "This is an intersection that MDT has to do something with."
The Department is hosting an open house Wednesday to answer questions and hear feedback about the project. Construction is slated to begin in the spring of 2021 and last a single season. The DOT expects minimal impacts to traffic because the new roundabout will be built adjacent to existing roadways.
The $4 million project is funded entirely with federal Highway Safety Improvement Program funds.
Despite some pushback from the general public, Vosen says the roundabout won-out over 11 other designs as the safest and most efficient fix.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says roundabouts reduce fatal crashes by 90 percent, serious injury crashes by 75 percent and overall accidents by 37 percent.
"One of the reasons for this is drivers have to slow down to navigate a roundabout," Vosen said. "The likelihood of having a head-on or a t-bone ... at a roundabout is just tremendously reduced. The accidents that do occur tend to be more glancing in nature because of the fact that everybody is navigating that roundabout in the same direction."
Vosen says the roundabout proposed for the Dern-Springcreek intersection is designed with shipping trucks in mind, with a straighter entrance, gentler slope onto the inner apron and smaller diameter. The project will also flatten a nearby hillside to increase sightlines.
Wednesday’s open house runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Hampton Inn in Kalispell.