Highway 2 construction set for late August


KALISPELL, Mont. - The Montana Department of Transportation tells us earlier reports that indicated a major highway reconstruction project in Columbia Falls would break ground during peak tourism season were incorrect.

Construction engineer Bob Vosen says "construction will not start on the project on July 1."

The plan is to rebuild Highway 2 between North Hilltop to the Flathead River Bridge.

Vosen says the project will start with sidewalks and shoulders beginning in late August. The actual road work won't take place until after Labor Day, the traditional end of tourism season.

Business owners and managers we spoke with were excited to hear the news.

Nite Owl Restaurant manager Brad Nieves told us the summer season brings a considerable amount of walk-in business.

"I'd say about 75 percent," Nieves said. "It's huge."

Nieves said a major construction project during the wrong time of year would have a severe impact on the Columbia Falls economy.

"We're a tourist-based economy right now," Nieves said. "Especially with the mills shutting. A major road project could be really detrimental to what we do."

The size of the lanes on the highway will be reduced from 12 feet to 11 feet following the project.

In addition, the sidewalks will be widened to 8 feet.

Despite the frustration we've heard over the reports of narrowing highway lanes, people like Nieves are happy this project won't cut into prime tourist season.

"I'm going to do back flips as soon as you leave," Nieves said. "I mean I'm going to try. It's great. I was really stressing this."

Vosen said the Montana Department of Transportation and the city will meet Monday to discuss more details.