Highway plan contrary to Whitefish’s vision for downtown
In September 2019, the Montana Department of Transportation initiated a process to identify a concept for improving Highway 93 as the highway enters downtown Whitefish along Spokane Avenue and crosses the downtown along Second Street. We are members of the steering committee for this study, representing the residents and businesses of Whitefish. On several occasions, the members of the steering committee met with MDT and their consultants Robert Peccia & Associates, but no consensus on a preferred concept was reached. In fact, the community’s stated priorities for walking, cycling, reducing traffic, conserving the canopy, and preserving historic character were entirely ignored by the study team.
We, the community representatives of the Steering Committee, DO NOT categorically SUPPORT MDT’s âpreferred conceptâ which will be presented to the public at an open house to be held on Wednesday September 22 from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Center. O’Shaughnessy.
Mayor John Muhlfeld, who also served on the steering committee, shares our concerns. Indeed, it is not the steering committee that will participate in the event, but rather MDT and its consultants, the âstudy teamâ will present the preferred concept of MDT.
Don’t be fooled – their favorite concept is contrary to the adopted downtown Whitefish master plan and stated public preferences of Whitefish. It is damaging Whitefish’s pedestrian-friendly environment, destroying its small town character, threatening its economic vitality and will lead to increased traffic congestion.
A real solution will require complex and sophisticated expertise, which is why we have agreed to participate in this process, hoping that MDT will come up with better solutions than in the past.
For this project, MDT would seek federal funds for an outdated transportation model, in direct contradiction to the city of Whitefish’s extensive planning processes. Rather, the community is looking for an alternative 21st century transportation solution on how a highway can coexist with the downtown area of ââa small mountain community that depends on its âsense of placeâ for its economic vitality. Whitefish can and should be a role model for how this can happen.
Since the study team did not take into account the opinion and comments of the public and community representatives on the steering committee and no viable solution was identified and endorsed by the community of whitefish, this process should not go ahead.
If you are attending the open house, please let the Montana Department of Transportation know: NO, we are not supporting their preferred concept.
Please send your comments directly to our City Council urging them not to go ahead with MDT’s âpreferred alternativeâ. City Council can be contacted by email at [email protected] or by post at: PO Box 158, Whitefish MT 59937.
Ron Brunk is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Whitefish Park and Rhonda Fitzgerald is a member of the Board of Directors of Heart of Whitefish.