A new economic analysis, conducted by a transportation authority and an economist, of the massive project is further illustrating the extent of its benefits and punctuating the impact of infrastructure investment.
According to the report, the total economic impact of the U.S. Highway 93 Alternate Route exceeded $1 billion over the life of the project’s construction, which spanned 16 years from 2001 to last fall.
The new highway reshaped the landscape in many ways, particularly on the north end of Kalispell, and the report shows that three major job sectors benefited most from its creation: retail trade (1,477 new jobs), dining (489) and services (490).
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From 2001 to 2016, roughly 2 million square feet of new building space surfaced along the bypass route, worth roughly $140 million in project costs, according to city of Kalispell data cited in the report. That new construction investment does not include Glacier High School or expansion projects at Flathead Valley Community College and Kalispell Regional Healthcare.
Ed Toavs, a Columbia Falls native and regional administrator for the Montana Department of Transportation who helped spearhead the bypass construction, conducted the economic analysis with Steve Peterson, an economics professor at the University of Idaho who specializes in economic impact studies.
As part of his Master of Business Administration program at the University of Idaho, Toavs decided to study the ripple effects of the bypass to better understand how it played a role in the Flathead Valley’s economy.
To grasp the breadth of the impact, Toavs gathered data for three factors: the $135 million in state and federal funds that built the bypass; the investment from new business and residential projects along the bypass corridor; and business wages, expenditures and earnings for those new developments.
Toavs said he used a conservative approach when calculating the direct financial benefits. For new construction investments, he included 65 percent of the overall figures in his economic impact report. For the amount of jobs, wages and earnings that likely resulted from new development along the bypass, Toavs included 33 percent of the total figures.