The sky is the limit when working together
Lake County, Polson and CSKT team up on the Skyline Drive Project
By Lailani Upham
(L to R: Bill Barron Lake County Commissioner shake hands with CSKT Councilmember Lloyd Irvine with TERO Officer Lissa Peel. Salish elder Louie Adams did the honors of prayer and said a few words for the opening ceremony. (Lailani Upham photo)
POLSON — The new Skyline Drive is now open for driving, biking, walking and running.
The grand-opening ribbon-cutting ceremony took place on the top of Skyline Drive last Saturday morning.
The three-year project is the first funded through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program awarded through the U.S. Department of Transportation under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Skyline Drive reconstruction now includes walls and fence separating pedestrians and roadway on the incline. (Lailani Upham photo)
The TIGER project transformed the 2.3 miles of aging and unsafe roadway on the back hill of Polson known as Skyline Drive, partnership with Lake County Community Development, the City of Polson, and Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.
The Skyline Drive was one of 50 awards available nationally and the only award to a local government on a non-federal or state highway.
(Lailani Upham photo)
The amount requested to improve the pathway connecting communities from Polson to Ronan was $16 million. Billie Lee, Executive Director for Lake Country Community Development Corporation, told the group at the grand opening that a letter was received from the U.S. Department of Transportation saying the could not fund the whole project and asked if they would accept $12 million. The key planning partners gladly accepted and made the money work to complete the 2.3-mile road and bike pedestrian path up Skyline Drive.
A rest area is placed on Skyline Drive for bikers and walkers compliments of Marengo Carpet Cleaning. (Lailani Upham photo)
Lee told the group that the funding for the project’s work was proudly kept local. Both engineering and contractor groups were Montana-based as well.
“Ninety percent of the wages went to Lake County residents. We employed 181 full time man hours on this job – that is huge for Lake County,” Lee stated.
Stelling Engineers designed the roadway, (DOWL HKM) working on the construction engineering, and L.S. Jenson was the construction contractor.
Lake County Community Development Executive Director briefs the attendees on the work and collaborative efforts achieved during the TIGER project. (Lailani Upham photo)
Mitch Stelling, told the group the elephant in the corner was to get the design down quickly. He said gave credit to landowners of Skyline Drive for the completing the design and project on time. “If they didn’t work with us, we wouldn’t have had a project.”
The 2.3-mile road reconstruction and walls with 3.3 miles of pedestrian/bike lane leveraged with an additional $550,000 of utility and storm drain improvements for the City of Polson. By doing so, it saved a substantial amount for the town of Polson since the same contractor and work progressed in tandem with the project, according to Lee.
Skyline Drive and pathway that is facing toward the residential limits of Polson. (Lailani Upham photo)
Tony Porrazzo, with the City of Polson stated, “The City of Polson invested a lot of time and money into the Skyline Project. It was a perfect opportunity for upgrades. There were aged infrastructure that had to be moved and replaced that was incorporated into the project. The City also removed an old six inch main from underneath Skyline and put in a 12 inch main line in a different location that will deliver a large amount of water to town.”
Porrazzo said extra water and sewer lines were also added in certain locations for future growth.
According to Lissa Peel, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Indian Preference Coordinator, in 2012, the project employed 25 people through the Indian Preference office and 20 were Lake County residents.
CSKT Councilman Lloyd Irvine told the attendees, “Like Louie Adams said, we have stories about these places, the mountains, and all the directions. We appreciate what is going on here. It makes it all better to cooperatively be working together.” (Lailani Upham photo)
In 2013, there were 32 people employed through Indian Preference office, with 21 being rehires from 2012. Peel said.
CSKT Councilman Lloyd Irvine said he agreed with Salish elder Louie Adams in completion of the project that it great to be working together cooperatively.
“I think it is amazing what we can do when we work together across communities local government and tribal government as we will be required to do in the future to attract these types of funds for these types of projects. We are very proud of this project that we completed collectively under the leadership of the Lake County commissioners for the benefit of all residents of Lake County,” Lee said.
Porrazzo added, “It took a great amount of work by the whole team to make the entire project operate seamlessly and efficiently. It is only through these cooperative partnerships that we will be so successful in being awarded these grants and complete these huge, beneficial projects.”
The beginning of the “yellow brick road” on Skyline Drive and Demers Lane where drivers and pedestrians can safely can travel and be connected to the neighboring town in Lake County. (Lailani Upham photo)
Key players in the project were: Lake County Commissioner Bill Barron; Lake County Project Leader Paddy Trusler; City of Polson Mayor, Pat DeVries; City Superintendent Tony Parazzo; CSKT Tribes, Councilman Lloyd Irvine; and TERO Officer Lissa Peel; Lake Country Community Development Executive Director, Billie Lee; LCCD Project Assistant Roland Godan; Stelling Engineers, Mitch Stelling and Scott Fanning; DOWL HKM Construction engineers, Gary Grey, Phil Odegard, and Todd Erickson; FHWA project managers, Dan Smith and Gene Kaufman; and construction contractor, L.S. Jenson.