Road Maintenance in Kalispell MT
Buyers of land in the Kalispell and Flathead Valley areas of Montana must research the road maintenance status of any property they wish to purchase. Unlike other areas of the United States, it would be incorrect to assume roads are maintained by the town, county or state, or that they are maintained at all.
When looking for Montana land to purchase, it’s important to know what kind of road the property borders. The choices are city/town, county, or private (with or without an Home Owners Association). The following identifies the differences each of those road types presents in terms of road maintenance.
If you are looking for a parcel of land which happens to be in the city of Kalispell, the Kalispell Public Works department is responsible for maintaining roads and taking care of snow removal. They are also responsible for fixing bridges and the like. So if you are considering a purchase on one of the city streets, the good news is you will not have to maintain the road yourself.
Please note that snow removal is done on a priority basis with first, second, third and “other” priority streets. First and second are plowed in that order, then “other” streets are only plowed within 48 hours of the end of snowfall. They are also only plowed if snowfall totals reach three or more inches. That means that even on city streets, driving in the winter often requires patience and extra stopping time.
Also of note, alleys are only plowed in order for the City to service garbage containers and other Kalispell utilities. If you happen to own a garage that is accessible through the alley, you’ll need to clear your way yourself.
Finally, sand and salt is used sparingly, so there is often ice on the roads. Caution is required.
If the parcel of land you are interested in is on a county road, you are also in luck in terms of not having to plow your way out. The Flathead County Road and Bridge Department takes care of all county roads. That being said, they are responsible for maintaining 1,200 miles of roads so they do not make multiple passes. On my specific county road during the snowy/icy season, they typically plow and perhaps sand portions of my road once a day in the late morning. They don’t come on Sundays and typically don’t come on Saturdays either. So if there’s a snowstorm on a Saturday night, you’ll need to wait until Monday at the earliest for snow removal.
Also, Flathead County does not practice a “Bare Pavement” snow/ice removal process. That means they will remove snow and make the road as safe as possible, but often times pavement and/or gravel will not be visible. And any sanding only goes on hills, curves, bridges and at intersections.
Another road maintenance item to keep in mind are mailboxes. Mailboxes are an encroachment on county right-of-way and the Road Department is not responsible for damage done to them. You must make sure as a home owner that your mailbox is at least 3′ from the edge of the driving surface of the road.
Also, home owners cannot plow from their driveway or private road across a county road. If someone is hurt in an accident because of this practice, the person doing so will be held accountable for damages.
Finally, gravel roads in the area become very dusty in the summer when the dry and hot weather starts. The Road and Bridge Department’s website provides names and numbers of dust abatement contractors that can be called to treat the roads, for a fee. That is not handled by the county.
Bottom line with county roads, they are maintained, but property owners need to understand they will have mornings where they’ll either need to stay home, or will have to get used to driving on snow and ice covered roads.
Private Roads, HOA
In some of the more rural areas of Kalispell, properties are located beyond the city and county roads. These private roads are often gravel covered. If the roads are part of a subdivision, they often have a road maintenance agreement in place. Maintenance typically costs a few hundred dollars a year for each home owner. The fee usually covers plowing and perhaps road treatments (sand) when needed. In fact, if you drive around the outskirts of Kalispell you may see cans or bins situated along the road. That’s where the sand may be stored during the winter season. In these areas, there may be a specific company or land owner responsible for the actual plowing, but all the details should be covered in the appropriate HOA agreement.
Private Roads, no HOA
And then there are the really rural roads. No covenants, HOAs, maintenance agreements, or anything else in place. If you are considering purchasing land on a road like this, you must be aware of what that means.
In terms of winter roads, it means you will have to figure out a way to get out of not only your driveway, but the road itself. Many of these roads are miles long. You may need to purchase a heavy duty plow and take care of clearing the road yourself. Or perhaps you’ll need to lease parking at the end of the road and use a snowmobile to get back and forth on occasion. Or you may just stock up on goodies and only make rare trips into town in the bad weather months. Or you might just take a deep breath, throw a shovel in the back of the truck, and head on out.
Wintertime is not the only part of the year with road challenges. In the Spring, when melting snow and rain can turn roads into mud channels, you’ll need to figure out how to get out then as well.
The benefit of living on a city or county road is that you do not need to plow or maintain the road yourself. The benefit of living on a rural road is privacy and all the nature that kind of area provides. But more rural areas also give you the responsibility for taking care of the road. You may need to ensure you can afford the monthly maintenance or you may need to budget for hiring someone to plow. Alternatively, you might need resources to allow you to purchase a new truck or equipment. In addition, if you’re moving to this area from somewhere else, you’re going to have to learn to drive differently. You may wish to purchase studded winter tires or learn how to use chains when needed. Bottom line, while roads can be challenging in back weather, it’s all a small price to pay to be able to live in the most beautiful place on earth. 🙂
If you would like any more information about the Kalispell area, or about purchasing property here, feel free to call me, Kat, at 406-270-3667. Or email me at email@example.com.