Baker Avenue Underpass
Downtown Whitefish has a visitor-driven economy dependent on creating a pedestrian oriented setting. Improvements that help to enhance the downtown character achieve this pedestrian friendly environment include:
- Landscaped curb extensions (bump-outs)
- Pedestrian-scaled streetlights
- Well-defined crosswalks
- Widened sidewalks
The Baker Avenue Underpass is one of the important elements that has not been built yet, although it has been a priority project in city planning documents for more than a decade.
Secure & Welcoming Environment
The Baker Avenue Underpass is part of the "Whitefish Promenade" and provides a direct linkage between downtown and the Railway District west of Baker Avenue.
The design of the underpass will create a secure and welcoming environment that provides clear sightlines to and through the underpass. Bright, 24 hour lighting and security cameras linked to 24 hour surveillance will be included in the design.
Winter Update 2020
The final section of the 12 segment underpass was placed on Monday 11/2/2020. This allowed the contractor to begin construction of the wing walls on the west side of the project. Final paving on Baker Avenue above the structure was completed on 11/12/2020, which allows normal vehicular and pedestrian traffic to resume. Plenty of work still remains including concrete flatwork under the tunnel, path connections on either side of the structure, lighting, railings, and landscaping. It is anticipated that the contractor will get as far as they can before going into winter shutdown. While the City had hoped the underpass would be open to pedestrians this winter, weather conditions have prevented us from getting to the point where the underpass can be safely opened to the public. The project will be completed in the spring/early summer of 2021.
While construction of the underpass is nearly complete, one of the elements that has not been decided is the public art component of the project. The City approached Stumptown Art Studio earlier this year to begin working on concepts for a public art display of the Baker Avenue Underpass. Design efforts were focused on concepts that could be enhanced by the “tunable” LED lights the City incorporated into the tunnel design and the recommended concept is called “Reflections of Whitefish”. The project will incorporate a multi-media art installation through the tunnel. The art will represent geographical features of the Flathead Valley, sculpted in durable glass panels, and attached over a painted background on the walls of the tunnel. The City has co-sponsored a grant application through The Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development, which will be required to bring the project to fruition. Stay tuned for more information on this inspiring community-driven artwork project!