MISSOULA – The Missoula City Council is agreeing to press forward with a plan to reconfigure two more crosstown streets to accommodate fewer cars in favor of bicycle and pedestrian safety.
For several years, the city has looked at the idea of taking 5th and 6th streets down to a single lane, as part of efforts to rework the streets. The idea is that throughout the day, one lane could handle the east-west traffic, making it safer for pedestrians to cross the street, with more room for bike lanes.
Council members heard a mix of comments on the plan Monday night. Residents living closest to the streets favored the idea. But others, including the Missoula Chamber, worry the changes will create traffic tie-ups and further reduce street capacity to and from downtown and the University District.
But the council supports the change, Jordan Hess calling it a “miserable problem that needs to be solved”.
“This corridor, like I said, does have a documented crash rate. We have about one crash per every 10 days,” Hess said. “And national figures show that lane reduction projects reduce crash rates from 19-to-37 percent. This roadway operates, both of these roadways operate at just 25 percent of their capacity. So by removing a lane you’ll have virtually no impact in the flow of vehicles.”
“As Missoula continues to grow there’ll be increased pressure put on the transportation network, both from Missoula resident and from folks commuting into Missoula from outside the community,” said Clint Burson with the Missoula Area Chamber of Commerce. “The expansion of Russell Street is an example of the growing demand being put on the Missoula transportation network, the ability to move goods across town and for the workforce to quickly and efficiently get to and from work depends on a strong and unhindered transportation network.”
It’s expected to be another year before the changes along the two streets go into effect.