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Missoula's new Transportation Plan addresses growth, and new tech

Missoula Connect
Posted at 10:59 PM, Mar 18, 2021

MISSOULA — Transportation in the Missoula Valley is changing rapidly, whether its from growth, or new technology. And the new "Missoula Connect" Plan is taking all of that into account.

Missoula's "selling point" is its mountain location. But that makes transportation planning tough…

"You know, either you have really expensive improvements like bridges over the river or over the railroad tracks, or you just have limits on where you can build transportation infrastructure," said Missoula MPO Planning Manager Aaron Wilson.

And growth is a further complication. That's where "multi-modal" design comes in. A prime example of where transportation planning is headed in Missoula is here on Russell Street, the entire corridor was rebuilt in that "multi-modal" style, where cars, transit and bikes are all being accommodated, making it easier for people no matter how they travel.

"I do think it's indicative of how we'll design facilities. Especially thinking about, you know, what are all the different types of users of a corridor. How do you design for it? How do you integrate transit with the bike lanes and the sidewalks and the vehicle lanes? You know, it can get fairly complicated, but, people will bike and walk and ride the bus if it's easy and convenient to do so."

Wilson notes the proposed "Missoula Connect" is tackling not only where and what transportation could look like by 2050, but making it affordable. That's where special attention is needed for mixed use planning as Missoula's west side grows.

"So that you get things like a mixed use and you provide opportunities for people. So, you don't have to get in your car and drive on Reserve Street, or across Reserve Street. You absorb some of those trips internal to that area. You've got good walkability, bike ability so those are easy trips to make."

And the plan is also attempting to forecast changes in transportation tech.

"So it's those things like electric bikes and scooters and electric vehicles and charging infrastructure. And so, all of those things will be elements that we'll want to include in this plan. Obviously it's hard to anticipate. Technology is changing. You know, every day it gets faster and faster. But we're trying to be responsive and think about that and have a flexible approach that takes those technologies and harnesses them to create the vision and the future that we want, rather than just responding to them."

The Metropolitan Planning Organization will sponsor two virtual workshops on March 24th and 25th. More information visit their website.