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Missoula Streets and Trails

Russell St

Russell Street, in the heart of Missoula, has been under discussion for redevelopment for at least the past 25 years.  The discussions became more formal when the 1996 Long Range Transportation Plan identified 'Russell Street Improvements' as a future funded project.  An EIS was performed from about 2000 to 2010, with the Record of Decision concluding that an expansion to 5 lanes for motor vehicels and adding sidewalks and bike lanes to both sides of the road to be in the best interest for meeting the project purpose and need.

MIST analysis shows that a 3-lane roadway combined with right-sized roundabouts would properly handle all traffic needs for a long time to come.  We also recognize that current planning techniques are based on decades of data and momentum.  In this way, the current design seems to to a good  job of blending roadway thru put needs with neighborhood desires.

One of the defining features of the Russell design is a raised bicycle lane- a mountable curb with a 45 degree slope will allow people on bikes to move off and on the bike lane- while providing some visual and actual separation from motor vehicles.  The visual narrowing of the street should help calm speeds and make the roadway feel more human scale. 

While we and others have strongly advocated for 10 foot wide lanes, the end result was 11 foot wide lanes.  This is better than the traditional 12 foot wide lanes.  We see future sections with 10 foot wide lanes, as the roadway transitions to more residential uses south of 3rd St.

The next phases- Idaho to Wyoming, then to 3rd, then to Mount- can and should have a different design.

Link to comments MIST sent to consultant on Broadway to Idaho section

Higgins Beckwith Roundabout
The first modern, single lane roundabout on an arterial in Missoula opened in August, 2009.   Compared to signals, the severity of crashes has been very low.  It is estimated that 1,000 tons of CO2 have been saved (2009-2018), due to less idling of motor vehicles when compared to a stop light.  MIST is advocating that the geometry of the roundabout be modified for tighter turns.  This change would reduce speeds, thus improving both capacity and safety.


Click to enlarge


Here's the roundabout in action in Fall, 2009 


Arthur, 5th & 6th Streets

The new Arthur 5th 6th project opened in early September 2011.  Overall the project seems much better than what was originally proposed. 

The current confiuration has been deemed an interim safety project by the City, State and University of Montana.  

The current project on the ground added a turn lane for motor vehicles, curb extensions for shorter and safer pedestrian crossings, and new bike lanes, sharrows and trail connections for bicycle safety and accommodation. 


Project background:

2004 to 2009: The State and City proposed to redevelop the intersections of 5th 6th and Arthur near the University of Montana, by expanding the roadways  to five lanes, requiring the removal of several homes. After the neighborhoods strongly opposed the plan, everyone worked together in a community process to acheive smaller scale improvements.


Original Plan Opposed by Citizens
MIST and Citizen Plan In Response
Adds two traffic signals; widens section of Arthur Avenue to five lanes; demolishes six houses; eliminates green space; likely degrades safety of motorists, cyclists and pedestrians

* High-speed, 5-lane roads often lead to severe crashes
* Approaching drivers speed to make traffic signal (and run red light)
* 102-ft crossing distance too long for pedestrians
* Traffic signals = stop-and-go traffic
* 65% more vehicle idling time at traffic signals*
* Traffic signals cost $10,000/year more to maintain*
* Research shows traffic signals lead to 10 times more fatalities and 4 times more crashes than roundabouts*
* Takes away ¼ of Rankin Park
*from USDOT
Adds roundabouts; shortens crosswalks; preserves neighborhood; increases green space; saves money; promotes cooperation among all users; meets Long Range Plan’s overriding theme of prioritizing non-motorized transportation.

* 2-lane roads with roundabouts are very safe and accessible
* Roundabout keeps driver attention at street level
* 11-foot crosswalks = safe passage for pedestrians
* Roundabouts = calm traffic with smooth flow
* Lower vehicle emissions from eliminated idling
* Roundabouts = no electricity, low maintenance costs
* Moderate speeds at roundabouts result in fewer crashes with drastically reduced severity
* Enhances and expands Rankin Park



A citizens' plan for the Arthur 5th 6th project


Eventually, we'd like to implement the above plan.


MDT original plan for Arthur 5th 6th

The above is what was initially proposed by the State, leading to a community debate about streets and healthy neighborhoods.

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