Road Projects

Russell Comments from MIST

These comments were submitted from MIST during the EIS public review period:


Submitted by the Missoula Institute for Sustainable Transportation.  2/1/09 (note: the original comments submitted by MIST were lost by the consultant- these comments (below) were resubmitted after the close of the official comment period and we have been told that they might not be responded to in the Final Environmental Impact Statement)



A 5-lane Russell will likely lead to more severe crashes in the corridor and not provide any lasting congestion relief, while not taking into consideration the amount of walking, biking and public transportation that we will see in the future.


A 3-lane Russell will better meet the purpose and need of the project, and the overall needs of the community for the future.


In general, we feel that that the 3+ for Russell proposal- submitted by citizens, MIST, MAST, BWAM, over 1,000 citizens, and others- is a more appropriate alternative.


The best solution to Russell St. would also include 3-laning the rest of Russell, south to Brooks street. This would allow bike lanes and easier pedestrian crossings without losing motor vehicle capacity.  The best solution also looks city-wide and considers system wide improvements like trail connections, bike lane completion, 15 minute bus service, integrating the future return of Amtrak into the Circle Square Depot, more cycling services like Free Cycles (already being planned) and bike stations (in planning too).


Single lane roundabouts instead of traffic signals on Russell would be much safer and provide mobility for all.  Specifics include:


Russell/3rd, Russell/Mount:  120' ICD (inscribed circle diameter- as measured curb to curb through the circle), single circulating lane, 10'sidewalks around the roundabout (separated from the roadway by a boulevard: 1' to 8' depending on space availability).


Russell/5th: 104' ICD, single circulating lane, same sidewalk issues as above.  Note: May have to limit trucks to WB 50 (common in other communities) instead of allowing WB 67 (Wal-Mart sized truck), or make the truck apron larger, or make the roundabout fully mountable.


Also, there is growing advocacy/support for 5th and 6th to become one lane for motorized traffic, and one wide bike lane.  Traffic volumes, now and into the future, allow this change to easily happen.  That change would facilitate an even bigger shift to cycling (the system would be more complete, safer and more accessible), thus helping bring down future traffic volumes on Russell.


Russell/Wyoming: 110' to 120' ICD


(Note: The 4 lane to 3 lane transition in the 3+ proposal is being proposed for mid-block, between Montana and Wyoming.  Mid-block merging (and diverging) is generally a safer and more fluid way to add/drop lanes than at an intersection.  While people complain about the W. Broadway lane drops at the intersections, we do not hear complaints about two lanes merging to one on Russell near Mount, on Brooks just north of Mount, or on Broadway East of Van Buren, for example.)


Russell/7th and Russell/11th: 90'ICD, or change to left turn pocket.  The concern is that we may not want too many roundabouts in one corridor. Yet, since 7th to 11th on Russell is the tightest ROW, left turns will have to be prohibited or discouraged, thus making a roundabout fairly desirable since 'right in right out' is easily done when a motorist can take a right, go the next roundabout, do a u turn, come back and take another right.  This item needs more community discussion.


The capacity of single lane roundabout at Russell/3rd:  25,000 a day, or 2,500 per hour.  The last count we did (9/9/08) at rush hour (4:30pm to 5:30pm) showed 2,122 cars passing through (right, straight, and left: all legs).  Thus we could handle about 15.12% more cars- at rush hour, under current context.  Yet we know more people are cycling, walking and taking transit and that trend will likely grow.  We also know other TDM measures, like ones Missoula in Motion is promoting and working on, are very successful and will likely become even more successful.  Simply shifting 100 cars out of rush-hour has a huge positive effect.  Making Russell very 'human-scale', as a 3-lane instead of 5-lane, further encourages walking, cycling and transit.


Not tearing down any houses keeps people in situations that make walking, cycling and transit very feasible and keeps with the ‘focus inward’ theme of the long range transportation plan.


Rising fuel costs (the 'easy to get oil' is about gone), climate change, local air quality, Envision Missoula results and strong citizen desire for a very bike/walk/transit friendly community are reasons to refute the 20 year projection of 37.7% more traffic on Russell.  In the Envision report, widening roads was #22 on the list of 'solutions', as cited by the public.  More walking, more cycling, and more transit all scored much higher on the list.


A couple more notes:


Research shows that lots of pedestrians at roundabouts do not have much of an effect on vehicle capacity, especially on roundabouts nearing capacity.  When cars are going slow, and waiting for gaps, pedestrians can easily 'move through' without delaying vehicles significantly. 

The effect is similar, but not as much so, for cyclists.  It is estimated, based on conversations with engineers in Bend, Oregon, that half the cyclists will 'take the lane' while half the cyclists will use the ramp onto the sidewalk.  A person on a bike at the pedestrian crosswalk will not have the right of way.  A person who dismounts from their bike at the ped crosswalk will have the right of way.


We request that future levels of walking, cycling and transit be projected, just like motor vehicle use. 


While it is hard to project travel in the future, the scenario we most likely will see is the following:


With the completed trail and bike lane system in Missoula, and with increased cycling services such as the Free Cycles Community Shop, we project 25% of all trips will be by bike by 2025.


With completed sidewalks in Missoula, we project 25% of all trips will be by walking by 2025.


With a frequent, accessible and wide-coverage transit system, we project 25% of all trips will be by transit by 2025.


The remainder of trips will likely be by private motor vehicle (25%).


Overall, Missoula’s transportation system will be much more sustainable than today.


Thank you for accepting these comments for the Russell Street DEIS.




Bob Giordano, Executive Director


Missoula Institute for Sustainable Transportation, mist at strans  dot org,  406.880.6834