On August 20, the Missoula City Council unanimously granted approval to move ahead with constructing a new bike and pedestrian path that will run from the intersection of Broadway and Van Buren streets north for about a block and then west along the railroad tracks to cross the Rattlesnake Creek.
The new trail and bridge will help link the Rattlesnake, Downtown and surrounding areas with the University District. The project will accompany planned improvements to the intersection of Van Buren and Broadway and is part of a continuing effort by the city to create non-motorized options, says Missoula City Engineer Kevin Slovarp. “We want to enhance the bicycle and pedestrian network all over town.”
The idea is to encourage biking and walking, says John O’Connor, president of the nonprofit Friends of Missoula Parks, which is collaborating with the city to make the project happen. “It’s really about continuing efforts to create better non-motorized access,” he says. “This is just one component of a system.”
Friends of Missoula Parks secured $700,000 from the federal government to fund the project. Phil Gardner, a Missoula physician and longtime parks and trails advocate who serves as Friends of Missoula Parks secretary, personally asked Montana’s Congressional delegation to pay for the trail, bridge and improvements. He says the effort has been a long and complicated one involving multiple parties. Now that City Council signed off on it, it’s slated for completion by the end of the year.
“It’s been going on for six years,” Gardner says. “It’s totally exciting to have it come to fruition.”
Montana Rail Link has agreed to grant a 25-year lease on land that will be used for the path. The railroad is charging $500 per year, Gardner says. The group still needs to raise $24,000 to complete the project.
Additional traffic calming measures for the congested area are coming down the pike. Two new Montana Department of Transportation roundabouts are planned to be unveiled near I-90’s on and off ramps in 2014.