First things first: the word “diet” is not a popular way to describe the proposed changes to West Broadway between Orange St. and California/Toole St. “I don’t call it a road diet project,” says City Engineer Steve King. “For me, diets have bad connotations.” Phil Smith, the bicycle pedestrian program manager, doesn’t think the word “diet” accurately describes the project, either. “Diet,” he says, implies that there will be reductions in driving lanes in order to make room for something else, like parking. The reconfiguration along West Broadway, he says, is a “pedestrian safety project.”
That project appears—still—to be in limbo. In February, 10 Council members signed a letter to the Montana Highway Department stating their opposition to the project. Since then, both the city and state have measured whether five lanes—four lanes for traffic and a center median—would fit in the same stretch of road.
“That particular concept was brought forward by Council members,” says Bruce Bender, director of Public Works.
If the city wants to seriously consider a five-lane option, says Bender, it will schedule a public hearing.
With no parking and no bicycle lanes, says Bender, five lanes fit. However, he says the mayor’s focus is on re-striping West Broadway into the Diet’s three-lane configuration—at least on a trial basis—that was approved last fall.
In the meantime, says Bender, city administrators, City Council and the state are trying to come to some sort of agreement on how they’ll measure the success or failure of the re-stripe.
Clayton Floyd of Ward 6 speaks in favor of five lanes, which, he says, “might actually provide as much protection for pedestrians as the proposed three-lane.”
The center lane would function as a sanctuary for pedestrians crossing the street. Bicyclists, Floyd believes, shouldn’t be on a street as busy as West Broadway.
Last month, Sgt. Shawn Paul told the Indy that four people had died along West Broadway between Orange St. and Reserve St. in the past 10 years. The fourth death occurred on March 12 when a woman crossing the street in her wheelchair died after being hit by an oncoming van.