Roundabout ahead 

In an attempt to accelerate Missoulians’ learning curve, Bob Giordano of the Missoula Institute for Sustainable Transportation (MIST) is looking to set up a mock roundabout this month in anticipation of the real one that’s slated for the intersection of Higgins and Beckwith avenues and Hill Street next year.

“I think there’s some fear out there that this is a scary thing,” Giordano says. “We’d like to get something going now and not have so much theoretical discussion.”

He hopes to set up an intersection that would include the various features of a roundabout—bike lanes, crosswalks, landscaping and a truck apron (an inner three-inch curb to allow semi trucks more maneuverability)—so that people can visualize the circular intersection and even take it for a test drive in the coming months.

Giordano also wants a chance to try out different configurations for the roundabout so MIST can offer practical input when designers begin working on final plans for the Higgins roundabout this winter. The angles and placement of cars’ entering points, crosswalks and bike lanes all affect the intersection’s flow and safety, he says, and MIST wants to make sure the Higgins roundabout works optimally, especially since it’s been controversial.

Steve King, acting director of Public Works, says the roundabout proposal—which has suffered a long series of fits and starts since work began in 2001—is currently awaiting final approval by the state Department of Transportation. He expects that approval this month, and says the plan is to design the roundabout in coming months so it’s ready to be built next construction season.

King thinks Missoulians will take to the roundabout just fine, though a bit of practice couldn’t hurt anyone.

“I think Missoulians are just as good [at driving] as anywhere else in the world and that they’d adapt to a roundabout just like anyone else,” King says. “It’s like a duck taking to water.”

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