Public Works 

Complete your streets

When Jon Salmonson walks near his Franklin to the Fort home, he sees senior citizens shuffling behind walkers, mothers pushing baby strollers—and few sidewalks.

"We've reached the point where we can't really sustain that," says Salmonson, a retired teacher who worked for 17 years at the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge. "We'll have to be able to get around the block on our two feet."

Seeking to fix the problem, Salmonson stumbled upon the Complete Streets Coalition on the Internet. The coalition doesn't advocate for sidewalks on every street, but it does push for safe access for all users. On busy thoroughfares, safe access could include bike lanes, sidewalks, lighting, bus shelters, bulbouts and boulevards. Yet on a quiet dead end, no such amenities are necessary to ensure safe access.

The city already includes similar components in its subdivision regulations, but on Monday, Missoula's City Council extended the coverage to all existing streets, as well. The council voted 9-2 (Lyn Hellegaard abstained) to pass a resolution embracing the complete streets philosophy, but there's just one problem: Somebody has to pay for it.

The resolution directs city staff to recommend funding mechanisms and Public Works Director Steve King has a couple of possibilities in mind. The city's bicycle pedestrian program has landed the $80,000 Safe Route to School Grant, which will help the city establish walkable school routes. King says the city also applied for a $19 million grant to improve non-motorized transportation, which would go a long way toward fulfilling the complete streets goal.

If none of the grant applications play out, Salmonson has another idea for funding: "The vehicle is what produces the need, so the vehicle should carry the cost of the funding," he says. He volunteers a nationwide gas tax, although he acknowledges that the prospects for such a tax are dismal.

While Salmonson would like to see improved access in his neighborhood, he acknowledges that Franklin to the Fort is not devoid of some amenities. In fact, on one of them, somebody stamped a date into the concrete: 1913.

"Years ago, they realized that they needed sidewalks for people to stay out of traffic," Salmonson says. "Then the car came along and people just quit thinking it was necessary."

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