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New changes proposed for some Missoula streets

By Faith Smith, KECI Reporter, fcronin@keci.com
Published On: Nov 13 2013 10:48:53 PM MST
MISSOULA, Mont. -

Traffic flow and pedestrian safety are back at the center of a debate gaining steam in Missoula.

Right now both 5th and 6th Street have two lanes, but a proposal aims to reduce each to one lane, leaving the other lane to be changed into a bicycle and pedestrian lane.

Some residents argue reducing motor vehicles to one lane would take a congested area from bad to worse.   

Missoula driver and bicyclist Jerod Peitsmeyer has lived on 6th Street for more than 3 years and he tells us he applauds a push to give cyclists their own riding lane.

“I feel like that's going to provide a safe method of travel,” he says.  “Specifically for people that live across Russell to get downtown for work, so I think that's a really nice thing to do.”

Peitsmeyer says, as a cyclist, it makes him nervous to ride between the cars parked on the side of the road and the cars driving down 6th Street.

“I think that even if it slows traffic down a little bit the amount of reduction we could have in cycle and traffic accidents would be worth it,” says Peitsmeyer.  

Missoula resident Greg Gilchrist disagrees.  He says vehicles already get backed up along the corridor, especially at the intersection of 6th Street and Orange Street.  

“Every day when I take my kid to school at Hellgate they (cyclists) jam on the side between the parked cars and the moving cars and it really stops traffic and shoves all the cars over in the other lane and that's also not safe,” Gilchrist says.  

Residents behind the proposal say their goal is to slow drivers down, reduce crashes and give bikers more room.

“All of these changes are opportunities for us to make a mark as a community and nationally to show people that we are a community that's really supporting cycle traffic and people on their feet and on bikes,” says Peitsmeyer.  

Gilchrist points out that one motorized lane would mean more time in the car battling traffic.

“I'd still have to go down 5th and 6th every day, it would just be more congested and slower for us,” says Gilchrist.  

If the current proposal passes, the city would study the idea of reducing 5th and 6th Street to one lane each and reducing parking on 5th to only the north side of the street.

Nothing is set in stone yet but the Public Works Committee is expected to ask for a full study on the matter at next Wednesday’s committee meeting.  That's when they will issue a recommendation to the full council.

For more information on the issue, click here.