The Agenda with the Missoula County Commissioners

The Infamous Reserve Street

January 10, 2024 Missoula County Commissioners
The Infamous Reserve Street
The Agenda with the Missoula County Commissioners
More Info
The Agenda with the Missoula County Commissioners
The Infamous Reserve Street
Jan 10, 2024
Missoula County Commissioners

In the latest episode of The Agenda, we answer common questions about everyone's favorite street in Missoula (bonus points if you listen while stuck in traffic on Reserve!) 

Aaron Wilson, transportation planning manager from the Missoula Metropolitan Planning Organization, joined the county commissioners this week to answer questions like: Is Reserve Street really home to the most dangerous intersections in Missoula? Can infrastructure changes actually decrease traffic?

In this episode, they discuss the evolution of Reserve Street, problems with pedestrian safety, and the role of the  Missoula Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) in coordinating transportation efforts across jurisdictions. Don’t miss part one of this two-part series on planning, traffic and transportation.

Thank you to Missoula's Community Media Resource for podcast recording support!

Show Notes Transcript

In the latest episode of The Agenda, we answer common questions about everyone's favorite street in Missoula (bonus points if you listen while stuck in traffic on Reserve!) 

Aaron Wilson, transportation planning manager from the Missoula Metropolitan Planning Organization, joined the county commissioners this week to answer questions like: Is Reserve Street really home to the most dangerous intersections in Missoula? Can infrastructure changes actually decrease traffic?

In this episode, they discuss the evolution of Reserve Street, problems with pedestrian safety, and the role of the  Missoula Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) in coordinating transportation efforts across jurisdictions. Don’t miss part one of this two-part series on planning, traffic and transportation.

Thank you to Missoula's Community Media Resource for podcast recording support!

Dave Strohmaier: [00:00:10] Well, welcome back everyone to the agenda. It is now 2024 and this is the agenda with your Missoula County commissioners. I'm Commissioner Dave Strohmaier. I'm joined by my friends and colleagues, Commissioner Juanita Vero and Josh Slotnick. And this week we'll be talking about a number of things related to transportation, traffic, road planning, etc.. And joining us today is our resident expert, Aaron Wilson. He's a transportation planning manager for the Missoula Metropolitan Planning Organization, which we can talk a little bit about what that means here in just a second. But thank you for joining us, Aaron.


Aaron Wilson: [00:00:49] Yeah, thanks for having me.


Josh Slotnick: [00:00:50] And Aaron. I do believe you're also going to touch on the world famous Reserve Street.


Aaron Wilson: [00:00:55] Oh always. You can't talk... 


Juanita Vero: [00:00:58] Infamous. Much beloved.


Josh Slotnick: [00:00:59] Yes, Much beloved.


Aaron Wilson: [00:01:00] ...can't talk about transportation without talking about Reserve Street. They are.


Dave Strohmaier: [00:01:03] Talking about it every.


Aaron Wilson: [00:01:05] Everywhere worldwide. Thanks. Yeah. Can we do.


Juanita Vero: [00:01:07] A little little background on Aaron. Like is that is that appropriate? Tell us how you got into this.


Aaron Wilson: [00:01:12] Oh into into transportation planning. Well, it was a long circular way that started in doing biology and forest ecology and wildfire science. And then, as one does, and then and then going immediately into planning and transportation. So but no, I've, I've lived in a number of different places around the US. And I think the link between science and ecology and ecosystems and planning is very close. And so just through those experiences led me into planning and transportation over the years.


Juanita Vero: [00:01:42] What was like the give us like a little story, a little nugget, vignette about the moment it all kind of came together.


Dave Strohmaier: [00:01:47] The moment!


Aaron Wilson: [00:01:48] The moment, you know, I think probably the first nugget came when I was moved from Seattle to Oklahoma City, which is a big a big move in terms of how those living in the two very different cities and going from a place like Seattle where I could live without a car, it was a very vibrant city and going to someplace like Oklahoma City, which is just very different. It's much more spread out suburban. I think it was just in the very early years of their sort of urban renaissance.


Josh Slotnick: [00:02:13] They're famous for their renaissance. Yeah.


Aaron Wilson: [00:02:15] They went through.


Juanita Vero: [00:02:16] What year was this?


Aaron Wilson: [00:02:17] Oh, that was 2004, I think. So about 20 years ago. Exactly 20 years ago.


Josh Slotnick: [00:02:23] That's about the Beginning of their renaissance.


Aaron Wilson: [00:02:24] Yeah, exactly. And so just seeing that difference between cities and how you could live your life in those two very different places, got me very interested in what goes into that and how you can make places that are more livable and interesting.


Josh Slotnick: [00:02:36] Cool. Thanks.


Dave Strohmaier: [00:02:37] Well, fast forward to today, January 2024, and your current role. Tell us about the MPO. What does a metropolitan planning organization do and how does that figure into local city and county governments?


Aaron Wilson: [00:02:54] The Metropolitan Planning Organization or MPO is we're essentially just a regional coordination body. So we ensure that there's good coordination and planning for transportation across all of the different entities within what we call the urban area. So thinking about the more developed part of Missoula County and the city of Missoula, and it's it's federally required. So every community in the US with 50,000 people or more has an MPO to help plan through those transportation issues and ensure coordination between the different parties like the state Department of Transportation, our transit provider, Mountain Line, the city, the county. Ultimately, the way I think about it is when you drive from the city to the county, your experience shouldn't change that much that there isn't this dividing line and all of a sudden you're on a very different road or a very different facility. It should be fairly seamless, and the MPO helps us coordinate that so that what the city is doing and what the county and the state are all doing work together so that you don't immediately notice when you go from one to the other.


Josh Slotnick: [00:03:50] So if I understand you right, what you're saying as roads change and we all know when you're in a population center, typically roads are one sort of way. And then as you go out into the country, they change. And what you're saying is that change shouldn't be at the city county line. It should happen where it kind of organically feels like, yes, exactly.


Aaron Wilson: [00:04:09] You want that transition to be seamless and for it to make sense based on the context of where you are not an arbitrary administrative boundary.


Josh Slotnick: [00:04:15] So how many MPOs are there in the state?


Aaron Wilson: [00:04:17] There are currently five. We originally had three up until the most recent census, and in 2020, the population of both Bozeman and Helena grew enough to become MPOs. And so they're they're in the formation process right now.


Dave Strohmaier: [00:04:31] So what do we know about how that might impact our own MPO? Does that mean that the slices of the pie in the state of Montana get smaller or something else?


Aaron Wilson: [00:04:41] The pie, if you will, of funding for Montana stays the same. It's based on our overall state population and federal formula funding. And that money that goes to MPOs for planning gets divided up based on however many MPOs there are. So those two new MPOs definitely have affected how much money we get for planning.


Dave Strohmaier: [00:04:58] For planning...


Aaron Wilson: [00:04:59] Planning purposes. Yes. Not so much for federal funding in general for the state.


Josh Slotnick: [00:05:03] So we just got to say this part for our dozens of listeners out there. That's federal money going to the MPO. Yes. Not state money, and absolutely. Not local taxpayer money. Yes, exactly.


Aaron Wilson: [00:05:12] All the work that I do at the MPO is all federally funded. There is a small amount of state match that goes towards that, but there is no city or county funding going to the MPO in the work that we do.


Josh Slotnick: [00:05:22] Thanks. Yeah.


Juanita Vero: [00:05:22] And you were talking earlier about this, this transition into a more rural area. But and that experience, but also how do rural residents benefit from the work of the MPO.


Aaron Wilson: [00:05:31] Yeah. Well places like Missoula are regional hubs. So, you know, most people you talk to live in Missoula County will come to Missoula for something. The city of Missoula, whether it's for shopping or jobs or other services, maybe it's going to the hospital for medical care. And so they're using those streets and roads. And then there's also that transition from urban to rural. And what does that look like, and how can we plan effectively for those kinds of facilities?


Juanita Vero: [00:05:54] Can you be more specific about when you're talking about the transition? What are what are you what are the elements of transition?


Aaron Wilson: [00:06:00] Yeah. So it's I think the intensity of use, you know, what's going on alongside that road. What kinds of destinations might there be. A good example would be as you're driving east, say through East Missoula and then going through Bonner, and then from Bonner out to Potomac, the landscape changes pretty dramatically and the level of traffic changes. And so you want to be thoughtful about that again, so that people aren't running into a brick wall of, of traffic as soon as they hit a particular boundary. So, so, so thinking about those kinds of transitions and, and also for the rural residents coming to Missoula, what's their experience like? And they're using those roadways and making sure that they're probably driving. They're not going to be able to use a bike path necessarily if they're coming in for a medical appointment, making sure that we have that available for them roadways and not just focused on other transportation.


Josh Slotnick: [00:06:46] So if you'rea rural resident or a guest and you're coming from the north or from the northwest to the west, you get to drive down this infamous street, Reserve Street. How did it end up being a four lane, a five lane monster through the Costco valley that looks like everywhere. America?


Aaron Wilson: [00:07:02] Yeah. Gosh, there could probably be a whole podcast.


Juanita Vero: [00:07:04] Once upon a.


Aaron Wilson: [00:07:05] Time, right?


Juanita Vero: [00:07:06] Gather round children.


Aaron Wilson: [00:07:07] Yeah, there could probably [00:07:08] be a you could do a whole series of of the history of Reserve Street. I think I make a very fascinating podcast. [00:07:14]


Josh Slotnick: [00:07:14]  [00:07:14]Every almost every community has one. [00:07:16]


Aaron Wilson: [00:07:16]  [00:07:16]Yeah. It's true. And in fact, Kalispell has a reserve street that is being built as a bypass for. [00:07:21]


Juanita Vero: [00:07:22]  [00:07:22]It's in the. [00:07:22]


Aaron Wilson: [00:07:22]  [00:07:22]It's in the name. Yeah. You know, the history of Reserve Street as Missoula built out to the west and the areas around reserve went from that kind of more rural agricultural. And highway 93 was established through their reserve street has been highway 93 since it was expanded and connected across the river, which I believe happened in the 60s or 70s. The first bridge was built and then in the 90s, because of that highway designation and the growth in Missoula and wanting to facilitate that, it was really thinking of it as a bypass to get from the Bitterroot up to I-90 and then north to Kalispell or going west. So it was built as this bypass, if you will, and expanded to the five lanes that it is today. I think that was completed in the mid 90s. I remember when they completed that growing up in Missoula, and there really was just fields out there. [00:08:09]


Josh Slotnick: [00:08:09] I remember that, too.


Aaron Wilson: [00:08:09] Yeah. And then what happens is you build this great transportation infrastructure and you've got a lot of vacant land that's easy to develop on. It's flat, it's underutilized, it's fields. So what happened is developers came in and built in the 90s, a lot of big box stores. And so those came in and you saw this incredible growth along North Reserve and the.


Juanita Vero: [00:08:26] Happen to the sugar beet market.


Aaron Wilson: [00:08:27] Yes.


Josh Slotnick: [00:08:28] Yeah I mean it's behind Target. That was the sugar beet.


Juanita Vero: [00:08:31] So help me with the history though.


Josh Slotnick: [00:08:33] Well it...


Dave Strohmaier: [00:08:33] Went away and.


Josh Slotnick: [00:08:34] Went away. Opened up.


Dave Strohmaier: [00:08:35] Land for.


Josh Slotnick: [00:08:36] I mean there's there's kind of an arc in the sort of history of commercial ventures and retail in America where we went from having a downtown where you could buy hardware and sporting goods, as well as lunch, to having a downtown that was mostly boarded up and everything went out to the mall. All that kind of commercial venture went to the mall, and then the big boxes arrived, slowed down the excitement around the mall, and we saw a resurgence in downtowns that became places that sold experience rather than goods. And now we have all these three things kind of reached a state of equilibrium where they all sort of were. They all definitely can coexist.


Aaron Wilson: [00:09:12] Yeah. You see very different contexts around those two, you know, in terms of how people get there, how people get around the kinds of businesses you see there.


Josh Slotnick: [00:09:19] So it's and you see the same trend in many other communities across the United States. This isn't specific. We're not at all anomalous here.


Dave Strohmaier: [00:09:26] No. And in fact, I would argue and I would probably say that folks would agree with me who traveled elsewhere, as difficult as it may be at some times to get through Reserve Street, this is not as massive a deal as other metropolitan areas. I mean, I just I'm just going to lay it out there, uh, folks in Montana and Missoula, it could be a lot worse. And in fact, we are the problem ourselves, set to some extent. So let me just, uh, editorialize ever so briefly, and I'd love to hear your thoughts. Aaron. So I bet I was out on Reserve Street. One of the folks plugging the doggone thing up at least three, 4 or 5 times this, this last week or so. So one of the questions that folks often ask or they assume. The answer of this question is another bypass is who is using Reserve Street right now? I think the assumption is it's all those folks who want to just get through Missoula to somewhere else. And with the example I just mentioned, I'm part of the problem myself because I'm out there shopping and some of those big box stores, and.


Josh Slotnick: [00:10:27] With those massive asphalt acreages in front of the big boxes, it's obviously not just people trying to get from Florence to Kalispell. There are plenty of people shopping at those stores, and in order to get to those stores, you had to drive on that road. Yeah.


Aaron Wilson: [00:10:41] And I think even the people who may be driving through from the Bitterroot up to Kalispell, you know, having a place to stop, you know, there's that. Yeah, you're dealing with traffic, but you have to get gas. You might want to get lunch. There's all those things that you can do that there's a real economic value to having people go through traveling through your community. And I think we all recognize that. And so it's not necessarily even just an either or. It's sort of everyone is using that for a lot of different purposes.


Josh Slotnick: [00:11:05] So there's a sense out there that it's a fabulously dangerous road. What does that mean? And to what what degree of truth is in that statement? Well, I think.


Aaron Wilson: [00:11:12] There's there's always a nugget of truth there, right. That we see a lot of crashes on Reserve Street, and it is the place where we see the most crashes in Missoula, the Reserve Street corridor. It shows up when you look at just the total number of crashes.


Josh Slotnick: [00:11:23] When you say corridor, from where to where are you talking?


Aaron Wilson: [00:11:25] Usually when I think of Reserve Street, it's Brooks to I-90, but it's very different. Again, this is.


Josh Slotnick: [00:11:30] South north there.


Aaron Wilson: [00:11:30] Really. Yeah, it's very different. And so there's different sections and different contexts of the corridor. But it does have some of the highest numbers of crashes. But when we talk about risk we really want to think about the number of crashes per vehicle miles traveled or per trip on Reserve Street. And when you start to average things that way, so then you can actually compare it to a Broadway or a Brooks, knowing that there's different volumes of traffic, you might see that it's not any more dangerous than Brooks or Higgins or Broadway.


Josh Slotnick: [00:11:57] It's how many crashes per 100 cars? Yes, something like that. Yeah, that's a meaningful. Yeah.


Aaron Wilson: [00:12:01] A rate is a much easier way to compare it to other because every roadway is different, right? I mean, there's different numbers of vehicles, there's different contexts. And so they all have different elements of risk to them.


Josh Slotnick: [00:12:10] And are we talking fatalities? Are we talking car crashes where there's property damage? 


Aaron Wilson: [00:12:15] Yeah, Well that's the other piece that's really important to look at is how many of those crashes actually have a severe injury or a fatality and not just a fender bender. And, you know, those have significance too. They cost money, they slow traffic. But what we're really focused on is the people who are injured and the people who are killed on a roadway. And so that's another element of the risk.


Dave Strohmaier: [00:12:33] Just going back to I think it was the question you asked Juanita, as far as the genesis of Reserve Street and what we're seeing out there seems to be at least partially, if not largely, a function of land use. And maybe this goes back to your earlier life, Aaron, and studying such things academically. But and there's there's no way to know at this point in time. But I, I'm envisioning a situation where perhaps the land uses were different along Reserve Street or were regulated differently, zoned differently than what they were. That allowed the sort of commercial development that we see out there today. Were that not the case, then the traffic patterns, traffic flow, it might have been be very different and it might might have actually been serving the intended purpose of being a quasi bypass.


Josh Slotnick: [00:13:21] Yeah, yeah.


Juanita Vero: [00:13:22] Dave has me thinking about the first time I met you. Aaron, you posed a question. I think it was out of charrette or something. What could have happened if if the entrance and exits to those big box stores hadn't been on Reserve Street but had been like off of Reserve Street on one of those,um...


Aaron Wilson: [00:13:38] Side Streets.


Juanita Vero: [00:13:39] Side Streets. Yeah. And what happened there? Why wasn't that thought of at the time when Costco first went in, or when these boxes or the Grand Creek or whatever, when these box stores went in and those, those developments, what.


Josh Slotnick: [00:13:51] Would the effect of that be? Just because I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around it. If if you turned off onto a side street and then went to a big box store instead of approached, right?


Juanita Vero: [00:13:59] Me who wants to get to Kalispell and doesn't want to go to the box store?


Aaron Wilson: [00:14:02] Right? Well, there's a couple of things at play there. One is, just how comfortable is it to do anything other than drive in an area? So as you're thinking about store, you know, the way that North Reserve has developed, you have big box stores and then you have a really large parking lot from the entrance to the roadway, and then you have this high volume, high speed roadway. So if you imagine walking down Reserve Street, you have a bunch of cars parked on one side and a huge asphalt parking lot, and then you have this high speed, high volume roadway on the other. It's a really uncomfortable place. No one would ever go to Reserve Street to say, I'm going to go for a walk. I'm going to go out there and walk around. You're probably only walking out there by necessity, and so that just changes the characteristics. So people only think about driving there and then that just becomes the pattern and the behavior. And if you design different ways you can sort of change that. And you know, maybe you build more towards the street to make it comfortable for walking. You put the parking lots on a back. I don't know that that would necessarily make Reserve Street any better, because I think there are other issues with reserve in terms of it's trying to do everything well. It's sort of trying to be a jack of all trades street, and it's just not doing any of them that great.


Josh Slotnick: [00:15:06] When you say jack of all trades, I imagine I'm just guessing. Fill in the list here. But I'm thinking. And you're saying the street wants to be able to convey people from Florence to Kalispell to make this bridge from one side of our valley to the other. It also needs to get people to these stores and to their houses and to restaurants. And can one road do both those things? Well, I.


Aaron Wilson: [00:15:25] Think that's the problem with Reserve Street right now, and both with the adjacent land use and with what it's trying to do, that you can make a road safe for through travel. So think about I-90. You're design that's designed to be focused on just moving people through. It's it's a highway. It's that's what it's for. And you can't get on and off it anywhere you want. You can't walk on it. It's really designed. And so that becomes a much safer facility for that kind of use. Reserve is trying to do that, but also trying to accommodate all of that local traffic and the mixing and the sort of urban interactions that you see on on other kinds of streets. And you can't do all of that safely and move vehicles quickly and accommodate all of that. So, so it's just a that idea of the triangle. And you can have two but not all three. It's, you know, what do you want to pick and what do you want reserved.


Josh Slotnick: [00:16:08] Is this the concept of a stroad?


Aaron Wilson: [00:16:10] Yeah, to some extent I think, you know, I think street plus road. Yeah, exactly. And I think Reserve Street is somewhere in between, you know, the stroad, it's trying to be a street, but also trying to be a highway.


Josh Slotnick: [00:16:21] What do you think the answer is.


Dave Strohmaier: [00:16:22] And what's going on right now?


Josh Slotnick: [00:16:24] Planning.


Aaron Wilson: [00:16:25] Planning, yeah. Well we're trying to figure out the answer I think is the first the first question. And some of that depends on what we want as a community for that roadway. And it goes beyond just Missoula, which is sort of one of the challenges. How so? Because it is that National highway, I mean, highway 93 goes from Canada to Mexico. And so you get some of that traffic. And I think as a community, we need to decide what's going to make it better for us. Do we want to facilitate just moving through as quickly as possible? If that's the goal, I think we can do that reasonably well. But if the goal is to have a street that people actually want to interact with and can get across and do all of those things that an urban street needs to do, then we need to shift away from this idea that vehicles will still be able to get through. It'll never be totally gridlocked, but they'll be slower.


Josh Slotnick: [00:17:06] So I remember early on in, in this job, you and I worked together and we did it one of the better sessions of community engagement I've ever been involved in. It was really amazing artist drawing things. Yeah, it was great. People were super active. It was really well done. What do you think are some of the takeaways from that in terms of what does the community want from Reserve Street? You know.


Aaron Wilson: [00:17:22] A lot of what we heard from people is they were frustrated with being stuck in traffic. They they wanted it to function more efficiently. But they also were, you know, people who lived nearby and they wanted to be able to walk to the grocery store, or some people wanted to be able to bike Reserve Street as their only route to get from their home to their job. And they want to be able to safely bike through there. And there was a lot of that just feeling that Reserve Street is kind of hostile, doing things that can make it just much more inviting. So.


Dave Strohmaier: [00:17:46] So can you tease us just a little bit? Uh, what I'm sure folks are wondering. So what does that mean? Even though we're in this planning process now to maybe get some more specific answers, what might an example be of something that would make it perhaps less hostile, recognizing that we've only got so much road right of way width there? And so unless you tear up parking lots in the big box stores and add additional lanes, which probably won't necessarily solve the problems that folks have identified, what else might be just a nugget?


Josh Slotnick: [00:18:18] Just to add to this? Isn't aren't there some very real jurisdictional kind of zones of responsibility?


Aaron Wilson: [00:18:23] Yeah, this is where the MPO really comes into play, is that the reserve street is owned. It's a federal highway. And so the Montana Department of Transportation owns that facility. And they it's their roadway.


Juanita Vero: [00:18:34] And what does roadway mean. Well, it's.


Aaron Wilson: [00:18:36] Their right of way. So basically from the outside of the sidewalk to the outside of the sidewalk or that transportation space in between the individual property owners. And so MDT is responsible for making decisions about the roadway ultimately. I mean, it's their their road. But what the MPO does gives us the opportunity to collaborate. So Reserve Street is doing more than just serving the Montana Department of Transportation's goals. It's a very urban street. It's part of Missoula. And so we need to make those decisions together. And the MPO sort of gives us an avenue to do that through our committees and the collaboration and the federal funding.


Josh Slotnick: [00:19:07] Is there a formal relationship between MDT and the MPO? Yeah.


Aaron Wilson: [00:19:10] So MDT supports the MPO. And because we're a federally designated.


Josh Slotnick: [00:19:14] With dollars?


Aaron Wilson: [00:19:14] yeah, some dollars. They support the work that we do through staff and other.


Dave Strohmaier: [00:19:19] They're actually a voting member. Yeah. Transportation policy coordinating.


Aaron Wilson: [00:19:22] Yes. Of which uh, Commissioner Strohmeyer is also part of and me too, Commissioner Slotnick. Yes. But the MPO has that leverage of we have to approve any federal funding that goes into infrastructure within that urban area. And so it gives us an opportunity to have that collaborative, you know, MDT has goals that they need to meet, and they're making decisions about that route as as the state Dot. But we have this federally designated body that can help ensure that there's close coordination.


Juanita Vero: [00:19:47] Back to Strohmaier's....


Dave Strohmaier: [00:19:48] We're not going to let you off too easy!


Aaron Wilson: [00:19:49] Yeah.


Juanita Vero: [00:19:49] No that's good example of like hostility reduction.


Aaron Wilson: [00:19:52] Great example would be there's a crosswalk on North Reserve. I think this one has come up a number of times where there's a crosswalk that's marked there and there's some pedestrian. It's up kind of by the hotels on North Reserve.


Juanita Vero: [00:20:03] So by Rowdy's Cabin?


Aaron Wilson: [00:20:04]  Yeah. By Rowdy's cabin. Yep. Just north of expressway. All it is is paint on the ground for people to get a. And some signs. And when you think about a four lane road, maybe one person stops the person.


Juanita Vero: [00:20:15] Have you ever crossed Reserve Street?


Josh Slotnick: [00:20:16]  I wouldn't do it. Yeah.


Juanita Vero: [00:20:18] I've done twice pushing, uh, half dozen, uh, shopping carts. Um, and then another time, just with my own two legs and just me, myself and I. And it was. Were you in a crosswalk? It makes you pucker. Yeah. Yeah. It's.


Josh Slotnick: [00:20:32] People have had horrible injuries too.


Aaron Wilson: [00:20:33] Yeah, yeah. No.


Juanita Vero: [00:20:34] And I'm able bodied and able to walk across it. And it was at a crosswalk. Yeah. Yeah. It's I was impressed by how nervous it made me. Yeah.


Aaron Wilson: [00:20:41] And that's a good example of like hostile is maybe a strong word but you feel really.


Josh Slotnick: [00:20:45] Uncomfortable I think hostile is the right word. Yeah.


Aaron Wilson: [00:20:47] So there's things you can do, uh, for pedestrian crossings like that you could put in, um, you don't even necessarily need to do a full traffic signal. They have these things called the flashing lights. Yeah, the flashing lights. Or there's even more. It's called a hybrid activated signal. And it looks like three red lights that start flashing. It's a signal. They use them in larger cities all over for these kinds of, you know, bigger roadways because it's almost like a signal, but it's really for pedestrians. And so it stops vehicles. It's much more signalized.


Juanita Vero: [00:21:12] And that was just a demonstration project or did it.


Aaron Wilson: [00:21:15] No, this is something it's an actual like almost like a signal that you put in. But it's really specific to crossing pedestrians. But they're shown to reduce crashes and improve it worse. Oh yeah. So why.


Josh Slotnick: [00:21:24] Don't why don't we not.


Aaron Wilson: [00:21:25] In Reserve Street. We haven't done it in Reserve Street yet, so.


Josh Slotnick: [00:21:27] Why don't we have one by Rowdy's Cabin?


Aaron Wilson: [00:21:29] Funding and getting again that idea of working with the state to make those kinds of improvements on their roadways.


Juanita Vero: [00:21:35] To know that it's a priority and it's their decision. Yes. To put it there.


Josh Slotnick: [00:21:39] Do they know it's something we want? Yeah, I think so.


Aaron Wilson: [00:21:42] And, you know, we do planning to identify these projects. And ideally you want to look at sort of comprehensively. So that sort of gets the lead in to safe streets for all grant that we got that is going to provide the money to do the study of the whole corridor and identify those kinds of comprehensive safety improvements. And it's always this push and pull of how much do you want to slow or delay traffic versus improving safety and allowing people to cross, because every person you have crossing the street might be interrupting traffic flow. And so there are all you're always looking at how much do we care about traffic flow versus people getting across and safety. And ideally you want to land on safety.


Josh Slotnick: [00:22:17] Every time you mentioned study. What do you mean?


Aaron Wilson: [00:22:19] We have funding to do a comprehensive safety study for the for Reserve Street from Brooks all the way up to I-90.


Josh Slotnick: [00:22:25] When's that going to happen?


Aaron Wilson: [00:22:25] We have the funding. It'll likely start sometime this summer. We have to get through some federal bureaucratic red tape, get the grant agreements in place, hire consultants.


Josh Slotnick: [00:22:34] You guys hire some folks to do that study.


Aaron Wilson: [00:22:36] Yeah, we want to hire specialists who really understand it.


Josh Slotnick: [00:22:39] What sort of things will they be looking at?


Aaron Wilson: [00:22:40] First is trying to answer that question of what are we designing for? What does Reserve Street want to be, and how do we design for that to operate as safely as possible. And then we look at what are some quick interventions. We can do things like those crosswalks...


Juanita Vero: [00:22:53] Go back...How is that answered? Because I mean, we're just kind of kvetching about being able to walk across Reserve Street, but maybe it's okay that we aren't able to walk across. It's not designed for that, designed for that. And people might be okay with that and recognize that it's meant to be driven down. And that's I think it's a how do you square that or how I mean, I think it's.


Aaron Wilson: [00:23:11] A combination of really hard community conversations where we try to get to that of what are we willing to trade off in terms.


Juanita Vero: [00:23:18] Where else are you going to have that sort of traffic that's trying to get to I-90?


Aaron Wilson: [00:23:22] Yeah, you know, Brooks, I think Brooks and Orange, you know, there's sort of like two routes to get to I-90.


Juanita Vero: [00:23:28] Brooks my gosh. Yeah. You get to Higgins or Orange. Nightmare!


Aaron Wilson: [00:23:32] or it Would be Brooks to orange, Brooks to orange or Brooks Stevens orange.


Josh Slotnick: [00:23:36] Because Higgins doesn't connect to the highway.


Aaron Wilson: [00:23:38] Yeah. Higgins doesn't actually go anywhere other than downtown. Yeah.


Juanita Vero: [00:23:41] Okay. But Brooks. Brooks. Orange. Yeah, that's. I wouldn't want to be driving like, an 18 Wheeler.


Aaron Wilson: [00:23:46] No, no. So. So I think that's one of the challenges we have. It does have that regional impact. And so we okay we want to be able to facilitate continue to facilitate that. But sort of what's the extent to which we want to create a street that you can easily get across. And we know we have a ton of growth. We're prioritizing growth in an area just west of Reserve Street and that kind of North Reserve area.


Josh Slotnick: [00:24:06] How long is the study period?


Aaron Wilson: [00:24:07] The study period will be probably nine months to a year. We hope to get it done pretty quickly. So I'm just going.


Josh Slotnick: [00:24:13] To guess having seen some of these sorts of things happen in the past, we do a study, come up with some recommendations, look for money to do the planning for successful with that. Then we look for money to do the actual construction. Is that kind of the. Did I get that right? Yep. Yeah.


Aaron Wilson: [00:24:26] So the money we got is actually for what we call a safety action plan. So that at the end of that we would have a list of here's all the improvements we think we could make. There would be some short term, quick fixes. There will be long terme things that might cost millions of dollars when we try to prioritize those. And then once we have that list, we then go back and say, okay, what funding can we put towards that? We can apply for additional federal grants. We can look at our local federal funding that we can program, and we just start working our way down that list.


Dave Strohmaier: [00:24:52] Will the study ask the question or try to get at who is using Reserve Street? Because I just looping back to a question that we were kicking around earlier on, related to the assumption that the majority of folks using Reserve Street are just trying to get through Missoula to somewhere else, and then the subsquent thought is, well, we need a bypass to get around Missoula. But to be able to answer the question, is that really the fix that's necessary? We need to know who's using Reserve Street, and I'd hazard a guess that there will never be a bypass just by virtue of the fact that unless Josh out in target range, you want to give up your property.


Josh Slotnick: [00:25:30] Oh, Lord.


Dave Strohmaier: [00:25:30] Uh, I'm sure there are folks out in, uh...


Josh Slotnick: [00:25:33] And I think when you mentioned the gridlock that we've all experienced visiting other major cities, we're experiencing, what could what happens when there is no bypass? There's no way to go around. You just have to go through. And that means you wait. And I'm just guessing. In many major American cities, there was no good bypass. So you have gridlock instead, right?


Juanita Vero: [00:25:54] And Aaron's making a face for those of you who can't see him


Aaron Wilson: [00:25:57] That's just my thinking face, you know?


Dave Strohmaier: [00:25:59] What are you thinking about, Aaron?


Aaron Wilson: [00:26:01] What I think you see is when you build a bypass, it functions as a bypass for a short period of time. But then again, like Reserve Street was the bypass. Yeah. And you're seeing this up in Kalispell where they've built their bypass, and that's where you're seeing all of the growth in housing and residential. And so that's becoming a new street for them that they're going to have these problems ten, 20 years down the road. It's no longer going to be the bypass.


Josh Slotnick: [00:26:22] It's a you use the word intersection here. It's not talking about cars, but you see the intersection between land use and development and transportation. So if we put in a big new road where there is no road right now, it won't just be a road with empty land next to it. People who own that land will say, oh my goodness, look, I own land next to a road where there's 10,000 cars going every day. I think I should sell some of this land to somebody who wants to develop it, because there's an incredible opportunity to get Ahold of some of those folks who are in the cars zipping by. So if you wanted your bypass to just be a bypass, you'd actually have to do some use, some land use and planning tools alongside the road. So it never became anything but a road.


Aaron Wilson: [00:26:58] Yeah, which is really hard to do. And I don't know of many communities that have been able to this idea that you can sort of build your way out of traffic is just not hasn't been, hasn't been shown to be successful anywhere in the country. Well, and.


Dave Strohmaier: [00:27:09] Here in Missoula, and let's just be honest with ourselves, the options for such a bypass, even if it was warranted, are Orchard Homes target range condemning massive amounts of private property there, or Blue Mountain Circuitously looping around to Frenchtown or something? Could you half $1 billion?


Josh Slotnick: [00:27:28] Could you ever imagine the Graves Creek to Petty Creek? Could that could that ever could you see that being a paved two lane tiny highway where you're just getting people who are coming from the west, heading east, and they wanted to be going south, and you just go around all of it by cutting through the mountains.


Dave Strohmaier: [00:27:44] The Jack would love it for.


Josh Slotnick: [00:27:46] And then you're and you're and you're going through national forest land. So the potential for development is quite low.


Aaron Wilson: [00:27:53] I think if you were able to be successful with something like that, you would see a lot more of those and you just don't. It's indirect, like you're that road is going to be windy, it's going to be steep, it's going to be it's not going to feel great. You know, you're probably realistically you'd be faster just going up Reserve Street even today and take the take.


Juanita Vero: [00:28:08] I just have safer and safer. I'm just trying to think of first responders responding to any accidents through there would just be a nightmare.


Josh Slotnick: [00:28:14] I mean, I live in target range, and when it's the thick of traffic during the day and I have to, if I had to get to the airport to pick somebody up, I go around down to Kona Ranch Road and all the way go all the way around.


Juanita Vero: [00:28:25] And is it actually faster? Is it just. No.


Josh Slotnick: [00:28:27] It's just a better driving experience. It's about the same. But instead of sitting in traffic and being surrounded by all of that, you just got to play driving a really, I just, I just go to do the beautiful scenic route, take an extra five minutes and enjoy music and like, man, this is fine. And then when I'm bringing guests in, they feel like, oh, it's so beautiful. Instead of saying, oh, it looks just like where I came from.


Dave Strohmaier: [00:28:47] Yeah, well, invariably I will see a train blocking Madison Street and say, I'm just going to drive around to Van Buren. And by the time I get to Van Buren, the train's gone. So. Yeah. Right. Well, that was a lot to sink our teeth into today. Absolutely. So we're going to have to call it a day, but we want to pick up where we left off in the next episode of The Agenda. Thanks so much for joining us today. Thanks a.


Josh Slotnick: [00:29:13] Lot. Thanks. Great having you. Yeah. Thanks for listening to the agenda. If you enjoy these conversations, it would mean a lot. If you rate and review the show on whichever podcast app you use.


Juanita Vero: [00:29:23] And if you know a friend who would like to keep up with what's happening in local government, be sure to recommend this podcast to them.


Dave Strohmaier: [00:29:28] The agenda with the Missoula County Commissioners is made possible with support from Missoula Community Access Television, better known as mCAT, and our staff in the Missoula County Communications Division.


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Dave Strohmaier: [00:29:56] Thanks for listening.