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Bright lights, big city

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Notice anything new at the corner of Spruce and Higgins? Maybe a dazzling new bit of automation designed to guide you across the street? No? Well, neither have most Missoulians.

The first of its kind in Missoula, the walk/don’t walk sign with an electronic dot-matrix read-out counting down the final thirty seconds in which pedestrians can make their ways across the intersection was installed in June. And Missoula Traffic Services Superintendent Carl Thompson seems confused by the total dearth of public comment.

“I don’t know what the deal is. I thought we’d get quite a reaction from it, but people are pretty matter-of-fact about it.”

But one elderly Missoula native (who doesn’t give her name out to newspapers) thinks that the new technology is perfect for growing Missoula.

“I like it. It helps me get across the street safely,” she says, crossing Higgins.

But isn’t it odd to see metropolitan technology in our humble Montana town?

“But that’s what’s happening,” she says. “Missoula is becoming a big city.”

Light years ahead of the plain old walk/don’t walk flashers, the new signs run about $400 a pop (compared to $100 for the traditional models). But don’t go writing your City Council members. The new sign is only a loaner from the state.

“It’s an experiment,” says Thompson. “It’s just some technology that’s out there, and I got hold of one to try and I’m going to see how it works.”

The results so far? If they weren’t so costly, all signs would count down to go.

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