As Brooks Street prepares to be spruced up this summer—it's due for new curbs, ramps and pavement—neighborhood residents, city officials and transportation experts alike are debating whether to use the opportunity to eliminate street-side parking and make way for bike lanes.
"It's going to be a really hot topic," says Judy Smith, a member of the Rose Park Neighborhood Council Leadership Team who lives one block off Brooks.
Bob Giordano of the Missoula Institute for Sustainable Transportation believes tacking bike lanes onto Brooks is a no-brainer. He says the lanes would help create a sustainable environment and healthy citizens. Plus, as the issue surrounding Brooks—officially an extension of both Highways 12 and 93—garners greater interest, Giordano says the debate speaks to a larger question for the community: "Are we going to shape our town to the highways, or are we going to have the highway fit into our urban context?"
But some neighborhood residents argue two-wheeled commuters already have options, including the relatively calm Woodford Street, which runs parallel to Brooks. Creating a headache for residents and business owners who would lose street-side parking, they say, just doesn't make sense.
For example, Smith, a self-proclaimed alternative transportation advocate, says concerns voiced by her neighbors persuaded her not to push for bike lanes.
"I support my neighbors' right to be able to park in front of their homes," she says.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act-funded plan initially called for widening Brooks Street, a move that would have made room for both parking and new bike lanes. But local residents worried widening would drastically alter the historic gateway to Missoula. City officials nixed that plan in favor of the slimmer version.
As construction begins in the coming weeks, locals have time to discuss the final product. Administrators will continue gathering public comment before making a final decision, which will likely come by the end of this summer.
"The more dialogue, the better," Giordano says. "Citizen voices matter. So, it's good people are talking about these things."