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West Broadway

Widening a narrow debate

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Transforming the discussion about the West Broadway corridor—not just the roadway—is the aim of a new planning process that kicked off Oct. 24 at a meeting where nearly 100 people showed up to eyeball the new consultant and offer input.

Working in concert with the Missoula Redevelopment Agency (MRA), the city has hired Portland-based Moore Iacofano Goltsman, Inc. to lead a nine-month charrette process culminating in a comprehensive vision for the corridor. The MRA and federal transportation officials are splitting the $120,000 price tag of the process, which will include a three-day public charrette in January, several additional public meetings, and collection of economic, traffic and land-use data. The point continually stressed by city officials is that the conversation is no longer just about whether West Broadway should have three lanes or four lanes or where traffic lights should be installed.

“The task we’ve been given is to think broadly about West Broadway, and not just think between the curbs,” said lead consultant Brian Douglas Scott.

But the temptation to deepen the old ruts of drivers vs. pedestrians and cars vs. bicycles that has long plagued conversations about Broadway proved too great for some in attendance.

“Are you going to organize citizen committees or are you going to cram this down our throats?” came the first testy question of the night.

Scott let that bait slide right on by, simply responding, “We’re not going to cram anything down your throats.”

Besides comments reflecting concerns about the road’s safety (five pedestrians have perished there since 1998) and utility (businesses say traffic delays hurt their customers), questions about the new process and whether it can transcend the old debate emerged.

John Couch wondered what will happen at the end of the nine-month, four-phase flowchart displayed by consultants, and whether the product could become another unfunded, dreamy plan that ends up shelved.

Scott responded that he’ll help create a community plan and suggest a way to implement it, but he can’t do everything: “At some point, it’s up to Missoula to make it happen.”

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