Public comment period open on regional transportation plan; several area road projects coming up

The city and county updating its Long Range Transportation Plan and the draft is available for public comment.

It’s a minor update, as required by federal regulations, to the 2014 major plan. The 2014 effort was the first to include a non-motorized transit plan.

The plan is available here and public comments are due by June 10.

The plan will be reviewed by the Great Falls Metropolitan Planning Organization, which includes the city, county and the Montana Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, Great Falls Transit District, and other local, state and federal agencies interested in transportation.

Public meeting scheduled for effort to update the Great Falls transportation plan

In the update, the team looked at what still holds true and what needs to be changed from the 2014 plan, said Scott Randall, the project manager with Robert Peccia and Associates, the city’s consultant on the update.

The updated plan forecasts to 2038 and focuses on the major street network, as well as non-motorized transit.

The Great Falls area has a “great trail system, but there’s room to improve connectivity for non-motorized transit,” Randall said.

One aspect of the street system the update considers is the volume of traffic compared to road capacity. There’s a few areas in town where the volume is approaching or exceeding the road capacity. Those areas include River Drive and 9th Street, Randall said.

They also looked at crash densities and found there have been 8,000 crashes over a five years in the study area. Most of those have been on 10th Avenue South.

Of those crashes, 0.2 percent resulted in fatalities and 0.1 percent resulted in incapacitating injuries, according to the study data.

Randall said those numbers are better than Bozeman’s.

Commissioner Owen Robinson attended the open house meeting on the draft earlier this month and asked the consultant how Great Falls transportation compares to other Montana cities.

“I think Great Falls is one of the better cities in Montana for sure,” Randall said.

One of the city’s strengths is the gridded street system and low congestion.

The update includes recommended projects. Of those, some have committed funding and are expected to be completed within the next five years.

One of those projects is the reconstruction of Fox Farm Road from East Fiesta to Dick Road for an estimated $3.5 million project. Work is expected to start June 1 and last for about five months, according to the city’s transportation planner.

Another project is at Park Drive and 4th Street for an enhanced pedestrian crossing into Gibson Park.

The project will narrow the entrance to Gibson, improve the connection to the River’s Edge Trail.

The project is in design and is expected to begin construction next year, according to city planning.

Another project includes reconstructing and widening US-87 with passing and turn lanes for about 6.67 miles. The project begins about 500 feet south of the malting plant approach road and continues north past the landfill. The project is an estimated $4.4 million.