North Great Falls transportation study underway

The city is working with a contracted for the North Great Falls Sub-Area Transportation Study.

The study is being conducted by Sanderson Stewart our of Billings and is in the early stages. Postcards were mailed to area residents last month and the consultant has created a website and Facebook page for updates.

The transportation study has been planned since at least 2015 when the city was considering the annexation of the Thaniel Addition and a section of the West Ridge subdivision.

City considering traffic study on north side of Great Falls

The City Commissioner approved the $92,700 professional services agreement during a Jan. 21 meeting.

There will be no financial impact to the city since $82,700 will be paid by reimbursement from the Montana Department of Transportation with 86.5 percent coming from federal transportation planning funds with 13.4 percent from MDT; and $10,000 will be paid by funds already contributed by the developers of the West Ridge and Thaniel subdivisions.

Updates considered to transportation plan to move two projects to recommended list

Based upon neighborhood concern and a recommendation in the Great Falls Area Long Range Transportation Plan, the Great Falls Metropolitan Planning Organization budgeted federal transportation planning dollars to hire a consultant for the project.

The consultant had planned two public meetings about the transportation study, but COVID-19 has limited those plans and instead Sanderson Stewart put together an informational video that is posted on the project website with information on how to provide comments.

A neighborhood meeting will be planned toward the end of the project to solicit feedback on preliminary study results, conclusions and recommendations, according to the public involvement plan for the project.

The project is scheduled to be completed in December.

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

The project area is generally bounded on the west by 6th Street Northwest, on the south by Skyline Drive, on the east by Bootlegger Trail and on the north by Watson Lane, according to staff.

The most residential growth in the city has occurred in the area north of Skyline Drive and 36th Avenue Northeast, according to the city, and residents have voiced concerns over the impact development will have on the existing roads.

Roundabouts; auxiliary lane; rerouting frontage road considered for Gore Hill

According to city staff, the existing road network has the capacity to accommodate current traffic and some growth, a plan for new roads and facilities will “allow for orderly growth that minimizes congestion and delay.

Area residents were concerned about traffic impacts during the annexation processes for West Ridge and Thaniel subdivisions through staff analysis found the initial phases weren’t anticipated to “negatively impact the functionality of existing roads. However, in lieu of a formal traffic study, each developer contributed $5,000 to the city to allow for a future comprehensive study to be conducted concerning the impact of area growth upon the transportation network. Because substantial development of West Ridge and Thaniel has occurred, the city is ready to initiate this sub-area transportation planning study,” according to the staff report.

The project consists of a sub-area traffic and transportation study to:

  • collect and analyze relevant data;
  • model up to three major roadway scenarios;
  • identify needs; recommend improvements and anticipated timeline for such improvements;
  • identify the best locations for future local, collector, and minor arterial roadways while still allowing for developer flexibility;
  • and provide possible funding solutions including proportionate contributions from developers impacting traffic within the study area. A limited review of active transportation and transit modes of travel will also be included.

The project area has no east-west through roads and is projected to need at least one new collector/minor arterial and improvements to U.S. Highway 87 and 6th Street Northwest in the 20-year planning horizon, according to the staff report.