Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) When the city adopted the West Broadway Master Plan, it envisioned a sense of place along the blighted corridor and a roundabout to ease traffic and serve as a gateway to the area.

While new development has yet to find its way to the corridor, the city this week took one step forward by approving a resolution allowing the mayor to sign an agreement to design and construct the roundabout.

“We believe it to be the best option to slow vehicular speeds, provide the desired bike and pedestrian safety improvements, improve intersection operations and enhance access,” said city engineer Kevin Slovarp. “It would also contribute as a gateway feature with landscaping in the center of the roundabout. That was an important aspect of the West Broadway Master Plan, to create a sense of place in this area.”

The city adopted the West Broadway Master Plan in 2021, presenting a vision for the overlooked corridor near downtown Missoula. Most agreed that West Broadway offered significant potential for redevelopment, and much of the master plan looks to those opportunities.

The master plan covers 15 acres and places an emphasis on housing, retail and food, along with a greater number of transportation options. As a whole, the plan calls for 30,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, 15,000 square feet of office space and around 200 housing units.

The proposed roundabout.
The proposed roundabout.

“That master plan lists a roundabout as the preferred intersection improvement at this location,” said Slovarp. “We think intersection improvements can help with those safety aspects and limit the number of crashes, and especially the severity of those crashes.”

Slovarp said the current intersection, which includes West Broadway, Toole Avenue and California Street, has seen 33 crashes over the last five years. Most of those were rear-end crashes, though some were more severe involving right-angle collisions or bicycle crashes.

The current intersection also lacks bicycle and pedestrian needs – something the new project will consider during design. The roundabout will be funded by the Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Montana Department of Transportation and carries a cost estimated at $3.7 million.

“It's going to take some time for people to get used to it but they work really well, and it's safe,” said council member Amber Sherrill.