Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) Plans to design and construct a roundabout on West Broadway won official approval from the Missoula City Council on Monday, though some expressed reluctance in not having seen a specific design.

Monday's approval allows the mayor to sign an agreement with the Montana Department of Transportation detailing the project's construction, funding and long-term maintenance. The $3.9 million project will be paid for with funds held by the Metropolitan Planning Organization.

“Whenever we have an opportunity to put down infrastructure that's going to make transportation safer for everyone, we should take the opportunity to do it and be proactive and not wait until we have to spend significantly more money on right-of-way acquisition and all that,” said council member Mirtha Becerra.

City engineer Kevin Slovarp last week said the current intersection at Broadway, Toole Avenue and California Street has seen 33 crashes over the last five years. Some of those have been severe, he added.

The current intersection also lacks bicycle and pedestrian facilities and the area south of the project is slated for redevelopment at a higher density, as outlined in the West Broadway Master Plan. The plan, which the city adopted in 2019, calls for a roundabout at the chosen intersection.

“City staff desires to move the roundabout option forward because it provides better access and mobility and is essentially safer and allows the West Broadway Master Plan to develop because there's enhanced access,” Slovarp said. “But the intersection control hasn't been finalized.”

The lack of a specific design left some members of City Council uneasy. Council member Sandra Vasecka voted against the measure, saying traffic “is flowing well” through the intersection while council member Bob Campbell sought more specifics on the final design.

City staff assured council that a design proposal would be presented when the city reaches that point. The project still needs to acquire right-of-way to make room for the improvement.

“If City Council wants us to bring a recommendation forward before we go to final design, we can certainly do that,” said Slovarp. “City staff and MDT will work on making a recommendation based on the analysis and the data, and a recommendation based on our experience.”