Exploring some issues:
How can a 3-lane Russell Street move traffic safely and efficiently, if the Environmental Impact Statement identified a 5-lane road as the preferred alternative?
A: The computer traffic models often use straight line projections to forecast motor vehicle increases for twenty years into the future. The models do not accurately forecast increases in walking, cycling and transit. Missoula trends show a large increase in these modes over the next generation. Also, the type of road that gets built is an important factor in the type of resulting traffic.
Q: Are there examples of roadways that were not widened when the projections showed a need?
A: Yes. In the early 90's, the models showed the need to widen Brooks Street along Rose Park to 4-lanes. The neighborhood opposed this change and today the traffic flows well on a two-lane road, with bike lanes on both sides and parking on one. More recently the State proposed to add 3 additional lanes to the northern section of Arthur Ave. The neighborhood wanted a smaller, more human scaled roadway which was eventually built with good results (one lane was added instead of three).
In Nashua New Hampshire, the public works department rejected a proposal to widen a 2-lane road to 5-lanes and instead replaced a congested intersection stop light with a single lane roundabout. The roundabout is next to a school and seems to work well.
Q: What is the confusion about roundabouts?
A: Modern roundabouts are very different than neighborhood traffic circles and very different than high-speed, New England-style rotaries. Single-lane roundabouts have been shown to substantially reduce both injury-crashes and congestion when compared to a traffic light. The first roundabout on an arterial in Missoula opened in late summer, 2009, at Higgins/Beckwith.
Q: How many homes and businesses would a 3-lane Russell require to be demolished compared to a 5-lane?
A: A 5-lane Russell would require 16 homes and 13 businesses to be removed. For a 3-lane alternative, no homes would need to be removed.
Q: How would an improved 3-lane road affect traffic flows?
A: Traffic flows would likely be improved with a well-designed 3-lane road. The addition of sidewalks, bike lanes and increased bus service would allow more people to get around by modes other than driving for some or their trips. Local surveys show that many people would bike, walk and take transit more often if these modes of transportation were safer and more accessible. Single lane roundabouts are good at: smoothing the flow of traffic, reducing injury crashes, decreasing speeds and decreasing idling and overall travel times.