With the U.S. 93 West reconstruction project slated to start next year, state Sen. Ryan Zinke asked the city to support a pedestrian crosswalk near property he owns on West Second Street. In return, Zinke will provide a key property easement for a future bike path and stand as an advocate for the crosswalk at the state legislative level.
Zinke wrote a letter to the city regarding his plan and spoke to the city council at their June 4 meeting,
“The installation of a pedestrian and bike crossing is critical to public safety and will greatly enhance public access,” Zinke wrote.
Current designs for the U.S. 93 West project show no crosswalks between the Second Street Bridge and Karrow Avenue. A sidewalk is planned for the north side of the highway and a bicycle path is planned for the south side.
An underpass is proposed at the Second Street Bridge with the next crosswalk heading west at Karrow Avenue.
Zinke estimates there will be eight city blocks between Karrow and Lupfer Avenue with no crosswalk, which he calls an unsafe scenario.
His proposal includes a mid-block crossing that will connect the north sidewalk to a proposed bike path along his property that leads to the Whitefish River. The crossing would also provide public access to Veterans Peace Park and a proposed future trail system. As the owner of the property, Zinke has agreed to provide public access.
Zinke said the reconstruction project is a chance to bring back a neighborhood feel to the area.
“When I grew up here, West Second Street wasn’t blight,” he told council. “It was a great neighborhood.”
Council unanimously voted to support Zinke’s idea.
City Manager Chuck Stearns told council the Montana Department of Transportation has said they are not in support of a mid-block crossing. Further, he said Public Works director John Wilson is generally opposed to the idea and says mid-block crossings don’t necessarily improve safety.
However, Stearns said if council wrote a letter to the state in support of the idea, “it would go a long way.”
There are already a few mid-block crossings on Wisconsin Avenue at The Lodge and near Alpine Market where the bike path goes from the west to east side of the state road.