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North 27th construction

A new, year-long traffic study performed by the city details how to improve traffic flow and pedestrian and cyclist safety downtown by showing what road activity would look like if certain streets were converted to two-way traffic.

More two-way streets downtown and a slower, more pedestrian-friendly Montana Avenue could be in Billings' future.

A new, year-long traffic study performed by the city details how to improve traffic flow and pedestrian and cyclist safety downtown by showing what road activity would look like if certain streets were converted to two-way traffic.

The study also looked at reducing the number of lanes along a section of Montana Avenue, North 13th Avenue and along 6th Avenue North where it intersects with Main Street. One option would close two blocks of Broadway Avenue between 3rd Avenue North and 1st Avenue North to all vehicular traffic.

Specifically, the study includes six different options that would help make downtown Billings more pedestrian friendly, improve traffic congestion at a handful of busy intersections and make downtown businesses easier to access.

Katy Easton, CEO of the Downtown Billings Alliance, spoke at Monday night's Billings City Council meeting, telling council members the changes outlined in the report make good sense for improving downtown business. 

"The Downtown Billings Alliance fully supports moving toward two-way street conversion," she said. 

The study detailed converting North 36th Street to North 29th Street, along with North 25th and North 26th Street to two-way traffic, showing that it improved mobility around downtown and potentially could improve access to businesses. 

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The study also showed that converting 2nd and 3rd Avenue North to two-way streets would have a similar impact. Both 4th and 6th Avenue North would remain one-way streets to accommodate the amount of traffic that travels between Billings' West End and the Heights. 

To help slow traffic along Montana Avenue and create space for more parking, the study examined the impact of reducing the thoroughfare from three lanes to two lanes between Division Street and North 18th Street. 

Montana Avenue is owned by the state and any change the city might make would require approval from the Montana Department of Transportation. 

Similarly, the study looked at reducing the lanes of traffic along 6th Avenue North, allowing the city to connect the bike trail that comes down from Swords Park along the Rims with a bike path that would run through downtown. 

Beginning in November, the city will begin reaching out to the public through community meetings and other events to solicit feedback on the options detailed by the traffic study. 

The hope is to have a final draft implementation plan to present to the city council for approval by March 2020. 

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