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The Broadway streetscape project in downtown Billings, dreamed of for years and then delayed from an early spring start, finally got under way this week.

The $2 million project that will bring landscape improvement, curb extensions, decorative pavements, street furniture and architectural lighting to four blocks of North Broadway began Monday between Montana Avenue and First Avenue North.

Terry Smith, a traffic engineer in the city Public Works Department, said the contractors have 130 calendar days to finish the job.

In addition to the streetscaping that was envisioned as part of the Downtown Billings Framework Plan, completed four years ago, the project will include the replacement of water lines on three of the four blocks and rehabilitating storm drains along the length of the project, from Montana to Fourth Avenue North.

The general contractor is the JTL Group Inc.; the utility work is being done by Cop Construction.

The project cost was originally $1.6 million, of which $590,000 will be raised through assessments of $1.50 a square foot on the owners of 27 parcels included in the area. Other sources of funding are $488,000 in federal transportation funds; $200,000 in city funds for the utility and street work; and a $300,000 grant from the downtown tax increment district.

This spring, a $526,000 federal grant was added to the mix, with plans to use that money to make three intersections into gathering places. The centerpiece will be The Beaconing Rim, a structure supporting a sail-like canopy that will go up over Broadway and Second Avenue North.

The architectural attraction was chosen from among eight entries in a design contest sponsored by the Downtown Billings Partnership.

Smith said the structure is not yet a formal part of the streetscape contract, but the contractors have been in touch with A&E Architects to make sure the work takes the footings of the structure into account.

The Broadway project was designed by Fisher & Associates, the landscape architecture firm that also designed the streetscaping project on Montana Avenue. The Broadway project will incorporate similar features, with bulbed-out intersections, decorative concrete and trees and shrubs.

In

more info One informational meeting for downtown property owners, contractors and anyone else interested in the Broadway streetscape project has already been held. More meetings are scheduled for July 12 at 3 p.m., July 20 at 7:30 a.m. and July 26 at 3 p.m. All meetings will be in the Downtown Information Hub, 2906 Third Ave. N.

The Downtown Billings Association has extensive information about the project on its Web site — www.downtownbillings.com — including several pages of frequently asked questions.

addition to the work that will be done all along Broadway, two businesses, Travel Cafe and Casey’s Golden Pheasant, plan to add sidewalk patios similar to the one already open at the Montana Brewing Co.

Smith said the contractors hope to close two blocks of traffic at a time as they proceed north, while maintaining pedestrian access to all businesses.

The project originally was to have begun early in spring and wrap up by mid-July, Smith said, but the Montana Department of Transportation, as a partner in the project, suggested some major changes to the plans, mostly in regard to accessibility and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“We kept submitting and resubmitting to MDT to get approval,” Smith said. “But it will be a better project for it, a much better project.”

There was some talk of delaying the project until next year, given the late start, but several of the grants had to be spent this year. The downtown partnership also thought it would be less disruptive for businesses that had adjusted inventories based on doing the project this year.

The project will not conflict with any regular downtown events. The Downtown Billings Association has already worked with events like the Farmers’ Market to move them from Broadway to North 29th Street.Ed Kemmick can be reached at 657-1293 or ekemmick@billingsgazette.com

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