Sunday, October 14

What are We Going to Get for $162 Million?

With numbers like the ones being bandied around here, you would think I was talking about a coal plant. However, here we are talking about something as mundane as a new road.

Last week, I attended the public meeting for the planned Southern Arterial, which would connect traffic from I-15 to 57th Street. Over the past 30 years, this planned road has been thought of as a bypass, but that isn't what city planners are now thinking.

I have been hearing about plans for this road since I was in kindergarten. This route was first proposed in 1968. However, with the downturn in our economy in the early 1970's, the idea was shelved.

Now, it is back. However, this isn't a bypass to allow truck traffic from Calgary to Denver/Salt Lake to easily go around Great Falls and, in the process, stay off 10th Ave. South. Instead, this would be a local road (probably around 40 MPH), with controlled intersections every mile or so. According to city planners, they envision it to be used by people such as medical professionals living in Fox Farm going to the hospital and USAF drivers going to and from Malmstrom and MANG. They don't envision more than 8,000 - 10,000 vehicles on this road per day. This should be contrasted to 10th Avenue South, which currently has about 40,000 vehicles/day.

Now, I don't see an investment like this staying unused. If built, I see something more like King Avenue in Billings. That route has become a mecca for big-box stores, like the ones that were just built on 10th Avenue South at the Mall. Is that the real idea here?

To build this route, the City and State will have to condemn and purchase anywhere from 13 - 21 private residences. The completed route will cost anywhere from $100 - $162 Million, depending on final route configuration. Another bridge will have to be built across the Missouri.

Is this a good investment? Both City and State planners seem to think so. However, if we are not going to really provide a bypass for through truck traffic, what are we really accomplishing here? I look forward to your thoughts.

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