Butte-Silver Bow hires city planner to improve walkability


Butte-Silver Bow hires city planner to improve walkability

BUTTE, Mont. - Butte-Silver Bow is paying an urban designer $20,000 to come up with a plan on how to grow the city. City Planner Jeff Speck travels around the country researching towns and cities, and gives them advice.

Sean Cleverly has been riding his bike through Butte for three decades.

"We have some inner-city bike trails that we share with walkers and those are great," Cleverly said. "But as far as destination trails or paths we don't."

He said the city isn't as bike-friendly as he'd like it to be, if they added a lane on the streets for bicycles.

"I think it would be a great idea," he said. "I think it would promote people commuting on their bikes."

Creating bike lanes is one of many suggestions by Speck. Butte-Silver Bow hired him to come up with ways to improve city growth.

"I'm looking at all the factors that will add up to create street life in your city, because street life is what will make the city vibrant," Speck said.

Wednesday morning, city officials and community members met with Speck to discuss his ideas for uptown Butte, like how to make Uptown more pedestrian-friendly.

Speck had several ideas to improve walkability in the Uptown area, like removing push buttons at crosswalks and instead automatically flashing the walk signal when the light turns green.

"I think getting rid of push-button signals, in favor of what we call concurrent signals, that's certainly something we want to look into," Speck said.

Speck's also looking at the roads themselves. He said there is 10 to 20 feet of extra space in the street.

"Turn parallel parking into angled parking, which helps businesses a lot," Speck suggested.

We asked people walking through Uptown what they thought of Speck's suggestions.

"I think its a great idea," said Billings resident Dustin Schillinger.

"I think more bike paths that go by populated areas would be utilized really well," said Butte resident Andrew Joyce.

Many are on board, but some say the city should focus on other areas of town, too.

"I don't think it makes much sense to let the neighborhoods slide while you're putting everything you've got into the central," said Butte resident Phil Atkins.

The ideas won't go into effect until after the city does more research and gets enough funding.

Speck will be paid from Uptown Butte's Tax Increment Finance District fund, or TIFID. That's a collection of taxes from specific properties in the Uptown area and is meant to go toward revitalization and renewal of that same area.

Within the next two years, taxes from the new NorthWestern Energy Geo building and money paid at the future parking garage will go into making these ideas into reality.

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