City of Missoula crews recently worked on a safety striping project on South Fifth Street West and South Sixth Street West between Higgins Avenue and Russell Street. Ward 3 City Councilor Gwen Jones says this was a much-needed change. She says two-lane one-way streets are a bit archaic.

“They were actually created as a traffic engineering tool in the 1950’s and 1960’s,” Jones said. “They were designed to get people out of town quickly if there was a nuclear attack. They are not a best practice now. They are considered pretty dangerous. Ultimately, the best scenario for 5th and 6th would be to turn them back into two direction streets. However, that would entail redoing several of the street lights and that is hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Jones says the pedestrian double threat was a significant safety concern.

“The reason and rational behind all of this is not necessarily to get bike lanes in,” Jones said. “There has been a fixation on bike lanes. If there are better bike lanes as a biproduct of this, that is fine with me, but the true underlying rational is a safety concern. If you are trying to cross 5th or 6th, you come up and the car in the first lane stops. They wave people across and the car in the second lane has no visibility of someone crossing or vice versa. The pedestrian can’t see that car because there is a blind spot.”

According to Jones, this striping project solved a number of problems.

“First of all, we are eliminating some of the speed issues because you can only go as fast as the car ahead of you,” Jones said. “Secondly, we have eliminated the double hazard. Finally, we improved traffic through the busy intersections of Orange and Higgins. As that single lane comes up to those busy streets it forks so we have just as many, if not more, lanes to turn left, turn right and go straight. We wanted to get people through.”

There were 277 crashes on 5th and 6th street between 2007 and 2014. That equates to nearly one crash every ten days on those two streets. Here is the story KGVO did when the project began.

Photo Courtesy of the City of Missoula