Business owners square off over Higgins Ave
A contentious plan to use a federal grant to yet again retool the Beartracks Bridge divided local entrepreneurs and everyday Missoulians during a City Club forum Monday.
Missoula’s Downtown Safety and Mobility Project seeks a Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity grant to convert Higgins Avenue from four to three lanes in the business districts north and south of the recently remodeled bridge, along with a suite of other downtown improvements.
According to Jeremy Keene, public works and mobility director, an analysis of the advantages and drawbacks of the proposal attributed $87 million in benefits like sustainability and safety, while the price tag would be about $18 million.
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But the proposal, which would increase bike lanes but cut down on parking, has rankled many in the community.
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“Downtown’s a hard place to work,” Keene admitted. “…We have a lot of different competing interests.”
The Bell Pipe and Tobacco owner Otis McCullough was blunter in his assessment of the proposal: “The time to stop is now.”
McCullough’s issues with the project ranged from