The Hamilton City Planning Department has been working on a plan to improve the area around the city’s central intersection at Main Street/Marcus and Highway 93 since last fall. It is a collaborative project involving the Hamilton Downtown Association and Community Builders, a non-profit that provides communities with tools, information and support to create more livable places. They work with communities to establish training and assistance programs to help craft practical solutions that fit their particular circumstances and opportunities.
According to City Planner Matthew Rohrbach, the city recently completed a survey seeking citizen input on the project and is now looking for last minute input from the public while Rohrbach reviews the survey results.
In addition to the survey, the city held a series of public meetings starting last November and conducted interviews with major stakeholders in the area including Montana Department of Transportation, Rail Link and other property owners.
“We asked them what their issues are with the intersection, what would they like to see changed,” said Rohrbach. He said the aim was to come up with a set of projects that would improve the safety, efficiency and aesthetic values in the area that are realistic and doable rather than pie in the sky ideas.
A series of design workshops was held in February to come up with a more coherent draft of design ideas and alternatives.
Rohrbach said the driving issue in the process was to increase safety for pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles in the area. In the process, he said, “we are looking for opportunities to make it more visually appealing and attractive.”
“We want this major intersection to be a place of welcome for visitors and a place of beauty for local residents as well,” said Rohrbach. He said this could also lead to economic benefits in the area as well. He called it a three-prong approach focusing on safety, aesthetics, and economic development opportunities.
“We put out some design ideas and proposals and asked the stakeholders if it was possible. We just want to make sure as a city that whatever plan we adopt that we can move forward and implement it. We don’t want to spend a lot of time developing ideas that are not going to fly and have to go back to the drawing board,” said Rohrbach.
Once they get consensus from the public and the key stakeholders they can begin the slow process of implementation. He hopes to bring it to the city council for adoption in August. It will go through Committee of the Whole for discussion.
More information can be found and input may be given on the project on the web site www.connect93hamilton. Click on learn more about strategies and you’ll see a series of posters or click on the pdf version and you will see various plans for improving highway 93 and plans for Marcus Street. There is a bird’s eye view of the area.
Rohrbach said that it was a huge project and would certainly not get done all at once but would be phased in as portions became affordable. Some things will happen sooner and some things will take a while. Some of the work on the highway medians, for instance, may take a long time to get done, while other things like the improvements planned for facilities on Marcus street might happen quickly. Funding availability will also be a factor. Some funding is available through the state because these are both state roadways, he said.
“This project will not be funded totally from the general fund,” he said. “We are looking for all kinds of grant opportunities.” He said they were currently putting together an action plan that breaks things down into smaller projects that can get individual funding from other entities.
“I don’t want to generate any false expectations,” said Rohrbach. “This is a huge project and it is going to take a long time, several years, to get some of these things done, but you’ve got to have vision to start with and that’s what we are forming. You need this kind of a vision before you can start digging in and working out any kind of details.”
Rohrbach said anyone with an interest or questions may call him at 363-3317 or email him at [email protected]