Billings working to make it safer for kids to walk to school

The City of Billings has multiple projects underway to make it safer for kids to walk to school.

One project is called the "Missing Sidewalk Program." The program involves adding sidewalks where students are currently walking to school on the side of the road.

Billings City Traffic Engineer Erin Claunch said sidewalks have recently been added on Barrett Road, west of Bitterrott, 54th Street West, north of Rimrock, 21st Street West, north of Colton, and Murphy, west of Calhoun.

Claunch said Billings is also analyzing about 50 crosswalks to determine which ones need flashing lights. The cost to upgrade a single crosswalk can be $20,000. He said there is funding to upgrade 3-5 crosswalks.

Claunch said the ultimate safety enhancer is drivers paying attention to the speed limits and signs.

He said, "The big thing that we ask is just making sure people are aware. We've got a bunch of signs out there. We get complaints of needing more signs. The funny thing is when we tell those complaints that the signs are out there, they are surprised they're even out there. We've got school speed zones in various, different schools. They are out there for a reason and that's to enhance the safety of the kids crossing and the school zones in general."

Claunch said big changes are coming to King Avenue East in front of Ponderosa Elementary School. Billings will be adding a sidewalk on the north side of the street and a trail on the south side. There will be a bulbout at the crosswalk- a place where the roadway narrows so the crosswalk is shorter. And, there will be a flashing beacon. He said these changes will probably be coming next summer.

Billings has "Safe Routes to School" maps for all of the schools in the city. You can see those maps here: https://ci.billings.mt.us/DocumentCenter/View/37472/SRTS-Figures

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