City exploring changes to Helena’s notorious five point intersections

Posted at 4:28 PM, Jun 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-05 14:39:34-04

HELENA – The City of Helena is looking at making changes to two notorious intersections.

Both of Helena’s five point intersections, known locally as the malfunction junctions, have been around for about as long as Helena has.

According to City Engineer Ryan Leland, the main reason for the convoluted intersections is the trolley that comes from the railroad depot to the downtown area. Now the city is preparing for a new traffic study that has the potential to create big changes.

For the intersection at Lyndale Avenue and N Montana Avenue, one goal is to improve traffic flow and access to nearby businesses and schools. The city will investigate how to get access into Caird Engineering, the Sixth Ward and Helena High School as well as look at what changes to the intersection may be necessary to make access easier.

Roundabouts will be examined as a potential solution at both intersections, including the junction at Last Chance Gulch and Helena Avenue. The Helena Businesses Improvement District also wants to change Last Chance Gulch in downtown from a one-way to a two-way street. The Helena City Commission and BID asked Leland’s office to investigate how and if such a change could be made.

Other traffic changes are coming as well. Leland said the popular turn off from N. Montana Avenue onto Boulder Avenue has become a safety hazard. Cars have been backing up in the left turn lane and causing collisions. Leland said the turn lane will likely be closed off in the future.

However, no major changes will happen right away. The city is working to hire Robert Peccia and Associates to do the traffic study, which will take about a year. From there, any construction will be very costly and it will take time to seek out grants to pay for the work.

“To see anything major in there is going to be a significant project. We’re looking at 23 to 30 million dollars to really do anything,” Leland said.

The city is soliciting public feedback on “how and what” to evaluate with the two intersections. Two public meetings are scheduled for June 18 in room 32 of the City/County Building at 10:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.