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Billings residents get look at proposed Zoo Drive improvements

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Posted at 10:50 PM, Apr 03, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-04 08:07:03-04

BILLINGS - Billings residents got a look at a new project Wednesday evening that could help alleviate traffic in one of the fastest-growing parts of town.

An open house was held for residents to give input and get questions answered about the Zoo Drive improvement project that is slated to start early next year.

A lot has changed in this part of West Billings, with businesses such asthe new Costco popping up, and traffic that seems to get worse all the time.

The $5 million plus construction project should make the going easier, whether heading out for shopping or to ZooMontana.

“Things are busier than ever out here and things are backing up, and we are seeing real traffic, which has never really been a thing in Montana but it is now, so seeing this widening of Zoo Drive is going to be just spectacular for those that visit and those residents that are going to Costco. It’s going to be a great thing for the community,” said Jeff Ewelt, the executive director for the zoo.

Anticipated improvements include:

  • Widening and reconfiguring Zoo Drive to a five-lane roadway with two lanes going each way and a center turn lane.
  • Widening a section of Gabel Road and adding a second left turn lane onto Zoo Drive.
  • There will also be intersection and traffic signal improvements, median modifications, additional connectivity for pedestrians, ADA upgrades, and partial widening of the 1-90 ramps.

The hope is that construction will start early in the spring of 2025 and be completed later that year.

“We will likely have to segment it. We are still developing our traffic control plan to try and make it easy on the public. It might make sense to close certain segments at a time but not all the time we don’t want to impact businesses too much. There’s a balance there and that’s one reason we are having an open house,” said Kyle Shuck, Billings district engineer for the Montana Department of Transportation.

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Some residents had questions, and others concerns. Kristi Drake, executive director for Billings TrailNet, wants to make sure there will be a way to connect the Marathon Bike Trail that will eventually loop 26.2 miles around Billings.

“I just want to be sure MDOT is listening to the city and really taking residents opinions into perspective and into consideration when they are doing big projects like this,” she said.

“I would ask for patience on this we know it needs to be done and we are working through it. There’s a lot of details in a project like this. We are trying to make it better for the community and giving it our best effort,” Shuck said.

Click here for more information on the project.