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City aiming for grant to build pedestrian bridge over tracks on Billings South Side

Artist rendering from 2001 of the pedestrian bridge
Posted at 4:58 PM, Jan 17, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-17 18:58:50-05

BILLINGS — The city of Billings has long had plans to build a pedestrian bridge connecting South and North 25th Street over the railroad tracks. Now, the ball is rolling yet again, as the city awaits approval for a federal grant to fund the project.

"When the city was designed by the Railroad, they had the South Side and the North Side,” said Ted Wilson, the city of Billings grant administrator, on Wednesday. "A lot of history could be centered right in that area with this project."

Ted Wilson
Ted Wilson

Train traffic is ingrained in Billings' history, splitting the town in two.

"Connecting two very old neighborhoods in Billings. The South Side and the North Side of the railroad tracks, which goes all the way back to 1882,” Wilson said.

Wilson started his job with the city in September after moving to Montana from Alaska. His first project: writing grants for a pedestrian bridge on 25th Street.

"It was actually my first project. As soon as I landed, they said, ‘Ok, let’s get this in.’" Wilson said. "They'd been trying to do this since at least 1997."

The plan includes a 1901 riveted steel bridge that was taken out of commission in Joliet and has since been waiting for its next home.

"That bridge has been in storage on this person’s property since, I think, 1984 when it came out of service. It had been in service near there on Rock Creek,” Wilson said.

Now, more than two decades later, there's finally some progress.

"They actually turned in a proposal for a grant in 2014 and were actually funded. But, that proposal had a different conveyance system on either end of the bridge and it turned out that it was going to be too expensive," Wilson said. "So even though they had the grant, they couldn’t find additional money to pay for it so it didn’t happen. Now they’ve scaled that back.”

This is big news for downtown businesses.

"I’m looking forward to that because more foot traffic, more customers. I think it’s a great idea to have a bridge here,” said Veronika Gerasimova, the owner of Veronika's Pastry Shop, on Wednesday. "It's exciting."

Veronika Gerasimova
Veronika Gerasimova

Veronika’s Pastry Shop has called Montana Avenue home for nearly seven years.

"When I first moved to Billings, it was in 1999. Montana Avenue was a little bit, I won’t say spooky, but not really a walking-friendly place. But now, Billings did an awesome job. They developed and fixed it. I love it. Montana Avenue is a great addition to downtown,” Gerasimova said. "Billings has helped me a lot to develop my little business."

Veronika's Pastry Shop
Veronika's Pastry Shop

A great addition that could soon increase connectivity to the South Side.

"We need more people downtown. All the businesses moving to the West End or Shiloh Crossing because downtown is kind of like a little bit tight," Gerasimova said. "But now we'll have that awesome project. I love it."

The city anticipates hearing back from the U.S. Department of Transportation by late February for grant approval.

"We’ve got lots of things in the hopper," Wilson said. "Stay tuned."

25th Street North
25th Street North

To learn more about the project, click here.