BILLINGS — Traffic congestion isn’t anything new in Billings, but construction always seems to compound the problem, especially in places like the intersection of 24th Street West and Central Avenue. The city says the construction now should make for smooth sailing later.
The project at 24th and Central cost around $700,000 and "has been in the works for years," according to city Engineer Mac Fogelsong.
"It's got multiple elements there. So, while we’re adding the turn lane, we’re also trying to update some of the signal controllers to where we can do some more remote monitoring and improve traffic flow along the corridor," said Fogelsong.
The city is also adding more pedestrian crossing improvements to that area. It’s short-term pain for long-term gain, as the project is designed to eventually improve congestion. And it’s not the only spot being affected by construction crews.
"We actually have another project that looks like it’s a part of the same project. At Lewis and the mall entrance and also at Monad and all the way up at Grand and 24th. We’re doing some signal controller upgrades with some conduit. What that will allow us to do is look at the whole 24th street corridor and fine-tune and dial in the traffic flow patterns and time the signals better," added Fogelsong.
The intent is to make things easier, but for Jim Robbins, a resident of Billings for 85 years, it's been a headache.
"This traffic here, especially here on 24th, is pretty bad. I wish they’d go in there and get it done and over within a short period of time," Robbins said from the nearby Winco parking lot.
Thankfully for Robbins and others frustrated with the backup, the end is in sight. The project at 24th and Central is expected to be complete by the middle of October. But the arrival of the Chick-Fil-A restaurant in Billings in the coming months could create even more traffic trouble farther down 24th.
According to Fogelsong, the improvements now should help down the road.
"Once that’s installed, we’ll be watching the traffic flow on 24th, whether we need to adjust signal timing and those kinds of things. That will kind of merge with the signal timing in the future with those other upgrades that I mentioned," said Fogelsong
That's good news to the ears of drivers like Robbins, who just wants things back to normal.
"Get it done and over with and let’s get our traffic patterns back," added Robbins.