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'Continuing to get worse': Concerned residents calling for safety improvements at Billings intersection

'Continuing to get worse': Concerned residents calling for safety improvements at Billings intersection
Posted at 4:22 PM, Oct 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-17 18:22:47-04

BILLINGS — The intersection of 64th Street West and King Avenue West has been causing concern for Billings resident Christina Durand for as long as she can remember.

“Being out here for as long as I have, there’s been a lot of close calls,” Durand said on Tuesday.

Durand lives off of South 88th Street West and King Avenue. She grew up in the area and moved back in 2007, so she knows the county roads well. As a mother of a 16-year-old driver and driving her other children to Elder Grove School daily, she fears the intersection at 64th Street because she said she sees or hears about a car wreck there at least once a week.

“You squeeze that steering wheel tight and just hold your breath,” she said. “I’m concerned for my family. I’m concerned for my community. I’m concerned for, you know, people that aren’t from this area that come out here. I mean every county road out here has a different speed limit. You might think that it’s a four-way stop and it's not.”

Traffic on 64th Street is supposed to stop for oncoming traffic on King Ave West, but Durand said she sees cars not obeying that and pulling out in front of the oncoming traffic that is moving at 60 miles per hour.

The Elder Grove Elementary School principal, Jesse Moore, is also worried about the intersection. It is just a mile away from the school and is used by families and faculty on their way to and from school.

“It is a dangerous intersection. It’s hard to see traffic, especially going 60 mph, and trying to get out on 64th is difficult,” Moore said. “It’s definitely becoming an issue that is continuing to get worse each year as we continue to grow.”

A Montana Department of Transportation traffic volume count recorded nearly 8,000 vehicles driving through the intersection on King Avenue in a 24-hour span in April of this year.

Both Moore and Durand said they have tried to call state transportation and Yellowstone County officials about the situation, but they said they have gotten little in response.

“I surely would hope that we could at least get the speed limit reduced in that area,” Moore said. “We all have positive intent here. I just think there’s a bit of confusion about who is responsible for that intersection.”

They both just want safety improvements to the intersection.

“What we have in place right now, is not working,” Durand said.

Zach Kirkemo, MDT traffic engineer in Billings, said the agency does have upcoming projects in the works to improve the intersection.

"A short-term project includes improvements to signing and pavement markings around the intersection and add destination lighting. This project is anticipated to be constructed Summer-Fall 2024," Kirkemo said in an email to MTN News. "As a long-term solution, MDT has recently programmed a project to construct a roundabout at this intersection. Since the project has just been initiated, we do not have a construction date established. These projects typically take multiple years to complete the design, acquire the right-of-way, and subject to availability of funding. Safety is MDT’s top priority, and our goal is to deliver the project as soon as possible."