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A man jogs through the snow covered street on Howell Street on Missoula's Westside. Beginning in April, sidewalks will be built in the Westside and Franklin to the Fort neighborhoods, with a $260,000 grant offsetting homeowner costs.

A walk through Missoula’s Westside neighborhood makes it clear there’s a sidewalk problem.

Pedestrians in the area generally forgo finding an off-street option altogether, since following the sidewalks is impossible from block to block.

The city’s known this for years, and knows it’s a problem in other areas of town as well. But the Westside, along with the Franklin to the Fort neighborhood, stand out.

About a mile of new sidewalk will be built in the two neighborhoods this summer, with property owners' cost offset due to more than $260,000 of grant funding. The funding has not yet been finalized.

“These project areas were kind of on our short list of projects,” city Construction Projects Manager Monte Sipe said. “It also met some of the (grant) criteria needs for some lower-income neighborhoods.”

On the Westside, the sidewalks to be built are at:

  • Cowper Street between Stoddard and Sherwood
  • Sherwood Street between Cowper and Burton

And in Franklin to the Fort:

  • Grant Street between South 11th Street West and South 14th Street West
  • Corner of Washburn and South 10th Street West
  • Eaton Street between South 10th Street West and South 11th Street West

If all goes according to schedule, sidewalk construction would start in April, Sipe said, and none of the sidewalks will infringe on private property, though they may vary from curbside and boulevard sidewalks, depending on how much space is in the city right-of-way.

Right now, the grant process is going through environmental impact review, a step required by the federal government, although Will Sebern, grants administrator with the city’s office of Housing and Community Development, said they haven’t found any potential impacts.

Sebern’s office worked with the city’s Public Works Department and Invest Health to find the best places in the Westside and Franklin to the Fort to build the sidewalks.

During a study completed last year, Invest Health did neighborhood walkabouts in the two areas and had a good feel for where sidewalks would “maximize connections" to schools, parks and bus stops, Sebern said.

According to survey responses in the Invest Health report, 45 percent of Northside/Westside, Franklin to the Fort and River Road respondents said more sidewalks were the No. 1 neighborhood need, and the issue shows up all over the report.

“The lack of sidewalks in those neighborhoods was correlating with public health outcomes,” Sebern said. “The disparity between the sidewalk infrastructure in these and other neighborhoods … we’re going to see a pretty strong impact.” 

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City, County Government Reporter

Government reporter for the Missoulian.