- Associated Press - Saturday, February 8, 2014

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - The Montana Transportation Department is giving the city of Helena about $500,000 in state money to make downtown sidewalks accessible for those who have trouble moving.

The Independent Record reports (https://bit.ly/13fZoJE ) in a story Saturday that the project’s total cost is about $587,000 and requires a 13-percent cash match.

City Manager Ron Alles said between 170 and 175 sidewalk ramps will be installed downtown this summer. “I think this will just make it safer for all pedestrians downtown,” he said.

The sidewalks will be extended into parking lanes on each side of streets, meaning pedestrians will have a shorter distance to walk to cross a street.

Alles said the improvements, which he called “absolutely critical,” would likely include all downtown intersections. The end result would also mean better-looking curbs and gutters, he said.

The city’s Americans with Disabilities Act Committee in 2011 identified improving the sidewalk ramps as a priority.

The transportation department said the grant benefits both local and tribal governments.

“A critical part of a community’s infrastructure is the availability of walking and biking paths and trails for recreation,” Gov. Steve Bullock said in a news release. “These communities will be able to make the necessary improvements to ensure our children can get to school safely as well as providing recreational opportunities for all residents.”

The agency said that more than $7 million in grant money is being distributed through the agency’s Transportation Alternatives Program, enough to pay for 25 projects across the state.

Lori Ryan, public information officer with the Transportation Department, said a five-person committee reviewed and ranked the applications based on five categories. Some of those included safety and accessibility and how the project improves existing local transportation.

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Information from: Independent Record, https://www.helenair.com


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