Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Sidewalks, City Streets, and Solar Loan Program to be discussed at Wednesday's Admin Meeting


Upcoming City of Helena Commission Administrative and formal Monday meeting agenda and packets are now posted at http://www.helenamt.gov/commission.html. They are usually available by late Friday preceding the admin meeting.

This Wednesday's meeting will include discussion of a conservation loan program, methodology for complying with longstanding sidewalk and boulevard ordinances when streets are resurfaced, and opportunities to improve safety on Boulder Avenue following a recent request to make Roberts and Boulder a 4-way stop.

Full Packet Here: http://www.helenamt.gov/commission.html

Commissioner Elsaesser Comments and Notes:

Item 5-CommDev_a: I support City investment in pilot projects or partnerships that can promote energy saving and alternative energy in lighting districts. The City of Helena and residents of Helena pay upwards of a million dollars a years for installation, upkeep, and energy for said districts. The long-term nature of these districts behooves such investments.

Item 5CommDev_b: I support the establishment of this program. Hopefully it will pave the way for residents to be able to fund investments in conservation and alternative energy that reduce their long-term costs AND demands on public infrastructure. Given other demands on staff time, I would support exploring contracting management of the program to the Montana Business Assistance Connection (MBAC) development corp as they already manage city revolving loan funds and related conservation funds for Montana Departments of Environmental Quality (D.E.Q.).

Item 5_Public Work_ a, b, c:  The City of Helena should better coordinate investments in the safety, infrastructure, and traffic improvements as envisioned in Helena "Complete Streets" Policy Resolution and the "Complete and Green" streets concept outlined here. These documents encourage smarter investments that include coordination between city streets, other city utilities, regulatory requirements, and neighborhood safety improvements as part of major public capital investments. The laws related to sidewalks, boulevards, and storm water are long standing city ordinances. More details and an example of better public investments in street right of way posted here.

Full Packet and Links Here: http://www.helenamt.gov/commission.html

Other Upcoming Meetings:

Administrative Meeting- September 30, 2015 - 4:00p.m. - City/Co Bldg, Room 326
City/County Joint Work Session- October 1, 2015 - 4:00p.m. - City/Co Bldg, Room 326
City Commission Meeting- October 5, 2015 - 6:00p.m. - City/Co Bldg, Commission Chambers

Special TCC Meeting to Dedicate Urban Funds - TBA, Tentatively Mid-October 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Maximum Trip Policy at the Transfer Station Should be Amended to Allow More Trips or Eliminated Entirely

[Update: I should note that I opposed the policy of limiting permit holders visits to the transfer station from the start. The policy limits the value of service provided to permit holders who pay an annual assessment, demonstrated no actual savings, and continues to be a distraction from positive investments that should be made to improve service and realize efficiency at this public facility.]

Recent changes to the City of Helena Transfer Station were in part based on the notion that permit holders should have to pay for all trips to the facility. Comparisons were made to large central facilities, such at the Logan Landfill serving Gallatin County. 

A more apt comparison is rural convenience centers provided across most for persons who haul their own waste, as shown in the following example of drop-off facilities in Cascade County. These facilities provide more trip allowances recognizing some residents may prefer to haul their trash on a weekly basis. 

Note: The City of Helena Commission will, rightly, be taking up this policy in coming weeks. The commission will be exploring establishing a 30 visit per six months (60 visits per year) trip allowance for permit holders or striking the maximum trip policy all together.


- Matt E

Matthew Elsaesser, Commissioner
City of Helena, Montana, USA

Example of Rural Collection Sites:
Cascade County's provides rural residents 26 punches per six months (52 visits per year), which allows for weekly visits to rural sites such as Hardy Creek just north of Lewis and Clark County. Resident can buy an additional punch card or pay per visit is needed (frequently asked questions; Cascade County Solid Waste Services Site).

Photo Taken by Matt Elsaesser, Summer 2015
Photo Taken by Matt Elsaesser, Summer 2015
Photo Taken by Matt Elsaesser, Summer 2015
Link to site in caption.
From: http://departments.cascadecountymt.gov/solidwasteservices accessed July 2015

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Funding for Secondary Routes in the Helena Area, Urban Funds

[Update: The City Commission has prioritized Benton Avenue, Henderson Ave, Sixth Avenue, and Eleven Avenue for the use of these funds. The Commission determined it would be better to utilize street utility, gas tax or other funds to establish the South Helena Gateway safety project for Cruse and the Cruse/Cutler/State Intersection due to the small scale of investment needed for that project.]

The Transportation Coordination Committee for the Helena area will be discussing the prioritization of "urban funds" at their September 8th meeting.

Urban Fund Details: 

Map of routes eligible for Urban Funds

From Urban Funds overview provided by MDT.

From Urban Funds overview provided by MDT.

Potential Project for the TCC to consider:
(Draft list provided to City Commission at Admin Meeting August 19, 2015)

Urban Funds: City, County, East Helena, and others on TCC should commit the current reserve of funds and next four years of funds through 2019. This will allow for staff to plan, meet with project partners and to get projects on ground to improve safety and conductivity in our community. As the last dedication of these funds was focused on support of alternative routes for the Custer Interchange and the Interchange itself, more local projects are appropriate and can meet community goals. Other funds from public and private sources may compliment many of these projects.

Potential Projects:
  • South Helena Gateway I; Safety improvements from Cruse Avenue from Park to Cutler $.25-.3m
  • Convert excess right of way to non-motorized facilities, make median a formal park, and improve intersection safety
  • Recreation and public opportunities in area already maintained by parks
  • Model example of green infrastructure
  • Provides substantial safety improvements was demonstrating improved utilization of right-of-way to save costs
  • South Helena Gateway II; West Main Traffic Calming and Safety Improvements: $.25-.75m
  • Improve safety at juncture between Gulches
  • Compliment West Main Project including utility and storm water work in flood plain downtown
  • Allow redirection of much needed gas tax funds to other, non-urban routes
  • Safe Routes to Schools Connections with ADA/Bike/Pedestrian Bridge at Henderson: $.4-.8m
  • Sheltered stairway from east side of bridge to Henderson Path
  • Sidewalks or path to Broadwater Estates and to Waukesha
  • Install curbside sidewalks on one side of Broadway from Capitol to Broadway Tunnel: $.15-.5m
  • Airport Road: $1-1.5m
  • Fix drainage issue with cost match from utilizes impacting ditch
  • Shared use path from Washington to Helena College of north side of road
  • Shared use path from Helena College to Carter on south side of road
  • Safe crossing for trail, consider private contribution to trail in lieu of sidewalks
  • Shared use path one west side of Montana Ave to Lincoln Road; Intersection Improvements between City and Lincoln Road: $.15-.5m
  • Green Capitals concepts for Cruse from Cutler to Broadway or Sixth or 11th: $.25-.75m
  • Look at center median and related concepts for beautification, green infrastructure and safety outlined for Last Chance Gulch between Euclid and Neill
  • Green/Complete Boulevard, Centennial Trail East Improvements on Lyndale: $.1-.3m
  • Safety improvements and road expansion at Benton: $1-1.5m
  • Crossing for Centennial Trail
  • Safety for events and use of public facilities
  • Compliment Quiet Zone investments
  • Signal and Centennial Trail West Crossing at Transfer Station/Carroll College
  • Turning lanes and approaches for neighborhoods and recreation areas
  • Sidewalk installation, traffic calming, and route improvements for Hauser from Benton to Henderson: $.1-.21m
  • Safety and traffic improvements for Urban Route Section of Hauser
  • Explore Green and Complete Streets concept outlined in Greening Capitals Report and storm water amendments to city tree ordinance.
  • Others?
  • Green Meadow intersections?
  • Freeway entrance to Lincoln road?
Potential changes or additions to urban routes in greater Helena area (mid-long term per future changes to urban routes):
  • Additional routes in East Helena and East Helena area
  • Changes to urban routes of Lyndale and Lamborn east of Montana, possibly to Boulder and California
  • Extension of Airport Road to East Helena
  • Other?

Public Meetings this September at the City of Helena

  • Solid Waste Round Table, Wednesday, Sept. 2nd, 3-5pm
  •  Public Charrette, Downtown Master Plan, Sept. 2nd, 5:30-7:00pm
    • Best Western Premier Great Northern Hotel, 835 Great Northern Blvd  
    • Details and a survey here
  • Transportation Coordination Committee, Sept. 8th, 3-4pm
    • Commission Chambers, City-County Building (Park & Lawrence downtown)
    • Will include prioritization of "Urban Funds"
  • City of Helena Commission Administrative Meeting, Sept. 9th, 4-6pm
    • Room 326, City-County Building (Park & Lawrence downtown)
    • To include discussion of recycling. Admin packet and agenda will be posted here.
  • City Commission Meeting, Sept. 14th, 6pm
    • Commission Chambers, City-County Building (Park & Lawrence downtown)
    • Meeting agenda and material will be posted here