It appears a portion of George Street in Butte will become one-way heading east now that commissioners have heard unanimous “do it” demands from residents along the busy road.
Commissioners Bud Walker and Brendan McDonough say they will seek an ordinance change to make George one way for a five-block span between Oregon and Phillips Avenue because of recent crashes and longstanding safety concerns.
The change would take a couple of weeks or longer and needs council approval, but McDonough and Walker said residents have spoken and they plan to get the process started in committee Wednesday night.
They sought a traffic analysis of George this past summer after cars crashed into houses along the street in two separate incidents.
A traffic consultant recommended the one-way stretch on George, which narrows to alley width in spots but is heavily traveled because it’s one of the few direct east-west routes between Montana Street and Harrison Avenue.
Several residents appeared at a public hearing before commissioners last week and urged them to make the change. They included Mary Sutherland, whose house was hit by a car this past June and sustained $20,000 in damages.
Her fence has been struck 14 times during the nine years she’s lived in the house at Whitman and George, she said. Not only is the street extremely narrow, stops signs are obscured by trees and bushes because fence-lines are the only right-of-way, she said.
“This has been a real problem for a very, very long time,” she said. “This is not new — I think a lot of us just didn’t know who to talk to about it.”
Residents noted that there are lots of kids in the neighborhood and Emerson Elementary School is located there, too.
“Every summer I have to go tell the children that like to set up their lemonade stand right on that block not to sit there because the cars can’t see them,” Sutherland said. “They run through the stop signs, they are flying through that stretch of road.”
Jared Trilling said he does not live off of George Street but has a garden in Sutherland’s yard and spends time tending it. He said for whatever reason, a “driving culture” has been created on George that does not fit a neighborhood street.
“When I’ve been gardening, I’ve had people swear out their windows at me,” he said. “I’ve had lit fireworks thrown at me. I’ve had people spray diesel exhaust fumes on me purposefully, and then there’s people doing wheelies down the street.”
McDonough said residents who could not attend last week’s hearing called or sent him emails citing similar concerns and support for the one-way proposal.
“We had all sorts of proponents,” he said, and nobody against the plan.
Walker noted that once the council votes for the change, it will take 30 more days for the local law to take effect. The plan is to put one-way signs up and down the five-block stretch.
“Hopefully this will correct the issue and if it doesn’t, we will try something different,” Walker said.