How to Cross a 7-Lane Highway: Go Under, Not Over

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Billings cyclists participate in a ribbon cutting to christen a new bike/pedestrian tunnel that connects bike trails under Montana's busiest highway (Jackie Yamanaka)

(Billings - Jackie Yamanaka, Yellowstone Public Radio)  Overcast skies and a few snowflakes didn't deter a group of cyclists, runners, government officials and others from christening a newly completed tunnel under Montana's busiest highway.

Darlene Tussing is the Alternative Modes Coordinator for the City of Billings. "It's seven lanes of traffic," she says. "And it's not someplace you'd like to take your family on a bike ride."

Until now.

This tunnel connects an existing bike/pedestrian path into new trail into a neighborhood known as the Billings Heights.  Before this tunnel was bored under this major arterial for traffic that includes semi trucks, Main Street was considered a barrier that only the most determined cyclists crossed. This underpass had skeptics and critics because Billings bike/pedestrian trails are a work in progress. Sometimes they end abruptly.

Denis Pitman is a city councilman representing the Heights. He says this tunnel proves otherwise, adding it also symbolically and literally unites the Heights with the rest of Billings. "It's not just a tunnel to nowhere or just a fun thing for some bikers or walkers," Pitman says. "It's about the spirit of this community."

Listen to the story here.