The professionals at Sanderson Stewart are responsible for the visioning and design of many of the Billings Area’s iconic trails. They believe that supporting the trail system and TrailNet is imperative to creating a thriving, enduring community for our neighbors and their families to enjoy for years to come.  3 of those professionals are involved in current Billings trails projects. 

Danielle Scharf, PE, PTOE, LEED AP, has designed many trails in the area and was the project manager for the Highway 3 Corridor Study that provided the preliminary design for the Skyline Trail.  D.J. Clark, PE, PTOE is the project manager for several Billings area transportation projects including the 5th Avenue Corridor multi-modal project.  Tim Pritz, PE is the project manager for the Inner Belt Loop and Skyline Trail project, a project that was decades in the making and one that he considers to be the legacy project of his career.

Danielle Scharf explains her inspiration for the design of the Skyline Trail – “There is extensive parkland that exists along the top of the Rims.  In fact, there are over 300 acres of parks and open space within one mile of the Skyline Trail corridor, as well as 12 miles of existing trails. That is something very unique to this corridor and a primary reason why the multi-modal and recreational connectivity provided by this project are so important to the Billings community.  It is also a key component of the proposed Marathon Loop trail that will eventually provide a continuous off-street loop around the entire city.  The Skyline Trail and the Stagecoach Trail together present an opportunity to fill in a missing gap in the Marathon Loop.”

With the pending opening of the Inner Belt loop, there have been public concerns about traffic impacts in the area.  As a Professional Traffic Operations Engineer (PTOE), D.J. Clark addressed some of those concerns. “Traffic demand/congestion in the Zimmerman Trail/32nd St. West corridor may increase when the Inner Belt Loop opens, but the increases are expected to be relatively minor, particularly once the novelty of driving the new road dies down.  The reason is that the majority of traffic that will use the Inner Belt Loop to travel between the northern part of the Heights and the West End likely already utilized Zimmerman Trail via Airport Road to make those trips.  Congestion may be temporarily worse, particularly in the northern part of the corridor, but revert back to normal levels over time.” 

Another exciting trail project is underway in downtown Billings.  The 5th Avenue Corridor project has the opportunity to connect downtown Billings from the YMCA to the Metra with multi-use trails,  parks and gathering spaces. The City of Billings, Sanderson Stewart, and Alta are currently working on conceptual design for the Linear Park segment (N. 32nd St. to N. 26th St.) of the 5th Avenue Corridor project.  The project team has made progress on the design of the corridor, despite uncertainties regarding redevelopment of several of the properties adjacent to the preferred corridor route.  There will be a public meeting this summer to update the community on the project progress.  For more information, please don’t hesitate to contact D.J. Clark of Sanderson Stewart, the consultant project manager.

Tim Pritz reflects on the design challenges and opportunities of the Inner Belt Loop and Skyline Trail, taking full advantage of our beautiful natural surroundings while creating a trail that is safe and accessible for all. “The Skyline Trail was designed to be functional in that it will eventually be a segment of the long-anticipated Marathon Loop.  Design based on purely functionality is usually a boring exercise. Since the Skyline Trail is set atop the Rimrocks, there were many opportunities to take advantage of the beautiful natural landscape and views provided by the unique features of the Rimrocks while providing the functionality of a path adjacent to a roadway corridor.  Building the trail adjacent to a busy highway is not ideal but integrating the natural landscape with intermittent areas that get away from the roadway make it a much more appreciated user experience.

There are many challenges associated with building a multi-use path adjacent to a highway while taking advantage of the unique landscape features of the Billings Rimrocks.  During design of the Skyline Trail, many competing factors needed to be evaluated.  These factors included safety, user experience, connectivity, and project budget.  The project also needed to be constructed within available existing public rights-of-way.  Ideally, the views from Skyline Trail would be best if the entire project was built within the natural landscaped area or at the top edge of the Rimocks’ to best capture the spectacular views.  But constructing the trail too far from access points would have limited connectivity for those users with limited mobility and the costs in designing and constructing a safe facility would be too expensive to make the project viable due to the rough terrain.  After weighing all of the design factors, we believe we have a project that is functional, safe and provides a unique, accessible user experience.”

The Skyline Trail is beautiful and was designed to be enjoyed by and accessible to all users.  The project extends from Zimmerman Park to the Airport and includes a total of 4 parking lots with ADA accessible parking stalls.  The design includes ADA ramps to access the trail on each of the public streets intersecting the Skyline Trail, including two at the Masterson Drive/Highway 3 intersections and one at the Stoney Ridge Drive/Highway 3 intersection.

When not designing trails and other infrastructure, Tim and his wife, Tara, use the trails in Billings frequently.  Tara is an avid runner and is often training for marathons while Tim tries to keep up with her on his bike.  He says that his family gets tired of riding along with him because, as the designer of many of the trails, he frequently stops to point out interesting features and design aspects along the trail.

Sanderson Stewart is a community design firm and part of the Sanbell family of companies with offices in Billings, Bozeman, and Helena, Montana; Fort Collins, Colorado; Reno and Elko, Nevada; and Concord, Pleasanton, and Roseville, California.  We are proud sponsors of TrailNet and trails everywhere.



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