A fully integrated transportation network is essential to our economy. In addition to traveling to and from work, we count on transportation every time we make an on-line purchase on the Internet, every time we expect an urgent overnight delivery, and every time we shop for fresh foods and produce at the local market. Without extensive, well-maintained roads and highways, a well-managed public transit and rail system, and modern airports, our quality of life suffers.
The Chamber believes that a strong economy and quality of life are fostered through well-planned economic development. Managed growth encourages infill development and re-development and stresses the efficient use of open space. We believe that a quality transportation system, both surface and air, that connects Billings locally and regionally is essential for a strong local economy and for the success of Billings’ area businesses in the regional and national markets.
Knowing that goods and services can be provided only as fast and effectively as our transportation system allows, the Billings Chamber of Commerce supports:
• Legislation that protects the integrity of both the Federal and State Highway Trust and Road Funds, ensures all current funds are utilized, and seizes the opportunity to rectify the impact of alternative fuels on these funds.
• Development and expansion of air transport infrastructure, including runways and terminals, to facilitate the ongoing increase in passenger miles and the expected tripling of air cargo by 2015.
• Public transportation systems that ease traffic congestion, conserve energy, increase mobility, create jobs, and generally stimulate the economy.
The Chamber supports improvements to transportation corridors locally and regionally that will enhance economic development and quality of life. Corridors should include non-motorized components as well as aesthetic enhancements whenever possible. Corridors presently identified are:
a. Shiloh Road
b. Heights-Bench Connector
c. Inner Belt Loop/Zimmerman Trail
d. North Bypass
e. Airport Road/Montana Highway 3 (Great Falls to Billings)
f. Interstate 90
Downtown Railroad Crossings
The Chamber supports the creation of a quiet zone and associated safety enhancements (including coordinated signal systems) that will allow for the improved flow of commerce across the City, and an improved (quieter) environment better suited to residential and business activities located in close proximity to the tracks.
The Chamber supports a combined City-County planning department to best plan for the future growth of the greater Billings community. A cohesive City-County growth strategy is critical to provide for an efficient development process. The Chamber supports appropriate County zoning, subdivision and development standards for areas close to the City limits that are compatible with City standards and reflect the likelihood that these areas will eventually be annexed into the City. Proactive community planning, which articulates a community’s vision for future development, requires the inclusion of private property. The Chamber supports the rights of private property owners and encourages substantial public notice to encourage the participation of property owners in community planning efforts. The Chamber does not believe that it is necessary or practical to require explicit permission from property owners when planning on a regional level.
City Annexation Policy
1. Pursue a long term policy that would include an annual tracking of growth within the city as well as in the 5 year limit area. The Task Force supports actively pursuing alternative sources of revenue for cities and towns through the legislative process.
2. The Chamber supports City annexation of new development as a means to manage growth. The City provides infrastructure that supports economic development and City zoning and development regulations provide the guidelines for orderly, efficient growth.
3. Encourage the City and County to support additional funding for the City-County Planning Department.
Subdivision and Zoning Regulations
The Chamber supports subdivision and zoning regulations that encourage efficient, orderly development, while allowing flexible and innovative development strategies. The Chamber supports the use of carefully considered incentives to encourage developers to invest in amenities such as parks, trails and open space.
The Chamber supports strategic, cost effective investment in public utilities as a way to manage the pattern of City growth and to discourage sprawl and encourage compact, space-efficient growth.
School District 2 Facilities
To support a growing 21st Century economy, it is crucial that Billings have a first-rate public school system. Therefore, the Chamber supports strategic, cost effective investment in the infrastructure that supports public education, including maintenance and revitalization of existing facilities and continuous long-range planning.
Quality of Life Amenities
The Chamber believes that proactive planning and investment in quality of life amenities, such as parks, trails, preserved open space, and recreational and cultural facilities is crucial to attracting economic investment and maintaining a vibrant work force.
Public and Alternative Forms of Transportation
In this era of traffic congestion, high gas prices, climate change, health concerns, and fiscal constraints, federal, state and local transportation funding has reached a crossroads. The Chamber supports investment in a more diverse transportation system that provides viable choices to walk and bike, use public transportation in addition to driving, and will lead to a far more efficient use of our transportation resources.