When news of Chick-Fil-A opening a new location in Missoula broke last year, excitement has been building for the eventual grand opening, which we reported will be late September of 2022. Missoulians have been split on whether they'll be visiting the fast food location based on various opinions surrounding social issues.

But one local group is raising questions about how the new restaurant will affect already-congested (we'd say "nightmarish" ourselves) traffic on N Reserve St.

That's...actually a great question

The Current State of Reserve St.

From Interstate 90 south to the Clark Fork River sits a massive district of businesses straddling Missoula's busiest street. Restaurants, retail outlets, grocery stores, and big-box chains jockey for position hoping to attract customers.

However, Reserve St. currently has only six (6) intersections with stoplights governing traffic in this 2-mile stretch that is arguably the most congested in the city. Those intersections are highlighted here with red dots:

Credit: Google Maps
Credit: Google Maps
  • Mullan Rd
  • Union Pacific St
  • England Blvd
  • International Dr / Stockyard Rd
  • Howard Raser Ave
  • i-90 interchange

If you're trying to get back on Reserve St. after visiting even one of these businesses on a side street without a traffic light, GOOD LUCK TURNING LEFT, especially during the day when Reserve is the most congested (9 am-6 pm). Drivers must migrate to one of the traffic lights on one of the aforementioned streets to either get back towards i90 or return to south of the river.

Credit: Benny Edwin
Credit: Benny Edwin

American Way in Missoula facing east. Once Chick-Fil-A opens, this road will be plenty busy with people who want their chicken sandwiches.

While turning left from these side streets like American Way comes with risks thanks to no traffic signals, the City Of Missoula Zoning Desk confirms that there are no legal restrictions in doing so.

Credit: Benny Edwin
Credit: Benny Edwin

American Way facing west. The divider on Reserve St does have an opening to make left-hand turns possible, but crossing two lanes of oncoming traffic without a turn lane is risky.

Why Bring This Up? Aren't We Talking About Chick-Fil-A?

The new Chick-Fil-A location will be on the northeast corner of Reserve and American Way, one of the intersections without a traffic light. That intersection also gives access to Missoula businesses that already see plenty of foot/vehicle traffic: PetSmart, Best Buy, Lowe's, Wendy's, Burger King, and Home Depot.

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It's no secret to residents of cities where there's already a Chick-Fil-A that the restaurant is busiest from 11 am - 3 pm (a quick search of our nearest locations in Kalispell, Moscow ID, and Spokane WA confirms this) and as luck would have it, that's right in the middle of the daily "taillight tango" on Reserve St.

We reached out to the Zoning Desk at the City Of Missoula for comment. Their stance is that Reserve St is a state highway and therefore the purview of the Montana Dept Of Transportation, hence the city is instead focusing on their Mullan BUILD project, improving connectivity to side streets and alleviating congestion on Reserve St.

This Has Happened Before

We're not trying to paint the restaurant, the city, or the MDT in a bad light. But I'd like to point out that severe congestion comes hand-in-hand with the opening of new Chick-Fil-As:

Like HERE in Bellevue, WA

and HERE in Greece, NY

and HERE in Santa Barbara, CA

and HERE in Brookfield, CT

The citizen's group Let's Improve Missoula's Reserve St meets every week to discuss options on improving traffic safety and community transportation issues not just on Reserve St but on Missoula's busiest roads.

Stay safe out there.


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