Billings city engineers draft traffic plan for Chik-fil-A opening
While an exact opening date has not been announced, officials from the popular fast food chain Chik-fil-A say the restaurant is on track to open in early 2023—and Billings city engineers are already preparing for the surge of traffic that will come with it.
“I think we want an organized plan before things get going," says Billings City Engineer Mac Fogelson.
Chik-fil-A is in an area called the Marketplace, between Applebees and Planet Fitness near the intersection of 24th Street West and Rosebud Drive.
When Chik-fil-A opened in Missoula a month ago, dozens of cars were backed up on nearby streets, causing a traffic jam on busy Reserve Street.
Irene Nettles lives in Cody, but frequently visits Billings. She's concerned about the traffic headaches Chik-fil-A will bring because she's seen it first hand.
"When I saw where they were putting it I was like, wow," Nettles said.
Nettles helped open a Chik-fil-A in Lubbock, Texas, and said the traffic situation there was chaotic.
"I see lines and lines of cars and overwhelmed workers," Nettles said.
Fogelson says the city is already working on a multi-point Chik-fil-A plan that includes adding a left-hand turn lane for northbound 24th Street West in the business park.
"There’s human behavior involved, so if things don’t go exactly perfect, okay, that’s something we anticipate could happen and we pull lever number one or lever number two, and it's like dominos falling in an orderly fashion.”
Fogelson said they put together a similar traffic plan when the Sonic restaurant opened on Main Street in the Heights about a decade ago.
Only weeks out from an expected opening, city engineers are waiting on more information, including a specific opening date and an idea of expected customer volume from Chik-fil-A.
Other components include asking Chik-fil-A to hire a traffic engineer to look at light timing cycles up and down 24th and King and to be prepared to hire off-duty police officers to control traffic.