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Questions raised over legality of Hamilton rainbow crosswalk proposal

Hamilton Rainbow Crosswalk
Rainbow Crosswalk
Crosswalk rules
Posted at 9:44 AM, Jun 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-11 11:44:58-04

HAMILTON — Hamilton residents are butting heads over a proposal to change a crosswalk to a pride rainbow for the LGBTQ+ community.

The issue is complicated this week by a question of legality.

Montana state law adopted a federal regulation -- The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices -- that states patterns and colors should be avoided.

Hamilton Rainbow Crosswalk

We reached out to the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) which confirmed the guidelines were adopted by the state and are referenced in state laws.

MDT also says local jurisdictions can make adjustments on city streets, but the city will be liable in case of a crash.

City of Missoula officials told us when they reviewed plans for a rainbow on the road, officials reviewed the manual and felt there was enough flexibility.

Missoula believes as long as the crosswalk not creating a hazard, the rainbow is appropriate.

Rainbow Crosswalk

But in Hamilton, some said they thought colors would be distracting to drivers in public comments emailed to the city.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) agreed, saying in an official 2011 ruling that "the use of crosswalk art is actually contrary to the goal of increased safety."

While that is the law, there is already a colorful crosswalk just one block away from where the proposed one would be placed.

According to Bike Walk Bitterroot on Facebook, the crosswalk was just repainted earlier this month.