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University of Montana President Royce Engstrom speaks at the start of a public forum in September 2013 on where to locate Missoula College.

TOM BAUER/Missoulian

The environmental assessment for Missoula College is two weeks behind schedule, though the project’s consultant expects a draft document to be ready for public review next month.

Stephanie Lauer, project manager with JBR Environmental Consultants, said the assessment will analyze the college’s cumulative impacts, including traffic, parking and any effects on the Clark Fork River corridor.

“There were several public comments concerned about changes to traffic,” said Lauer, referring to the public scoping session held in November. “The university is taking a close look at those impacts to address the public’s concerns.”

The four-story, $32 million Missoula College project is currently proposed for University of Montana property off East Broadway, just across the river from the main campus.

The Montana Environmental Policy Act requires the project to undergo the review before it can win final approval from UM President Royce Engstron, and before construction can begin late next year.

The assessment began in mid-November with a scoping session held at the Holiday Inn Downtown. The session introduced the public to the project and offered opportunities to note any concerns.

Lauer said those concerns will be addressed in the draft assessment. Initially expected in mid-December, it should now be available in January. A final document is now planned for February.

“Nothing has been decided yet,” Lauer said. “That’s the reason for the EA. It’s a little delayed, but it’s rolling along.”

Mark Headley, the project’s lead architect with StudioFORMA in Bozeman, said design work is moving forward on schedule.

The findings of the environmental assessment will inform the college’s final design, Headley said.

“We’re working through early floor plans, site plans and exterior elevations, things of that nature,” Headley said. “We’ll have a public presentation some time in the spring – the spring being March. It’s going to be a neat building.”

Early plans call for 430 parking spaces at the college, with an additional 240 located across East Broadway on a railroad right of way. Another 40 spots will be shared with MonTEC, which is next door.

The building’s footprint will cover roughly 31,000 square feet. The project’s first phase will include about 100,000 square feet, Headley said, with 33 classrooms and offices for 60 faculty members.

Reporter Martin Kidston can be reached at 523-5260, or at martin.kidston@missoulian.com.

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