Missoula will receive a $13 million federal BUILD grant that officials say will kickstart the first phase of infrastructure upgrades in the fast-growing area west of Reserve Street and north of Mullan Road.
“This funding is a big first step for the Missoula BUILD grant project and the community,” said U.S. Sen. Steve Daines. “This project is important for infrastructure in Missoula as it helps in continuing to develop the city, as well as with construction of the new Missoula Veterans' home."
County officials had applied for $23.2 million. The total cost of building out the infrastructure in the area is estimated to be about $40 million.
"I look forward to continuing to partner with the city of Missoula, and working in Congress, to ensure they receive the full funding they need," said Daines, a Montana Republican.
County Commissioner Dave Strohmaier said there will be an opportunity to apply for the remaining $10.2 million this spring.
"Yes we applied for $23 million, but we got $13 million, which is a big deal and it will really set the stage for this community," he said.
He noted that part of the grant will fund an environmental restoration of the Grant Creek floodplain.
City Council member Jordan Hess said the funds will build 3 miles of a collector road network, 3.7 miles of trails and restore a little over half a mile of Grant Creek. It will also be used to connect Broadway to Mullan via certain street extensions.
The intersection of Mullan Road and Reserve Street is the busiest in the state, with 48,000 cars crossing daily, Hess said, and the new roads will help relieve congestion, which will improve air quality. He also said that allowing more houses to be built in the area due to improved access will "buy down the cost of housing and have a meaningful impact on the cost of housing" in Missoula. And, it will boost the economy by allowing businesses to expand or move into the area, he said.
A delegation of city and county officials, along with staff of the Missoula Area Chamber of Commerce, traveled to Washington, D.C., to lobby for the grant earlier this fall.
The area in Missoula is considered to have the highest potential for both residential and commercial growth over the next few decades. Ryan Salisbury, a civil engineer with WGM Group in Missoula, said about $160 million worth of new development is planned there in just the next five years.
Daines said the $13 million grant will help pay for a connecting street and trail system, including new roads, intersection improvements, traffic signals and roundabouts, while enhancing the bicycle and pedestrian network.
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Both Daines and U.S. Sen. Jon Tester personally lobbied U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, whose department doles out the funding.
“This grant is big news for anyone who lives, works, or does businesses in and around Missoula, and I’m glad the federal government agrees,” said Tester, a Montana Democrat, in a statement. “It’s a much-needed project that will help make housing more affordable, and improve roads and other infrastructure critical to keep Missoula thriving.”
Tester said the money would help Missoula avoid the type of “leap-frog development that stresses rural roads and would provide more, safer options for multi-modal travel.”
The grant is planned to help construct an extension of Mary Jane Boulevard all the way to West Broadway, which will make possible a new $31 million Veterans Affairs Clinic at that intersection.
Tester supported construction of the new VA clinic as the ranking member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. He helped pass the 2017 VA Choice and Quality Employment Act of 2017.
Daines met with county elected officials and planners in August to discuss the provisions needed for the project, and Kim Latrelle, the CEO of the Missoula Area Chamber of Commerce, thanked Montana's congressional delegation for helping with the project.
"As a champion for the Missoula community, the Missoula Area Chamber of Commerce is excited to know that a portion of this year’s BUILD grant was awarded to the county,” she said. “Throughout the application process the Chamber was proud to fill the role of connector between county planners, elected officials, government agencies and the private sector.
"The collaboration between a variety of groups on this project was unprecedented and shows what can be accomplished when we all work together," Latrelle said. "The bipartisan effort to ensure success of Missoula’s application was an important part of its success."
“We’re proud to have played a role in securing a BUILD grant award for Missoula and look forward to future collaborative projects in the community,” Latrelle said.
Missoula's public works director, Jeremy Keene, said in the best case scenario, ground could be broken 18 months from the announcement.