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091014 third street paving 01 tb.jpg

Kevin O’Brien, street division supervisor for the city of Missoula, walks along a newly paved area of South Third Street West in September 2014.

Road work will close a section of Missoula's South Third Street West through the end of summer, and the city is cautioning drivers to use alternate routes.

Third Street between Schilling and Davis streets will be closed to through traffic starting Sunday evening. A detour will route traffic around the closure, although access to homes and businesses still will be available.

The finished project will include new asphalt, curbs, sidewalks, bike lanes, storm drainage and a center turn lane. This is the last section of construction on Third Street between Russell and Reserve streets.

The project has a total cost of $3.4 million, paid for by traffic impact fees, the city road district, and curb and sidewalk program assessments. The quarter-mile section being worked on this summer accounts for about $1.1 million of the cost.

Doug Harby, construction project manager with the city, said crews will close Third between Davis and Reserve starting at 8 p.m. Sunday, so crews can mill the road to the detour. Milling will continue at night during the first week of construction.

The detour, which should start Monday, will divert traffic onto Davis, then Wyoming Street and Curtis Street before returning to Third on the other side of the construction.

For the first time, the city has sent postcards to households along the detour route, informing them of increased traffic over the next few months, Harby said.

“I expect the first few days to be very chaotic until drivers figure it out or find alternate routes,” Harby said.

He said another phase of Third Street construction last year detoured traffic onto Fifth Street, and while it was congested for the first few weeks, traffic was flowing much smoother a month later.

“We’ll probably see a similar amount of disruption, although it’s a longer detour and it might take a bit more time,” Harby said.

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The city is taking a different approach to the construction project this year.

Instead of working on all parts of the road reconstruction at once – which Harby said resulted in too many people trying to work at the same place and time on previous sections of the project – concrete will be put down first, then paving will take place, and utilities and drainage will be worked on last.

Harby said the approach should make it easier for homeowners and businesses to access their driveways.

The city has also set up a website at that will provide updates on the project during construction. The public can also sign up for email or text message alerts about the construction.

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Law and Justice Reporter

Crime reporter for the Missoulian.