Russell Street project ready to launch; city eyes first major water system improvement

That project, estimated at $29 million over two years, also includes a new Russell Street bridge, a bike and pedestrian underpass, and other needed improvements to the north-south corridor. (Missoula Current)

The reconstruction of the Russell Street corridor is set to begin next month, and when it does the city of Missoula will take advantage of its purchase of Mountain Water Co. to upgrade area water mains.

On Wednesday, the City Council’s Public Works Committee approved a $55,000 service agreement with the WGM Group to administer water and sewer main upgrades as part of the Montana Department of Transportation’s larger Russell Street project.

Council member Bryan von Lossberg said Mountain Water had not intended to make the improvements when it owned the utility. The project represents one of the city’s first major capital improvements as the system’s new owner.

“It’s only a function of the water utility being a publicly owned entity that we’re actually doing water utility work on Russell Street,” von Lossberg said. “It’s only as a result of that that it’s been incorporated into the project’s design.”

Last April, the committee authorized the mayor to sign a $67,000 agreement with WGM Group to complete the engineering services needed to extend a 12-inch main to a stretch of Russell Street that currently lacks the infrastructure.

Mountain Water started but never finished the main extension. Given the legal battle over the utility, the company didn’t complete the design work or coordinate with MDT to make the improvements.

Funding for the main extension will come from the city’s financing of its Mountain Water acquisition, which includes several million dollars for capital improvements. The work is set to coincide with MDT’s schedule as it widens Russell from two lanes to four between Dakota Street and West Broadway.

That project, estimated at $29 million over two years, also includes a new Russell Street bridge, a bike and pedestrian underpass, and other needed improvements to the north-south corridor.

“Construction is expected to start pretty soon,” said Ross Mollenhauer, the utility project manager with the city. “You’ve already seen them out there working, but it’s going to get serious in March or April.”

Bob Vosen, the district construction engineer with the Montana Department of Transportation, said the work will begin in several phases over the next few weeks. Dick Anderson Construction is under contract.

While demolition work was set to begin on Wednesday, Vosen said it was postponed due to weather.

“They were going to start demolition for a couple houses that need to come down to allow for the widening of the Russell Street bridge,” Vosen said. “The work was delayed due to weather, but they’ll start that on March 7.”

Vosen said irrigation work is set to begin on March 12, though the public won’t likely see traffic impacts until April 15.

“We’ll be doing work on some of the side streets before that, which could have some minor impacts,” Vosen said. “We’re dealing with early season construction, which means when it snows or when the weather conditions aren’t conducive, it’s going to be a moving target.”

Demolition of the old bridge is scheduled for one year from now.