County approves funding for airport access road as terminal project looms

Passengers come and go during a busy midday rush at Missoula International Airport on Tuesday. The airport is looking to construct a new access road to make room for parking and ride share, though the county says the funding may not be there. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

With a new passenger terminal on the horizon, Missoula County commissioners on Tuesday approved a request from Missoula International Airport to apply up to $498,000 in tax increment to the construction of a new access road.

However, the county said, odds are good the full amount won’t be available for the project after the tax increment financing district sunsets next month at the Missoula Development Park.

“We’re still monitoring the taxes coming in, but I think we probably would not be able to fund all of this project,” said Dori Brownlow, the county’s director of development. “I don’t think there will be sufficient revenue to fund all this.”

The airport plans to begin the early stages of redeveloping its outdated passenger terminal in August, when it moves TSA to a new location within the lobby, making room for deconstruction on the terminal’s west end.

As part of the terminal project, the airport plans to install a new loop road guiding passengers around the facility, including short- and long-term parking and a passenger drop-off zone. The new road would also make room for more parking and parallel the terminal’s new footprint.

“It will also allow for a widening of the road in a location to accommodate ride share – Uber and Lyft – that we’re seeing more of,” airport director Cris Jensen said Tuesday. “It’s not yet clear if that full $498,000 will be available.”

Brownlow said it’s unclear how much tax increment will remain in the TIF district once a number of issues are resolved, including cost overruns on wayfinding signs and improvements to infrastructure within the Missoula Development Park.

Earlier this month, the county said it will have to withdraw up to $2 million in tax increment from the district and pass it on to the area’s other taxing jurisdictions due to an accounting error by the Montana Department of Revenue.

That could leave little money for the access road at the airport.

“We’re working on those things next month so we know how much money we have, but it will be on a project-by-project basis,” Brownlow said. “We needed to get the ‘up-to-amount’ for the access road submitted by the end of the month when the district sunsets.”