In a show of collaboration, the City Council this week authorized the mayor to sign an agreement with Missoula County detailing the division of costs for planning work west of Reserve Street.
Several times this year, the city and county have added details to the project – tied to a $13 million federal grant – which will proceed over the coming month, eventually leading to earthwork and construction.
To get there, a significant amount of planning and public outreach must take place.
“There are multiple components of this, part of which is land use and development and how that might occur in this area,” said Aaron Wilson, the city’s transportation planner. “We also know that land use and transportation are inseparable at the end of the day.”
Wilson said the opportunity to plan for the area’s future included both transportation and land use. Both aspects of the planning effort will inform the other in equal parts, he said.
“There’s a real opportunity to look at the transportation network out there at the same time we’re looking at the growth and land use and what can occur, and trying to get the design for those transportation facilities right,” he said. “We also have the grant funding, so we have the opportunity to start building some of that infrastructure.”
The county last year received the $13 million federal BUILD grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation after several previous attempts. The two have teamed up in hiring two consultants, one to plan for transportation and the other to plan for land use.
Identifying future growth plans and right-sizing the transportation grid will remain part of the planning efforts, Wilson said.
“There’s a real key link here between looking at what the growth will be, what we want it to look like, and what transportation facilities are necessary to support that level of growth and the different mixes of use,” he said.
The Metropolitan Planning Organization committed $25,000 to the planning effort. Wilson said the addition of funding will enable the process to spend more time focused on transportation and design.
“We’ll be able to use the land-use elements of this to better predict what that future growth will look like in this area,” he said. “And it will give us better information from that model as to what the future transportation system will look like.”
Wilson said the planning process will help local government apply its federal investment to the highest and best use while taking a comprehensive view of the future.
Members of the City Council placed their support behind the process.
“This is a great opportunity and area to get it right, so we’re not trying to change things afterwords,” said Council Member Amber Sherrill. “It’s a great opportunity to do the right thing starting out and thinking about our growth over the next five years.”