Missoula transportation planners to seek second $10.9M grant for Mullan project

A land use plan for the Mullan area is progressing alongside a separate but parallel transportation plan. Missoula County will seek the $10.9 million that wasn’t included in last year’s $13 million federal BUILD grant.

The Metropolitan Planning Organization on Tuesday agreed to send a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation seeking a second federal grant earmarked for the remainder of the Mullan area infrastructure project.

Missoula County last year received a $13 million federal BUILD grant to make transportation improvements west of Reserve Street as part of a larger effort to guide development in the rapidly growing section of the city.

But the county had requested $23 million in its application, and the $10.9 million shortfall could push some aspects of the project off the table. The MPO is hoping to receive that $10 million, hence the new application.

“This is pursuing the remaining portion of that ask,” said Aaron Wilson, the city’s transportation planning manager. “The overall ask isn’t really any different.”

As in their last application, the MPO and its government partners are stressing the project’s significance, saying new roads planned for the area will create a network of complete streets, alleviate congestion and guide future development.

Together, the work would provide access to around 1,500 acres of real estate, which is expected to accommodate 6,000 new units of housing and 150,000 square feet of commercial space in the coming years.

Missoula County Commissioner Dave Strohmaier, chair of the MPO, said a recent visit to Montana’s congressional delegation in Washington, D.C., left him feeling confident about the new request.

“I had the chance to engage with both our U.S. Senators, Steve Daines and Jon Tester, and Rep. Greg Gianforte,” said Strohmaier. “They were all of the mind that we should go for this second BUILD grant application this year, so that was encouraging.”

As proposed, the funding would establish several collector roads by connecting George Elmer and Mary Jane Boulevard to Mullan Road and West Broadway. England Boulevard would extend further west.

A number of other neighborhood streets would also be established and Grant Creek would be restored to a more natural state. But funding for those elements remains out of reach and would be covered by the additional $10.9 million.

“There were a number of other roads we would have liked to include in the BUILD grant initially,” said David Gray, a transportation planner with the city. “It’s why we’re going after another grant to try and fill that hole.”