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Metropolitan Planning Organization approves $26M East Missoula corridor plan

The vision to reshape the East Missoula corridor from Van Buren Street to Tamarack Road carries an estimated cost of $26 million, and it could take time to fund.

Plans to reshape Highway 200 through East Missoula and several popular recreation sites moved one step close to reality on Tuesday with its adoption by the Metropolitan Planning Organization.

With the MPO’s approval, the plan will move to the Missoula City Council and Board of County Commissioners in the coming months.

“We haven’t scheduled it for adoption yet,” said Aaron Wilson, the city’s transportation planner. “We wanted to get it through MPO first and we’ll be planning to bring it to both the City Council and county commissioners in the next two or three months.”

Then begins the challenging process of funding and implementing the plan.

The vision to reshape the East Missoula corridor from Van Buren Street to Tamarack Road carries an estimated cost of $26 million, and it could take time to fund.

Some of the plan’s highest priorities carry the highest costs, including the East Missoula streetscape project, which rings in at around $7 million. That project includes newly aligned intersections, raised cycle tracks, a center turn lane and six-foot sidewalks on both sides.

But the project’s most expensive element includes widening the Montana Rail Link bridge on Highway 200, estimated at $10.8 million. The existing structure is narrow and allows just enough room for two passing vehicles.

Other project elements include on street bike lanes along Highway 200 from the Van Buren intersection to the railroad bridge. Improved parking and access to the Sha Ron recreation site is also included.

“This plan is a long time coming and will provide a great blueprint to moving to implementation hopefully and getting some work done on the ground,” said Commissioner Dave Strohmaier.

Jon Sand, a traffic planner with the city, said last-minute comments made to the plan included shuttle service for floaters and roundabouts for bicycle safety.

He said bus stops along highway 200 will require future coordination with MDT, as will right of way allocations and the plan’s shared use path.

East Missoula corridor plan nears adoption, though funding could be challenging