The Missoula Redevelopment Agency on Thursday agreed to make $50,000 available as a match to an anticipated federal planning grant to help determine the feasibility and design of a transit-oriented corridor running the length of Brooks Street.
The funding would only be used if MRA and its partners at HDR are successful in landing funding from the federal RIASE grant, which would pay for much of the study.
“The Midtown Mojo steering committee made the decision that we should apply for a planning grant to complete our feasibility study, which would then position us to pursue federal funding for construction,” said Annette Marchesseault with MRA. “It’s almost as if the RAISE grant were written for the Brooks feasibility study.”
HDR last year determined that while the Brooks Street corridor is capable of moving traffic, it will soon reach capacity. It already faces a number of challenges that impairs traffic, limits economic expansion and hinders non-motorized transportation.
In seeking solutions, transportation officials settled upon a “Rapid Bus Transit” system that would use a center-running lane. That would enable Mountain Line to launch 15 minute service without disrupting traffic in the heart of Midtown.
The concept would include several transit stations placed along the corridor, along with work to improve the safety and flow of various intersections. It would make it easier for pedestrians to cross the busy street and offer dedicated bike lanes – something missing in the Midtown district.
A conditions assessment prepared by HDR found that fulfilling the plan could bring new investment to the district, including housing, business expansion and attraction, and new development.
Completing a feasibility study is the next step in the process.
“At the end of the day, it’s a feasibility study to confirm with a high level of confidence that this is a concept that can work, and we can apply for capital funding,” said Marchesseault. “Brooks is the spine of Midtown, and using the Bus Rapid Transit strategy is a way to then be a catalyst to transit-oriented development in Midtown.”
The Brooks corridor has 2,000 businesses that employ an estimated 17,000 people. Another 16,000 people live within the corridor.
New Mobility West awarded the city a grant in 2017 to help the visioning process for Brooks move forward. The resulting document suggested ways to reshape the corridor into a vibrant hub built around economic opportunities and transformational development.
Solving the transportation equation is key to the future, said MRA Director Ellen Buchanan.
“The sooner we get this done the better,” she said. “This is the single most important project that could happen in an urban renewal district.”
MRA plans to submit its application for federal funding to start the feasibility study by the middle of July.