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Material costs, labor shortage drive up Mullan BUILD project, resulting in delay

After announcing a delay in starting the Mullan BUILD project on Monday, the city and county of Missoula added details to the reasoning on Tuesday.

The ongoing labor shortage and the limited availability of materials have resulted in “significant” cost inflation, local officials said.

The increase in costs exceeded available funding, prompting to the change in schedule. The project was set to begin this year but has been pushed back to next spring.

“We truly made every possible effort to advance this project forward in 2021,” said Missoula County Public Works Director Shane Stack. “Unfortunately, with elements as unpredictable as the pandemic, our funding scenario wasn’t what we thought it would be at this point. We aren’t able to move forward on the original timeline.”

On Monday, Stack said the project’s partners had amassed around $19.3 million for the project. However, with the project now 100% designed, the costs ring in at around $22.8 million.

The additional time will allow the Mullan BUILD team to seek additional local funding and further analyze material costs.

“Extending the schedule should allow suppliers to catch up and will give subcontractors more time to plan their work next season,” said City of Missoula Public Works Director Jeremy Keene. “We are working on additional funding options as well to help cover the cost of inflation.”

Partners said the project plan remains the same. With better prices in the spring, the team anticipates being able to complete the majority of the construction by the end of next year.

But even then the project is likely to take place in phases, as the entire body of work carries an estimated $40 million cost.

Work set for 2022 include the construction of Mary Jane Boulevard, George Elmer South and England Boulevard. Other projects, such as utility extensions and minor intersection improvements related to development, will still proceed in 2021 but are separate from the BUILD project.

Mullan BUILD project delayed; other transportation projects moving forward