While plans to begin the Mullan infrastructure project were delayed by rising costs and a workforce shortage until next year, those behind the effort said the job will get completed ahead of federal deadlines.
The $13 million BUILD grant received by the city and county of Missoula in 2019 came with certain parameters, including a grant finalization date and a project completion date.
Despite the project’s short delay, Missoula Public Works Director Jeremy Keene said the process is moving forward and will beat any federal deadlines tied to the funding package.
“We’re working through our budget process right now, which has some additional money requested there,” said Keene. “We’ll get a new estimate for cost and look to finalize the grant agreement in the fall. We still have until 2026 technically to complete it. We did have to request a grant extension on the grant agreement, and we extended that until January.”
Project partners in mid-June said an ongoing labor shortage and the limited availability of materials resulted in “significant” inflationary costs.
The increase in costs exceeded available funding, forcing planners to extend their schedule. The project was set to begin this year but has been pushed back to next spring.
“They selected a contractor to run the process,” said City Council member Jordan Hess. “They’ve been working on design over the past year.”
The project team has amassed around $19.3 million thus far. However, with the project now 100% designed, the post-pandemic costs ring in at around $22.8 million.
The short delay will allow the Mullan BUILD team to seek additional local funding and further track material costs. There could also be new funding opportunities included in the infrastructure bill, which is now before the US Senate.
“I’d expect there would be more opportunities for those competitive grants,” Keene said. “We applied for a planning grant for the Brooks Street corridor in this latest round. We’ll continue to look for those opportunities to finish out the Mullan project.
With better prices anticipated next spring, the team anticipates being able to complete the majority of the construction by the end of next year. Work set for 2022 includes 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 Mullan BUILD project.