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Missoula County still eying spring start for Mullan infrastructure work

A neighborhood in the Mullan area. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current file)

A big push to lay millions of dollars of infrastructure in the greater Mullan area ahead of future development continues to move forward, and Missoula County believes the work is on track to begin next spring.

But that could come down to when the Federal Highway Administration approves and signs its grant agreement with the county, according to Shane Stack, the county’s public works director.

“We had expected the grant agreement to be approved and signed about this time, in late November or early December,” Stack said. “But the earliest they’ll be able to do that is early January. The hope before and still is to start construction in early February or March at the latest. I think it’s still possible.”

While plans move forward, the county this week amended its agreement with the City of Missoula, making small changes to who will fund what, and where the funding will come from.

The county used around $300,000 from the local option gas tax when it was still available to help fund a portion of the planning effort. The amendment made to the agreement notes the county’s investment on that front.

“We also have some contingency funds from the county side that’s being added,” Stack said. “On the city side, they’re adding more road funding. They were originally at $2 million. They’re now going to be at almost $2.6 million.”

Known as the Mullan BUILD project, the work will extend Mary Avenue and George Elmer Drive to both Mullan Road and West Broadway. It will also extend England Boulevard further west and install a number of roundabouts at key intersections.

Trail work is planned, along with sewer and water, all of which will be phased over several years as more funding becomes available. But for now, Stack said, it doesn’t appear the project will require as much sewer and water infrastructure as initially thought.

“It’s not so much the scope, but more of the cost,” he said. “The city had originally opted to put $4.3 million toward sewer and water funds toward the project. The reality is, we only need about $3.8 million, so there’s a reduction there but an increase on the transportation side.”