The Missoula Transportation Technical Advisory Committee last week recommended removing a road that bisects a Midtown district property from the urban and federal highway classification system to make room for a large residential project.
By removing Sussex Bend from the system, the committee recommended shifting its designation to a stretch of Stephens Avenue in hopes of retaining federal funding.
“If we take Sussex off the urban system, we’d give up some opportunity for federal funding,” said Public Works Director Jeremy Keene. “Most likely, that would be pavement preservation funding. There’s not much of that money to go around, but that could change in the future, so I’m little cautious about removing that opportunity.”
A team of developers last month unveiled their plans to construct 132 units of housing at the corner of South and Stephens avenues and reserve 20% of the rental units as affordable housing.
The $30 million project, proposed by Casa Loma LLC, will also include 19,000 square feet of commercial space and add to the transformation of the Midtown district as advocates work to make it a more walkable area.
But the property poised for development is currently bisected from corner to corner by Sussex Bend. The developers have asked the city to vacate the stretch of road, which it will consider later this month.
The city also is working to shift the road’s classification within the urban and federal highway system to Stephens Avenue. Doing so would retain federal funding.
“There may be drawbacks from just removing it completely from the urban system,” said transportation planner David Gray. “Regardless of the option that we chose, we need to move forward quickly.”
It’s been nearly two decades since the city and the Montana Department of Transportation reconfigured what once was known as Malfunction Junction. It’s there where South Avenue, Russell Street and Brooks Street converged.
Changes to the intersection ended left-hand turns and created an array of new connectors. Sussex Bend was part of that work, tying South Avenue to Sussex.
If the city agrees to vacate Sussex Bend, the developers have proposed a roundabout at the intersection of South and Stephens. City transportation planners said the alterations will work.
“When running the traffic models, removing that segment had a negligible effect on traffic in this area,” said Gray. “With this roundabout, it can adequately handle the traffic that would be diverted back out on Stephens Avenue instead of taking that Sussex segment.”