Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) Now that Marshall Mountain is poised to become the newest park with year-round programming and the crowds that come with it, residents of East Missoula are concerned that traffic impacts in their community have been overlooked.

Missoula County officials said that's not the case, and efforts are underway to lower speeds on portions of Highway 200 and build out the chaotic corridor, which lacks nearly all forms of infrastructure.

“We in East Missoula are very concerned with the traffic impact this is going to have. Nowhere has any of the potential traffic issues been mentioned,” Sue Holden with the East Missoula Community Council told commissioners. “The traffic seems to have been put on the wayside.”

Already, Holden said the new parking lot at the Sha-Ron fishing access site brought new impacts to East Missoula this past summer. It was filled nearly every day, prompting overflow parking on the shoulder of Highway 200. That was something the county had hoped to resolve by building the parking lot in the first place.

Holden said the community remains hopeful that Missoula County will address the highway's wide range of challenges in a pending corridor project, which has been designed but lacks construction funding.

“We still have high hopes with the Highway 200 corridor project. Should that funding come through, it's going to make it so much better and have much more opportunity. We're still hanging on that,” Holden said.

Missoula County approved the Highway 200 corridor plan in 2021. This September, it sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation, asking it to support redevelopment of the highway through East Missoula.

Transportation officials have placed the cost of the work at around $31 million and said the federal grant, if awarded, would require a 20% local match. In its letter, the county said it has committed $500,000 in a local match.

Commissioner Josh Slotnick said the county remains hopeful the grant will be awarded and said the corridor's traffic concerns haven't been overlooked.

“We put real money working with the Metropolitan Planning Organization to work with designers and traffic engineers to fix the situation you accurately defined,” he told Holden. “We're actively looking for funding and I'm certain that at some point we'll get it done.”

He said the county and the Montana Department of Transportation were also looking at a speed reduction near the turnoff to Marshall Mountain.

“We have been in touch with Public Works and MDT to change the speed limit from the top of Brickyard Hill to left to turn up Marshall Grade,” Slotnick said. “It's not at all sidelined or forgotten.”