By Martin Kidston/MISSOULA CURRENT
Plans to connect two trails east of Missoula took a big step forward this week after the city received eight bids on the project – a better response than last year’s effort, which drew just one bid well over budget.
Alan White, the construction manager with Missoula Parks and Recreation, told a City Council committee that a recent redesign brought the project within budget.
“We did some redesign to lower costs and we put it back out to bid,” said White. “We got eight bids this time. We were able to take a look at our funding sources and solicit some additional funds. It’s now a fundable project.”
The project will link the Kim Williams and Canyon River trails near the Clark Fork River and East Missoula. The 1,250-foot connector will eliminate the need for pedestrians and bicyclists to use Montana Highway 200, which has seen several pedestrian fatalities in recent years.
In December 2009, a drunken driver hit four teenage girls as they walked along Highway 200 near East Missoula. Ashley Patenaude, 14, and Taylor Cearley, 15, were killed. On New Year’s Eve in 2011, Bronson Parsons was also struck and killed while walking along the darkened highway.
While the project has long been on the city’s radar, it has remained out of reach until now. The engineer’s estimate presented last year placed the project at roughly $318,000. But the project’s single bid – sought during the height of the construction season – came in at more than twice that amount.
This time around, White said, the bidding was more robust. Grant Creek Excavating submitted the winning bid of $355,000. The high bid came in at just under $800,000.
White suspects that access to the site played a hand in the wide range of bids.
“It’s only 1,300 feet long, but it’s challenging,” he said. “There’s no easy access to the site. The two low bidders looked at it and figured that by bringing in smaller equipment, they could attack it from either side of the railroad trestle and work toward each other. That’s a guess, but I think that’s what we’re seeing.”
White said funding for the project includes $351,000 from the Community Transportation Enhancement Program and $36,000 from the Atlantic Richfield Co. Two $30,000 grants were also received, and Run Wild Missoula donated $15,000.
“It’s been in the works for a very long time – a couple of decades,” said White. “It would provide access into town for the developments near East Missoula and East Missoula proper.”