Wyoming, California streets slated for redesign amid district’s growth

California Street, pictured in April, could be redesigned and labeled as a collector street as the Old Sawmill District continues to grow. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

The city is expected to divert $10,000 from a decades-old earmark to redesign an unfinished portion of Wyoming Street, a move that could see the odd blend of old and new construction merge into a unified roadway.

Ellen Buchanan, director of the Missoula Redevelopment Agency, said the funding remains in a 50-year-old contract that was intended to design a dead-end section of California Street north of Wyoming.

That project never took place and has since fallen down the list of priorities as the area evolved.

Instead, Buchanan said Thursday, the money will be diverted to design two unfinished blocks of Wyoming Street, which sees much higher traffic volumes. That would fill the gap between the new roadway built for the Old Sawmill District and Russell Street, which is expected to undergo its own major redesign starting next year.

“There’s a huge water line upgrade that’s going to go down Wyoming Street, so the lightbulb went off in my head,” Buchanan said. “If we’re going to tear up the street, why don’t we go ahead and look at what we want to build at Wyoming Street? We’ve only got two blocks left to do once the Russell Street project is done.”

As MRA works with WGM Group to advance the design of Wyoming Street, it’s also working with the engineering firm to redesign California Street south of Wyoming to Third Street.

The redesign will find solutions to a dangerous curve and a narrow right-of-way. It will also seek title reports for several properties located along the right-of-way between First Street and Third Street. That two-block section is vary narrow.

“This intersection at California, River Street and South Second Street, we want to take a look at that to see if there’s some better design geometry that might serve the transportation needs and public safety,” said Todd Gass, a project coordinator with MRA.

“There are some city parcels adjacent to this intersection as well, and we want to see if there’s a way to maximize those parcels and put them to a more productive use.”

Both California and Wyoming streets are seeing increased traffic as the Old Sawmill District develops. Several new condominiums are currently under construction, along with a student housing project and an apartment project at Cambium Place.

Other projects are planned for the area, advancing the need to address the area’s transportation grid. A traffic light at California and Third Street may also be considered down the road.

“There may be contemplation of a signal there,” Buchanan said. “The city engineer is leaning toward classifying this (California) as a collector street. One of the things everyone is waiting to see is what’s going to happen when Russell is constructed and Wyoming is improved.”