By Martin Kidston/MISSOULA CURRENT
Last week, the Missoula City Council’s Administration and Finance Committee approved a bond resolution to construct Mary Avenue from the Bitterroot Branch railroad tracks east to Brooks Street.
It was a reluctant vote for several council members, who wanted assurance that the entirety of Mary Avenue – including that portion west of the tracks to Reserve Street – would also get built in the future.
Council members directed the Missoula Redevelopment Agency to provide that assurance.
On Wednesday, MRA’s board of directors responded by asking staff to place the western portion of the street on the agency’s list of capital improvement projects for either fiscal year 2016 or 2017.
That, the board hopes, will give doubtful council members the surety they’re looking for.
“The list of capital improvement projects is the normal way in which we officially indicate an expectation that we’re going to invest in CIP projects,” said MRA board member Dan Kemmis. “We have indicated a strong interest in being involved in the reconstruction of Mary Avenue west of the tracks.”
Full construction of Mary Avenue from Brooks to Reserve has appeared in several Missoula growth and transportation plans dating back to 1996. But bringing the project to fruition has proven elusive until now.
A $64 million expansion and renovation of Southgate Mall has provided the impetus and future tax increment to push the eastern half of the street project forward. The City Council will consider authorizing $7.1 million in bonds to fund that portion of the project this Monday.
As for the western half, MRA said it was committed to working closely with area residents in designing the street for future construction. It plans to hire an engineering firm to begin the task.
“We customarily take these things one step at a time, and that’s what we’re doing here,” said Kemmis. “If we end up including this in our budget, and eventually in the CIP, that seems to me to be keeping with the standard procedure, and a fully adequate indication of our intention to keep this moving forward.”