Missoula delegation lines up behind infrastructure bill

Missoula Current

Eight Missoula legislators said Wednesday they are working to pass two bills aimed at infrastructure and jobs, a topic under debate in the Montana Legislature.

The bills, which would include funding to Missoula-area projects, including $420,000 for mining reclamation in Ninemile Creek and $500,000 for Missoula County bridge improvements, are backed by the local delegation of Democrats as essential needs.

“Here in Missoula, these projects will put people to work and fund much-needed improvements,” the delegation said. “Ultimately, these projects will create vital economic opportunities for our cities, towns and county for generations.”

In December, the delegation of local legislators sat down with Missoula city leaders to discuss the 2017 Legislature and the city’s goals for the session.

Missoula Mayor John Engen named infrastructure and taxation among the city’s priorities. At the time, the Russell Street project was in doubt, though funding has since been identified to bid that project this year and begin the two-year reconstruction effort.

Other projects included in the bills backed by the local delegation include $125,000 for water system improvements in Alberton, $125,000 for canal and intake rehabilitation in Clinton, and $300,000 for a wetland connection in the Upper Blackfoot mining complex.

The projects also include $125,000 for Sunset West water system improvements and $125,000 for restoration and migration of public access damage along the Clark Fork River.

“Clearly, these projects are not luxuries,” the delegation said. “These are important projects that need state investment to move our community forward.”

The projects are included as part of Gov. Steve Bullock’s infrastructure package, which looks to use a combination of cash and bonding to pay for the work.

“The partisan games that led to last session’s failed infrastructure bill make this work more important now than ever before,” the delegation said. “What we do now will end up impacting Missoula for a long time to come.”

Support for the package of projects includes Reps. Bryce Bennett, Willis Curdy, Ellie Hill-Smith, Shane Morigeau, Nate McConnell, Andrea Olsen and Marilyn Ryan, and Sen. Sue Malek.