Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) Transportation officials in Missoula will apply for a federal grant this year in hopes of landing funding to construct a number of roadway improvements in East Missoula.

Aaron Wilson, the city's transportation manager, told members of the Transportation Technical Advisory Committee on Thursday that federal funding is available for the project, which ranked high last year before the program ran out of funding.

“What we're putting together this year is more of a capital grant to try to do construction on a chunk of the project,” Wilson said. “Our application scored relatively well last year. There just wasn't enough money for all the recommended projects.”

The improvements planned on Highway 200 through East Missoula have been years in the making. The plans include streetscape improvements like bike lanes, sidewalks, boulevards and lighting. They also include a roundabout at the I-90 interchange and work on the railroad bridge to create more room underneath for both pedestrians and passing vehicles.

Wilson placed the cost of the work at around $31 million and said the federal Neighborhood Access and Equity Program will require a 20% local match.

“This year, there's additional funding available. It's a one-time opportunity. This is the year that funding is available,” he said.

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Other project components, including a non-motorized trail from Easy Street to Van Buren, and a trail from East Missoula to Tamarac, won't likely be included in the grant application, Wilson said.

Questions over right-of-way and other trail costs remain, though trail work could be done at a later time through a different funding source.

“There's all the moving pieces of the local match, how much we think we can get done, and what elements of the project we're constructing,” Wilson said. “There may be some shifts in how we piece all that together to make sure we have a viable project.”

The planned improvements have been reviewed or approved by Missoula County, the City of Missoula, and the Metropolitan Planning Organization. Efforts to make improvements to Highway 200 through East Missoula began through a planning effort back in 2020, though construction could begin if the grant application is successful.

“We're really focused on these core improvements that emphasize the connectivity of East Missoula and the major barriers of the railroad and interchange,” Wilson said. “You still get most of the benefits of this project and creating better connectivity while supporting the East Missoula community.”

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