Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) An effort to transform Brooks Street in Missoula into a multi-modal transportation corridor reached a milestone this month when the Missoula Redevelopment Agency began seeking a firm to bring the project to initial design.

The request for proposals (RFP) was issued on Nov. 9 and will close later this month. MRA and its partner, the Missoula Urban Transportation District, hope to select a qualified consultant to carry the work forward by the end of January.

“We don't yet have a signed agreement with the Federal Transit Authority, but they told us to go ahead and issue our RFP so we can be in a position to have an identified consultant while we're getting that agreement in place,” said Annette Marchesseault, who is heading the project for MRA.

The ambitious plan would create a transportation corridor suited for all modes of travel, including a center-running transit lane with 15-minute service.

New Mobility West awarded the city a grant in 2017 to help the visioning process forward. The resulting document suggested ways to reshape the corridor into a vibrant, modern hub built around economic opportunities and transformational development.

The vision included housing and commercial services, walkable neighborhoods, activity hubs and public transit. Mountain Line has long envisioned 15-minute service along the corridor, but the current auto-centric design and lack of density has prevented it.

The plan could see several transit stations placed along the corridor, along with work to improve the safety and flow of various intersections.

A bus rapid transit system is planned along the Brooks Street corridor.
A bus rapid transit system is planned along the Brooks Street corridor.
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“We're advertising nationally,” Marchesseault said. “Several firms have reached out with interest prior to issuing the RFP. This is a really big milestone for the City of Missoula. Every move builds on the other one.”

A conditional assessment prepared by HDR found that realizing the plan could bring new investment to the Midtown area, expanding business opportunities and new development.

A more pedestrian-friendly corridor would also attract infill housing projects and increase the density of an area currently dominated by large parking lots.

As it stands, however, Brooks Street simply moves cars and is often described by area residents as a barrier that bisects the Midtown area. The corridor plan would change that.

“It's the most ambitious transportation project ever undertaken in the state of Montana, is fair to say. Except when they built the railroad,” said MRA Director Ellen Buchanan.

The deadline to submit a proposal is Dec. 13. MRA will identify interviewees on Dec. 23 and conduct interviews the first week of January. It hopes to select a final firm by the end of January.

“We're trying to hit a deadline in early 2023 so we can hopefully have a study far enough along toward the end of 2023 to apply for capital funding in the 2024 cycle,” said Marchesseault. “You never know what's going to come along.”

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