Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) Safety concerns on a stretch of Mullan Road have prompted the Montana Department of Transportation to seek a federal grant to fund improvements, and it has the support of Missoula County.

Commissioners have signed a letter of support backing the state transportation agency's pursuit of a Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grant.

The funding would reconstruct Mullan Road between Pulp Mill Road and Deschamps Lane.

“This project will address growing safety concerns at this location,” the county said. “There have been 10 crashes per year since 2012, and this area was identified as performing at a (poor) level, indicating a severe safety issue with a high potential for crash reduction.”

Shane Stack, director of Public Works for Missoula County, said the project will add wide roadway shoulders, flatten the side slopes, and replace guardrails, signage and fencing. It would also include a separated path for non-motorized travel.

Stack said a number of funding proposals are in play, though the RAISE grant is the preferred option. Without it, the county would have to fund the pathway.

“Missoula County would have to come up with $1.5 million to cover the cost of the path,” Stack said. “If MDT is successful and it's funded through RAISE, Missoula County doesn't have to pay for the trail. That's a big win for Missoula County.”

MDT also faces a funding shortage that could make the project challenging if federal support isn't secured. According to the county, the agency's funding needs outweigh current transportation needs.

“MDT funding needs outweigh available funding by 3-to-1, with available funds projected to cover only 38% of transportation needs over the next 10 years,” the county said. “Without RAISE funding, the Mullan Road Reconstruction Project may be at risk of being delayed indefinitely.”