Missoula County, city chase federal grants for South Avenue bridge, Mullan-area trails
The city and county of Missoula plan to apply for federal funding in a new round of grant applications that, if approved, would fully fund a South Avenue bridge and complete multi-model transportation work in the greater Mullan area.
The Transportation Policy Coordinating Committee this week placed its support behind the two efforts and directed city, county and state officials to write letters of support for the RAISE grant applications, which are due this spring.
The South Avenue bridge proposal has been in the works for years and would replace the old Maclay Bridge over the Bitterroot River. The new bridge would include two lanes of travel and room for a shared-use path.
“This project has been a long time in the works and will be funded by the off-system bridge program. But that program is really struggling. We'd like to get this RAISE grant to free up the off-system bridge funds to work on other projects,” said Jacquelyn Smith with the Montana Department of Transportation.
Funding from the grant would cover the cost of the new bridge, along with aligning the roads within the project. The county's support for the grant is predicated on the bridge's inclusion of a shared-use path.
“One thing we're still in conversations over is if a shared-use path will be included in the project and what funding will go toward that,” said Smith. “We plan on having this project set aside for 2024 construction, as long as everything gets completed.”
While the county eyes the South Avenue bridge, city officials hope to land funding from the RAISE grant to cover the cost of non-motorized pathways and bike lanes in the Mullan area. Infrastructure work funded by the 2019 BUILD grant is set to kick off this month, but the funding wasn't enough to cover the project's non-motorized elements.
“At the city level, we looked at a number of priority projects,” said Aaron Wilson, the city's transportation manager. “Because this round of funding came so fast, there weren't a lot of projects ready to go for this level of funding that we could put forward and, if awarded, be successful in implementing.”
Wilson said plans for the Mullan area infrastructure work fit well with the RAISE grant funding criteria given the area's rapid growth, its non-motorized elements and hopes that roadwork and other infrastructure additions will help keep housing costs down.
Charlie Menefee, a transportation planning assistant with the city, said the funding would expand the Mullan Trail and others in the area. It would also include bike lanes along Mary Jane and George Elmer Drive.
“This is important,” said Menefee. “The (Mullan) project wasn't completely funded, but this grant would complete the area's multi-model transportation needs. We have a lot of those materials ready to go.”