Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) The first phase of work to lay infrastructure ahead of development in the greater Sxwtpqyen area is wrapping up for the season, and city officials are pleased with the progress made this year.

Jeremy Keene, the city's director of Public Works, said the work thus far represents about $16 million.

“We completed a significant amount of work this year and we're on schedule despite all the complexity,” Keene said. “We have a lot of rapid private development happening, and we had material and labor supply issues, but we managed to keep it on track.”

Keene said Phase 1 will be completed by next summer with complete streets, lighting, landscaping and some final paving. Other components will wait for development to catch up, including the extension of George Elmer Drive to Broadway.

“We're engaged in conversations with a developer for that piece of property,” Keene said. “We're working on the timing and details around that future extension.”

Project manager Donny Pfeifer said the work completed this year included 7,000 feet of water mains, 4,400 feet of sewer mains, 12 fire hydrants, 35 manholes and 143 dry wells.

Roundabouts at the Mullan intersection with George Elmer and Mary Jane Boulevard were also completed. England Boulevard will be completed next spring.

“We're on schedule and anticipating final completion to be June next year, which was always the plan,” Pfifer said. “We've all been dealing with cost escalation. The environment is really crazy right now, especially on the materials side. We've had challenges in getting domestic valves, and asphalt was challenging.”

attachment-Mullan development housing

Completing Phase 1 represents a significant portion of the overall project, which is intended to lay the infrastructure and transportation grid to support several decades of development.

Estimates suggest the Sxwtpqyen area will support more than 6,000 housing units, along with hundreds of jobs, businesses and retail over the next 20 years.

It remains the fastest growing section of Missoula, and many of the city's new commercial amenities are landing in the area. City officials said the work will set a trend moving forward.

“I know a lot of people were somewhat frustrated because it took a while to get things done. But I've heard a lot of good feedback now, and it's a significant improvement,” said council member Mirtha Becerra, who represents the area. “I think it's setting the bar pretty high now for what we do next. Coming up with the funding to complete future phases will be challenging, but we'll find ways to make that happen.”

The city and county, along with project advocates, requested $23 million in federal grant funding to complete the work, but received $19 million. To make up the difference, the city has implemented impact fees on new development, and Keene said the pool of funding is slowly growing.

They've also applied for two additional grants to fund more work but neither application was approved.

“We continue to look at additional grant opportunities,” Keene said. “We're kind of in a pause right now to see what's going to be competitive and what the appropriate opportunities are.”

Keene said the restoration of Grant Creek will represent a new phase of the project and is expected to begin late next year or in early 2024. They'll also be working to complete the area's trail connections.

“Some will happen through the development projects going on, and some will be independent projects,” Keene said. “Our goal is to get those trail projects done by 2026.”