Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) While the onset of winter weather may have ended infrastructure work related to the Mullan BUILD project this year, transportation officials expect it to be finished in the spring.

The project saw construction begin in earnest this year and marks the first big push to install millions of dollars of infrastructure in the Sxwtpqyen area, which will soon accommodate thousands of units of new housing.

“They think they should be done probably mid-May, plus or minus,” said Shane Stack, the director of Public Works for Missoula County. “That's weather dependent. We originally had the contract to be done by the end of June. They'll still be well ahead of schedule.”

The work is unfolding west of Reserve Street and includes several new north-south connector roads between Mullan Road and Broadway, along with an east-west connector on England Boulevard.

The county in March approved a $15.9 million contract bid, the bulk of which is covered by a $13 million federal grant received in 2019. The funding is enough to begin the project's first phase, though it won't cover a complete build-out, largely do to inflationary costs.

The project's total cost is around $25 million.

Stack said local officials will continue to apply for additional grant funding, and the city already has adopted impact fees to help fund additional infrastructure work. The fees represent a one-time cost placed on new development.

“The nice thing is, the city developed the impact fees, so there's funding there as development occurs,” said Stack. “There will be funding available to finish up this infrastructure.”

Pieces that still need to be done include the relocation of utilities, lighting and median work. Pavement, curb and gutter also await some portions of the project.

Stack said portions of the roundabout at George Elmer Drive and Mullan Road will be open this winter. England Boulevard is ready for paving, curb and gutter, which will take place next spring.

“We're showing it for April. It's pretty much ready to go,” said Stack. “It's just the weather didn't cooperate this November. If we end up with warmer weather in November, there's still a chance we can get curb and gutter down.”

Growth estimates suggest that Missoula will need nearly 650 units of new housing a year to keep pace with population trends. The project area is expected to accommodate around 6,000 new housing units, along with hundreds of jobs, over the next two decades.

The area's master plan calls for a mix of housing types and prices, along with office and commercial offerings. The bulk of that work is already under wave in what represents one the largest construction areas of the city.

“There's a ton of housing being built out there right now. It's pretty impressive,” said Commissioner Josh Slotnick. “The amount of construction that's actually happening is incredible.”