Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) City officials on Wednesday added detail to their plans to address Northside growth and mitigate what's expected to be an increase in traffic when a number of new housing projects open.

As it stands, the growing neighborhood, which will see hundreds of new housing units in the near future, has limited connections to the rest of Missoula. The city plans to change that through both short- and long-term projects.

The Missoula Redevelopment Agency is currently working with Ravara to develop a community land trust with both market-rate and income-restricted, for-sale housing. The project will also include several hundred apartment units on a separate six acres, along with 32,000 square feet of commercial space.

As part of the project, which is expected to start construction next spring, MRA will help fund a bus stop adjacent to the development on Scott Street, along with a two-way cycle track.

“It will replace the on-street bike lane on Scott Street in the future,” said Anni Gorski, assistant MRA director. “The cycle track will tie in with other planned improvements on Scott Street to the south.”

Aaron Wilson, the city's transportation manager, said a number of plans are in place or in design to help mitigate and diversify Northside traffic and connect it to outside areas.

“We have a lot of transportation projects in the works, planned, or that we're working on, realizing there's a lot of activity, redevelopment, and a lot of potential impacts on the transportation system,” said Wilson. “The Scott Street Master Plan is the foundation for how we're approaching the planning and trying to figure out what our priority investments are for transportation infrastructure.”

The short-term projects include a complete sidewalk system on Turner, Worden and North Fifth streets, along with bike lanes and traffic calming measures. That project will provide an east-west connection from Scott Street to Orange Street.

Wilson said the project will set the stage for future growth west of Scott Street. The Turner project is already funded and out for bid. Construction is expected to take place next summer, well before the Ravara project is done.

Wilson added that work on Scott Street will take place in phases. That includes extending the two-way cycle track to both the north and south, along with other improvements on the bridge.

“We do have sidewalks and bike lanes on the bridge but they're not the best,” he said. “We think there's some small improvements we can do there to make that more accessible for folks getting over the bridge.”

Wilson said it may also become difficult for surrounding areas to enter Scott Street as traffic increases as a result of new development. The city is planning to build roundabouts at key Scott Street intersections, including Turner and Phillips streets.

Northside traffic calming is also planned.

“We want to look comprehensively at this area to do traffic calming, depending on how traffic starts to disperse and what the outcomes are,” Wilson said.

The Scott Street Master Plan.
The Scott Street Master Plan.

While many of the short-term projects are already funded and will take place in 2025 and 2026, the long-term projects will take significant funding. Among them, the city is currently wrapping up a technical assistance report for a new interchange at Interstate 90 and Coal Mine Road.

“One of the big benefits there is getting the truck traffic from the landfill and some of the other industrial uses to be able to use the interstate to get out rather than driving through the neighborhood on Scott Street,” Wilson said. “It's also another way to get out of the Northside.”

Other sizable improvements include a new bridge crossing the railroad yard near West Broadway and Russell. They also include road connections from the Northside to North Reserve Street.

“We have some good feasibility and cost estimates right now,” Wilson said. “The next steps moving forward is to try and identify that funding. We'll continue working on those.”