We want to take this opportunity to thank the residents and voters of the City of Missoula and Missoula County for supporting the two-cent local option fuel tax. This new funding helps us complete much needed road maintenance and improvements – and distributes a portion of the cost to the folks who visit our communities.
The results were close, and we recognize our responsibility to use this funding in an impactful way that benefits all residents of the city and county.
For many years, we’ve struggled to keep up with the cost of providing good roads. The federal gas tax hasn’t increased since 1993. The state Legislature in 2015 raised the statewide gas tax by four and a half cents, but this still fell well short of the needs. The local option fuel tax will help close that gap and put money in local hands where we can decide how to use it most effectively.
The new fuel tax will generate an estimated $1.1 million in revenues annually that will be equally split between Missoula County Public Works and the City of Missoula’s Public Works Department. This will allow both the city and county to work on projects that have had to wait because funding was not available.
The new funding will allow the Road and Bridge Division at Missoula County Public Works to better maintain the county’s road and bridge infrastructure. Additionally, the funding will help purchase new vehicles and equipment to perform this work.
There are 250 miles of paved roads in the county. Past budgets have allowed for repaving of only 4 to 5 miles annually – requiring 50 years to repave all of the county’s roads. The additional funding will allow for more roads to be repaved, and, when leveraged against federal grants that require a modest local match, will allow the county to parlay several hundred thousand dollars into several million dollars.
At the city, the Public Works Street Division is responsible for 339 miles of roads. While our crews do an exceptional job of maintaining these roads with the resources we have, the city’s estimated annual maintenance funding gap is $6.5 million a year.
A 2019 Pavement Condition Survey found that 58% of our roads were in good to satisfactory condition. That’s good news – it is much more cost effective to do preventative maintenance before roads require major repairs. Keeping up with this maintenance can also help prevent potholes, broken pavement and other road defects. The local option fuel tax provides a key funding source to perform preventative maintenance that keeps those roads in good condition.
Thank you for choosing to invest in our public infrastructure. It is the backbone of our economy and our livelihoods. We promise to use the funding wisely.
Shane Stack, Director, Missoula County Public Works; Jeremy Keene, Director, City of Missoula Public Works