Belgrade News: Belgrade getting $25M federal grant for Jackrabbit Lane expansion, railroad underpass

by Mike Sunnucks

Montana U.S. Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines said Friday that Belgrade is getting a $25 million federal transportation grant for the Belgrade Urban Project, which includes construction of a new underpass where Jackrabbit Lane intersects with the BNSF railroad and expanding the busy roadway to five lanes between Main Street (Frontage Road) and Madison Avenue.

Tester, a Democrat, first announced the grant Friday saying he secured money for the Belgrade project via a 2021 federal infrastructure package he helped craft. The Belgrade effort will also include traffic signal, sidewalk and shoulder improvements.

The money is coming from the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) Grant program through the U.S. Department of Transportation.

According to the city of Belgrade, $25 million is the maximum amount from the RAISE grant program.

State and local officials say the Belgrade project will cost $50.2 million, and they’ve also applied for another grant via the Federal Railroad Administration. The city of Belgrade has pledged to put $1 million toward the project.

“Belgrade is one of the fastest growing communities in Montana, and that growth puts real pressure on local infrastructure,” said Tester. “That’s why I was happy to lock arms with the local community to work to secure this funding through my bipartisan infrastructure law, and I am proud to see Belgrade awarded the maximum grant amount to get this project done. It’s great news for Belgrade’s small businesses and working families.”

Daines, a Republican who lives in Belgrade, and Belgrade Mayor Russ Nelson also backed federal money for the Belgrade project, penning recent letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

“I’m glad to see Belgrade receive much-needed funds to complete the underpass at Jackrabbit Lane. Our state is growing rapidly, and I’ll keep working to ensure our communities have the resources they need to make necessary updates to critical infrastructure,” Daines said in a statement to the Belgrade News.

Tester — who is in a tough reelection battle with Republican Tim Sheehy (who is the CEO of Belgrade-based Bridger Aerospace) — said the money is coming from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).

That was a $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure spending package passed in November 2021 during the COVID-era’s fiscal and monetary infusions.

The measure was backed by President Joe Biden and Democrats (including Tester) and was opposed by many Republicans (including Montana’s three GOP lawmakers Daines and U.S Reps. Matt Rosendale and Ryan Zinke) and former President Donald Trump who criticized the price tag and said it would lead to inflation.

A host of industry, business, environmental groups and Democratic Party advocates also supported the bill.

Massive fiscal spending, monetary infusions and wealth transfers that occurred during both the Trump and Biden administrations — as well as across the world — during the COVID pandemic led to 40-year spikes in inflation with stubbornly high prices for food, housing, insurance and hosts of other products.

Tester pointed to other Montana projects funded by IIJA including $2.8 billion for roads, highways and bridges, $2.5 billion to finalize Indian water rights settlements and $1 billion for rural water projects. The measure also puts $65 billion to help deploy broadband internet in rural and underserved communities.