Missoula Current: East Missoula Corridor Project Lands $24M in Funding

by Martin Kidston

Plans to improve the Highway 200 corridor through East Missoula have been long in the making but funding announced on Tuesday will move the project forward.

Sen. Jon Tester said the project has been award $24 million from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a bipartisan bill that has provided hundreds of millions of dollars for needed work across Montana.

Earlier this month, the Missoula Montana Airport secured enough funding from the program to move forward with the third phase of its terminal project. The East Missoula project now joins the list.

““East Missoula is a rapidly growing community that deserves a safe and reliable route into town so folks can easily get groceries, go to work, and visit the doctor’s office – and what they’ve got right now just isn’t cutting it,” Tester said in a statement.

Missoula County last September sent a letter to Montana’s congressional delegation and U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg asking them to support plans to redevelop the Highway 200 corridor through East Missoula.

It its letter, the county described the rural road as “functionally cut off” from the urban core of Missoula due to a lack of safe, non-motorized facilities and the barrier that remains the railroad bridge.

On Tuesday, Missoula County Commissioner Dave Strohmaier welcomed the funding and the improvements it would fuel.

“We know based on conversations we’ve had with residents just how much of a game-changer this project will be for East Missoula,” Strohmaier said.

Plans for Highway 200 through East Missoula include streetscape improvements like bike lanes, sidewalks, boulevards and lighting. They also include a roundabout at the I-90 interchange and work on the railroad bridge to create more room underneath for both pedestrians and passing vehicles.

“Along with making all modes of transportation safer and improving connectivity, this project will transform the highway through East Missoula into a vibrant, community-centric main street,” Strohmaier said. “We’re thankful to Senator Tester for helping craft the bipartisan infrastructure law that will help make this a reality.”

The vision to reshape the East Missoula corridor from Van Buren Street to Tamarack Road carried an estimated cost of $26 million last year.

Some of the plan’s highest priorities carry the highest costs, including the East Missoula streetscape project, which rings in at around $7 million. That project includes newly aligned intersections, raised cycle tracks, a center turn-lane and six-foot sidewalks on both sides.

But the project’s most expensive element includes widening the Montana Rail Link bridge on Highway 200, estimated at $10.8 million. The existing structure is narrow and allows just enough room for two passing vehicles.