Missoulian: Upgrades between Missoula, East Missoula move forward with federal funds

by Griffen Smith

The office of U.S. Sen. Jon Tester announced Tuesday that a large-scale project to add safety infrastructure between Missoula and East Missoula has been funded by the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. 

The bill secured $24 million to build multi-use paths and other safety features along the Highway 200 corridor where the road switches off from East Broadway Street. 

“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.

In total, the project would make improvements from Van Buren Street to Tamarack Road in East Missoula, according to a design from the WGM engineering group.

The most expensive aspect of the project will widen the space under the concrete rail trestle near Interstate 90. Other aspects will add bike lanes through East Missoula, level the road, add turn lanes and create boulevard sidewalks where possible. 

Missoula County Commissioner Dave Strohmaier said in a statement that the project is needed to keep up with the growth of East Missoula, as many of its residents travel into Missoula for work or school. 

“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. “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. We’re thankful to Sen. Tester for helping craft the bipartisan infrastructure law that will help make this a reality.”

Tester’s office touted the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act for funding the project and several other infrastructure improvements in Montana.

In a press release, Tester’s office reported Congress handed Montana $2.82 billion for bridges, $2.5 billion to complete all authorized Native American water rights settlements, $1 billion for rural water projects and other national initiatives like reducing wildfire risk. 

There was no timeline available for when the Highway 200 connectivity project could break ground.