MISSOULA — This edition of Current Events takes a look at what the trillion-dollar federal infrastructure bill could mean for Missoula.
"The state of Montana is going to receive $3 billion from the bill and of course that money will be distributed across the state in various projects. The City of Missoula like other communities across the state have big plans, but they can't always afford those plans,” said Missoula Current editor Martin Kidston.
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“These are high cost projects that are beyond the means and the resources of a lot of local communities. So, that money will go far in helping the city of Missoula achieve its goals around various infrastructure needs.”
The top of the list for the City of Missoula is transportation, transit with transpiration planners looking to do work downtown as well as along the Brooks Street corridor.
“The city is looking at some big bucket items around water. They bought the water system a couple of years ago and they've been making improvements to that and they want to do more. The funding will go far in helping the water system. Wastewater is part of it. I think there will be some broadband efforts in Missoula,” Kidston said.
“The big one will be improvements to transportation and transit. There's money for buses, there's money for transit system improvements. And of course, some of the road projects we've been talking about in Missoula, including the Brooks Street corridor, possibly renovations to Higgins Avenue, Front and Main, Russell Street, things like that. The funding will go a long way,” Kidston continued.
There remains some question surrounding the flexibility that local officials will have in utilizing the infrastructure funding.
"The mayor has said he's still waiting for information on how this can be used, from the Department of Transportation It's supposed to start being available next spring, but the good thing in Missoula is that they have a number of plans they've been working on a long time,” Kidston explained.
“Some of those plans are on their way to engineering, feasibility, and they should position the city strongly in competing for funding when it becomes available. “So, I think we'll have to watch for those plans, see what they apply for [and] when they apply for itt. It should be a moving target but we should see some things bubble up over this winter.
One of the issues being looked at for possible funding is the improvement of broadband service in the city and the county.
“A couple of years ago they did a broadband report and found that some of the big offices downtown are connected to broadband. But some of the rural areas are missing broadband. Some people have been left out based on location, based on their ability to connect to the broadband system. I think broadband will pick up more users and implementation begins to unroll,” Kidston noted.
Another project that could see federal dollars in the improvement and expansion projects that are continuing at the Missoula airport.
“They're completing phase one of the terminal and that's supposed to open early next spring. But there is still phase two which needs to take place and that's a big piece of that project. And that's $30, $40 million for phase two. This funding includes many millions of dollars for airports across Montana,” Kidston said. There's a good possibility that the airport in Missoula will see funding, giving it a big boost, sooner than they possibly have planned."