MISSOULA – This edition of Current Events with Missoula Currents founding editor Martin Kidston takes a look at the fast-approaching moving day for the new terminal at the Missoula airport, the possible conversion of a train trestle downtown, and city and county efforts to engage the public.
"They'll be heading over into the facility this week. After years and years of planning, and fundraising, they're about ready to go. They'll be moving out and moving in and passengers will be using the new terminal this week or next, "Kidston explained. “It should be traveling a lot easier and friendlier. This has been a long time coming. They've also received money or closing the account for phase two, so we could see construction begin on phase two of the construction. Once that old terminal shuts down you might say goodbye to it because it’s going to be gone forever.
Another issue that popped up recently is the possibility of converting the train trestle over the Clark Fork River.
“This is kind of exciting news. Ellen Buchanan with the Missoula Development Agency said that Montana Rail Link and Washington Corp. have given approval for the city to begin engineering and preliminary design on the trestle to put a pedestrian bike/walkway across there. The only caveat is that whatever they do would have to be temporary in case the railroad ever wants to use it again they want to have that option,” Kidston said.
“As you said not a lot goes across that bridge so it would be better served being a crossing for bikes and pedestrians. That trestle marks the end of the Bitterroot Branch trail which runs from Missoula all the way down to Lolo and to Hamilton, so this is the last missing link in that trail. It would be exciting to walk from the Old Sawmill District or a baseball game across the river into downtown and eventually we may see something happen, to the Riverfront Triangle to make that a vibrant part of the city,” Kidston continued.
"One of the things about it is that MRA did an exit plan for Urban District Renewal Plan II last month and among their top priorities in that exit plan was a crossing across the Clark Fork River and this project came along at the right time. It's actually one of the city's top goals for that area of the city.”
Another issue is the City of Missoula and Missoula County, trying to do a better job reaching out to the public.
“This is actually quite exciting. The city launched Engage Missoula about a year or so ago. Anybody can go on the city's website, and they can see the facts and the details of major projects [and] initiatives. They can comment on that. That comment goes in the "public comment" so everybody can see it. The County this month launched a similar initiative. The people in the county can do the same thing there, read and comment on major projects,” Kidston said.
“We all know the county has launched an initiative called Tip of the Spear, where they get out ahead of things and talk about their goals and priorities. The mayor has launched Wednesdays with the Mayor, which is an effort by the mayor and the city to get out in front of the public and answer questions firsthand.”
“I think we're seeing an intentional effort on behalf of both governments to be forthcoming and get out there and to dispel some of the misunderstandings that tend to float around social media We all know how caustic social media can be at times. You don't necessarily get a lot of truth out there in that atmosphere so they're trying to take the word to the street and hopefully, people will tune in and listen and get the facts from the factual people as opposed to these rumors on social media,” Kidston concluded.