NewsMissoula County


Current Events: Sawmill District, Mullan Road, passenger rail updates

Posted at 9:12 AM, Mar 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-28 11:21:43-04

MISSOULA - This edition of Current Events with Missoula Current founding editor Martin Kidston takes a look at several ongoing projects and efforts taking place around Missoula.

“Urban Renewal District Two basically covers the West Broadway corridor, the north side, the old Sawmill District. That district is nearing the end of its life. It sunsets in nine years but the city and the Missoula Redevelopment Agency (MRA) have some pretty sizable projects they want to complete in that area while that district is still in existence. What the MRA has been doing after the last several months is to set up a priority list of some of the goals and that includes some major infrastructure work, some major housing work, some transportation initiatives, sidewalks, things that cost a lot of money,” Kidston explained.

“A bridge over the Bitterroot River to complete the Branch Trail, lighting along the trail. This stuff is going to cost money so MRA is putting together a list of priorities that they are going to take to the city council. They are going to weigh the city council's appetite to bond these projects before the district sunsets. The district has the capacity to fund these projects through bonding but they are going to see if the city council is willing to go down that road.”

The District will sunset in nine years but there is some pressure to get things done now.

"These projects don't happen quickly, overnight, so they are trying to get the wheels turning. There is some major transportation issues in there, funding that bridge as I said. The West Broadway corridor build-out. These projects will take time and money. The city needs to bond that to make it happen. If the city decides not to bond these projects then MRA is going to have to go back and find new alternatives which don't cost as much money. When the district sunsets, a lot of these projects won't have been completed.

There is also some news on projects in the Mullen area and some fees that could be coming out of that.

“The work on the Mullan area is underway, a lot of infrastructure work. They don't want to put those streets in until they get sewer and water laid, and they can't wait for a developer to come along and do their own sewer and water projects. If they did those roads would never get finished. The city is going to go in and lay all the sewer and water, build the road and they are going to place any impact fees on any developer that comes after that,” Kidston noted.

“The developer normally would pay for those improvements on their own, but the city is going to pay for them and build those improvements. They will charge a "late comers" fee which means any developer [from] this point forward who subdivides and benefits from that city system will have to pay back the city portion of that project.

Finally, we have an update on efforts to bring passenger rail service back to Montana along the southern route.

"The Crow Reservation came on board about a month ago, so they are now a member. Lake County just north of us is also considering joining. If they did that would bring roughly the members of counties for the organization [to] about 19, which kind of reaches that threshold to get that done. We'll be watching Lake County's vote.