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Engen says Missoula already discussing projects for Infrastructure Bill funds

John Engen Nov 2021
Posted at 4:15 PM, Nov 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-16 18:22:43-05

MISSOULA — It's only been a day since President Biden signed the $1 trillion infrastructure bill into law but local governments, like the City of Missoula, are already discussing what to put at the top of their "wish list".

While President Biden signed the infrastructure package Monday after months of legal wrangling in Washington, local and state governments have already been dreaming about projects the money can be used for.

John Engen Nov 2021

In Missoula, staff already have met and discussed some ideas, such as further funding of the road and infrastructure improvements in the Mullan Road and westside expansion, and conversion of the busy intersection at Front and Main. But it's expected to be months before the city knows what will qualify for the federal dollars.

"Lot of details to be worked out with regard to delivery of those funds," Missoula Mayor John Engen told MTN News Tuesday morning. "I think Montana does very well. I think Senator Tester worked very hard to get us a good share and it will go a long way. We're not sure yet today Dennis, how that sort of flows down to the city of Missoula."

There's been a lot of attention to the infrastructure money being spent to revitalize aging and unsafe water systems. Engen says the Garden City might not qualify since the Missoula Water system has already seen significant investment, but Engen feels there may still be money for additional upgrades.

"We're pretty fortunate we've got really good water. We've got water rights and we've got a system that we're fixing. But it is not broken the way some systems are around the country, and I think the emphasis for those dollars will probably be systems that have failed or [are] close to a catastrophic failure. And we're all about avoiding that." - Missoula Mayor John Engen

Ironically, the Montana Department of Transportation is just wrapping up work on years of upgrading Missoula's bridges which probably would have qualified for the new federal money. But there's significant work ahead to increase capacity.

Much of that falls on the state. But Engen says the city looks forward to partnerships and using dollars that might become available for Missoula's own streets.

"Local roads that's still on us, right? So if it's on a state route or a federal route, that's where that money is going to come into play. But local roads we're still the payer and the builder and the maintainer."