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Engen sees competition for infrastructure bill funding

John Engen
Posted at 10:48 AM, Nov 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-17 12:48:21-05

MISSOULA — Missoula Mayor John Engen sees competition as local governments press to tap into the infrastructure bill that was signed by President Biden this week.

But he doesn't believe there will be as much pressure to nominate projects as there was last time federal money was offered under similar circumstances more than 10 years ago.

President Joe Biden signed the $1 trillion spending bill on Monday, finalizing a massive investment in everything from new highways and bridges to water systems and mitigating climate change.

When the federal government last passed a large package of funding for infrastructure it was coming out of the Great Recession in 2009. That meant local and state governments had to have "shovel ready" projects but Engen doesn't see that kind of pressure this time around.

"This is less about stimulating the economy and more about preserving our economy and infrastructure over time and catching up,” Engen said. “So, I think the pressures are different and I don't think the competition is about getting a design document in front of the right folks in a big hurry."

But Missoula leaders are already talking about potential projects, such as the expansion of services on Mullan Road and the west side and the conversion of the busy Front and Main intersection downtown.