MISSOULA - Mountain Line had just three routes and four buses based in East Missoula back in 1977.
Now, the bus system averages 1.5 million rides annually across 70 square miles in the valley – all at no cost to riders. And as Missoula’s population ticks up and up, the city’s infrastructure is trying to keep up and that includes the growth of Missoula’s longtime transit system.
The bus system’s current two-acre home on Shakespeare Street is full to the brim, so they’re applying for a $50 million federal grant in hopes of building a new facility near Rodgers and Otis streets in what's considered the Scott Street District. The upgrade would allow for expanded bus services and an all-electric fleet.
“One of the questions that may come up is why there, why not out by the airport? And for public transportation, the farther away we are from the city core of our routes, the more it costs for us to operate,” explained Mountain Line CEO and General Manager Corey Aldridge. “We have increased dead head, hours, and mileage, and it’s surprising how much it does increase our costs.”
The Missoula City Council voted Monday evening to approve and authorize Mayor John Engen to sign a Letter of Intent to sell approximately 3.7 acres of land to Mountain Line. The actual sale of the property isn’t ready to happen just yet as the land hasn’t been appraised and a fair market value hasn’t been identified. But the mayor’s authorization of the sale now gives Mountain Line a better shot at receiving the federal grant.
The application for the grant is due at the end of the month, and recipients will be announced in August.