MISSOULA — As the City of Missoula pursues the transformation of the Brooks Street corridor, it will receive the backing of Missoula County, one of the Midtown district’s largest landowners.
This week, the county signed a letter of support as part of an application package seeking around $900,000 in a RAISE planning grant from the federal government.
The letter addressed to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, describes the planning grant as a key piece in a larger effort to move Brooks Street away from an “auto-centric business strip into a multi-modal, transit-oriented development corridor.”
“We have this awesome concept, but it needs to be fleshed out,” said Annette Marchesseault with the Missoula Redevelopment Agency. “We’re submitting an application for the RAISE grant to get that project into a position so it will be at a place where we can start looking for capital funding.”
The city’s chosen engineering firm, HDR, determined last year that while the Brooks Street corridor is capable of moving traffic, it will soon reach capacity. It already faces a number of challenges that impairs traffic, limits economic expansion, and hinders non-motorized transportation.
In seeking solutions, transportation officials settled upon a “Rapid Bus Transit” system that would use a center-running lane. That would enable Mountain Line to launch 15-minute service without disrupting traffic in the heart of Midtown.
“We’ve done a couple of planning studies, and the most recent one was an infrastructure study to understand how we can get transit onto Brooks and make it successful,” said Marchesseault. “You need transit to get through traffic, but you also need that critical mass of riders to make transit successful. And because this is a (state) route, you need to keep a certain level of traffic flow.”
The Rapid Bus Transit plan would include several transit stations, along with work to improve the safety and flow of various intersections.
It would also make it easier for pedestrians to cross the busy street. Dedicated bike lanes would also be included – something that’s lacking in the congested Midtown district.
“The concept, which we think has a lot of merit, is a center running Bus Rapid Transit,” Marchesseault said. “The stations would also be in the center lane. It allows a pedestrian refuge to cross the street, and it helps aggregate left turn lanes, which helps with traffic flow.”
Last month, MRA made $50,000 available as a match to the RAISE grant for the corridor planning. The funding would only be used if MRA and its partners are successful in winning the federal grant.
By lending its support, Missoula County joins the city, the Midtown Association, Mountain Line, Climate Smart Missoula, and others in backing the project.
“Center-running Bus Rapid Transit could improve safety and flow for all users while also facilitating smart growth,” the county wrote in support. “Investing in a BRT system and a complete, multi-modal street would signal to developers that the city encourages robust infill development with a vibrant mix of residential, business, commercial and recreational uses accessible to all demographics.”