MISSOULA — Work to set the infrastructure ahead of future development off Mullan Road took a step forward on Wednesday when members of the Missoula City Council approved an agreement detailing the sharing of costs with Missoula County.
Last July, the City Council approved a resolution supporting the Mullan project and agreed to fund its share of the local match used to net the $13 million federal BUILD grant.
The city’s $6.3 million share includes $2 million for transportation and around $4.3 million in utility work.
“(The utilities) would be done in the normal course of business while doing utilities along with development,” said Jeremy Keene, director of Public Works for the city. “The difference here is that we’d be doing some of the work in advance of development and recouping those costs on the back end as development occurs.”
The city and county have already contracted two parallel portions of the project, including land-use planning with Dover, Kohl and Partners and design work associated with the BUILD grant with DJ&A.
The county applied for $23 million to complete the entire project but received $13 million. Given the $10 million difference, Keene said, some aspects of the work will have to wait until future funding is found.
“We’re working through a recommendation for how to go about prioritizing those different project pieces,” said Keene. “There’s a lot of different interests out there and everyone would like to be first. We want to have a very transparent, open process for how we decide what projects get done first.”
Keene said a number of factors will guide the process, including utilities and the availability of right-of-way. It will also include what he described as risk factors, including cost and permitting.
The grant has a timeline and the work must be delivered by a certain date.
“We want to make sure the projects we chose to go forward with can actually get done in that time frame,” said Keene.
The final consideration for project phasing will also look at public benefit. The grant package submitted by Missoula County included detailed explanations on issues around safety, traffic congestion, transportation choices and access to land for economic development.
“We’ll use those same criteria, the things we said the project would do, as a way of selecting what ones have the most public benefit at this point in time,” Keene said, adding that initial design work will conclude this summer. “That will be the point where we actually need to make a decision on which projects go forward as part of the BUILD funding.”
Keene said the city and county may apply for a second grant this spring in hopes of securing the remaining $10 million that wasn’t awarded in the initial grant.
“It’s still our intention to do the whole project,” he said. “We want to use the BUILD money as a way to leverage other funding and forward shift those costs into the other pieces of the projects we can’t fund right now.”
The Mullan project has been eyed for years but only now has the funding it needs to get started. A number of housing and commercial projects have either been approved or proposed for the area.
The first phase of the BUILD project will help guide that work in conjunction with the land-use plan underway at Dover-Kohl.
“I am excited about the implementation and development of this process,” said council member Mirtha Becerra. “I think it’s long overdue and will be a significant way to get us going ahead of the development we have planned for that portion of our community.”