Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) With hopes of landing a federal grant, Missoula County last week signed a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation, asking it to support plans to redevelop the Highway 200 corridor through East Missoula.

Missoula County approved the corridor plan in 2021, an effort that calls for sidewalks and bike lanes, and widening the railroad bridge to make room for non-motorized travel.

In its letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the county described East Missoula as “functionally cut off” from the urban core of Missoula due to a lack of safe, non-motorized facilities and the barrier that remains the railroad overpass.

The county hopes to secure funding from the federal Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods Program.

“The project’s goals and objectives align with the RCN’s goals of removing community barriers and retrofitting an existing facility,” the county said in its letter. “This project supports and creates safe spaces for those walking, biking and taking the bus between urban Missoula and East Missoula.”

Members of Missoula's Transportation Technical Advisory Committee earlier this month recommended the city and county apply for a federal grant this year to help fund aspects of the project.

Plans for Highway 200 through East Missoula include streetscape improvements like bike lanes, sidewalks, boulevards and lighting. They also include a roundabout at the I-90 interchange and work on the railroad bridge to create more room underneath for both pedestrians and passing vehicles.

Aaron Wilson, the city's transportation manager, placed the cost of the work at around $31 million and said the federal grant would require a 20% local match. In its letter, the county said it has committed $500,000 in a local match if the grant were awarded.

Other matching funds could also be applied.

“It's such a great project, and it would be the result of the Highway 200 corridor plan,” said county Commissioner Josh Slotnick. “It would be a great thing for that whole part of our community if we can make this happen.”

The county expects to hear the results of its application this year.

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