Traversing Missoula to get easier with new sign program

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The downtown portion of a city-wide wayfinding project will begin this spring with 35 new directional signs placed within the district.

By Martin Kidston/MISSOULA CURRENT

Navigating Missoula will get a little easier this spring when a long-awaited wayfinding project begins with 35 directional signs placed around the downtown district.

The Missoula Chamber of Commerce is also looking to raise funding to place new gateway signs at each of the city’s five points of entry.

Jessica Morriss, the city’s transportation planning manager, said the downtown wayfinding project will help visitors find the city’s landmarks, from the Missoula Art Museum to the Missoula Children’s Theater.

The effort is the first phase of a larger project intended to improve signage across the city.

“The goals it have a layer of signage that helps visitors in Missoula get to their destination more efficiently and more effectively,” said Morriss. “The downtown signs are being fabricated right now. They’ll be shipped over here and installed in April or May.”

The downtown wayfinding project includes 35 signs, each funded by state tourism grants, the Missoula Downtown Association and the Missoula Business Improvement District.

Future wayfinding phases include a parking layer, a vehicular layer and a parks and trails layer.

“Funding for the parking signage will come from the Missoula Parking Commission, either next fiscal year or the following,” Morriss said. “A lot of the signage is in different urban renewal districts, so the Missoula Redevelopment Agency has some funding for that.”

Funding to place additional signs outside the noted districts has yet to be identified. Morriss said funding future phases will likely serve as a topic of discussion during the City Council’s upcoming budgeting sessions.

“The program goes across the city, particularly the vehicular signage,” Morriss said. “The signs that fall outside of the parking district or an MRA district have no identified funding source. The city will look at funding the vehicular signage in the Fiscal Year ’17 or ’18 budget.”

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The Missoula Chamber of Commerce is raising funds to place five gateway signs at each of the city’s five major points of entry.

The project also includes five gateway signs placed at the city’s points of entry. The Missoula Chamber of Commerce is working to raise an estimated $200,000 to cover the costs.

Sam Sill, director government affairs for the chamber, said fundraising should be completed this year with the gateway signs installed during next year’s construction season.

“The gateway signs will be between $32,000 and $40,000 each,” Sill said. “We’re going to fundraise the money from local businesses.”

Sill said the signs, which sit on a stone foundation, will greet visitors on East and West Broadway. They’ll also be placed at the Van Buren and Orange Street interchanges, and on South Brooks Street.

The precise location has yet to be determined.

“Once the locations are figured out, we’ll begin fundraising in earnest,” Sill said. “We think the gateway signs will help create a sense of place for Missoula, and will communicate that our community is a great place to visit, live and do business.”