Capital projects take shape as city budgeting process nears

South Avenue, which now fronts Community Medical Center and Fort Missoula Regional Park, is on the list of capital improvement projects to be considered by the City Council during this year’s budget process. If approved, the project would turn South Avenue into a complete city street. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

By Martin Kidston/Missoula Current

Department heads this week outlined their plans to launch several capital improvement projects across the city next fiscal year, including $6.5 million in water-related projects and roughly $8.2 million in transportation.

The Capital Improvement Program serves as a five-year planning document intended to guide decisions on capital expenditures. The latest plan outlines capital projects slated for 2018 and lists future projects anticipated over the subsequent four years.

On the transportation side, 16 projects are currently listed for capital improvements, and 10 are slated to receive funding in Fiscal Year 2018.

The listed projects include improvements to the Interstate 90 intersection at Grant Greek Road, along with a traffic signal on Mullan Road at George Elmer Drive.

City Engineer Kevin Slovarp said a previous traffic impact study suggested a traffic signal would be needed when the number of new homes in the area reached 200. That threshold has been met, though the impact study has since been revised, requiring an additional 60 homes.

“I anticipate 60 homes being built this summer out there,” said Slovarp. “44 Ranch is really moving again, and the Flynn Ranch subdivision is still building homes and filing new townhome developments.”

With the threshold expected to be met this summer, Slovarp looks to design and build the $320,000 signal project in Fiscal Year 2018, which begins after July. Any delays, he said, could alter traffic patterns as construction in the area picks up.

“A new access road is required for the larger 44 Ranch phased development,” Slovarp said. “If that other access goes in before the signal is installed, it will likely pull traffic off George Elmer Drive and the signal won’t be warranted for another few years. I’d like to get this done.”

City and county officials have also considered the need for a traffic signal at Flynn Lane, though Slovarp said that’s a separate project and isn’t listed as a current capital expenditure.

Instead, Slovarp said, the city plans to focus its funding on making improvements to Mary Jane Boulevard. That connector became an issue earlier this year as Costco considered building a new store at Mary Jane and West Broadway.

While that project fell through, Slovarp said other projects will warrant the improvements.

“We’ve heard there might be some development happening that would create that Mary Jane connection with Flynn,” he said. “The city would like to get involved and look to fund some improvements for a signal at Mary Jane.”

Other major projects are also slated for funding in the next fiscal year, including improvements to South Avenue from Reserve Street to 36th Avenue.

A number of water projects are also on the list of capital improvement projects scheduled for the coming fiscal year.

That project would transform the rural stretch of road into a complete city street, including curbs and sidewalks, pedestrian and bicycle facilities, and boulevards. Of the $6 million total cost, roughly $1.7 million is included in the FY 2018 project list.

Slovarp anticipates that design and engineering will be completed by winter, with the first phase of bidding opening next year. The first phase will include improvements along the stretch of road fronting the new Fort Missoula Regional Park while the second phase would do the same along Community Hospital.

Efforts to improve Cregg Lane are also on the table. Of the $833,000 cost, roughly $683,000 is slated for 2018. That project would make improvements from Orange Street to Hickory and create a new entry to McCormick Park and the Currents Aquatics Center.

“We need to work with the administration on funding sources and make sure we can fund this project before going out to bid,” Slovarp said. “The design is 100 percent complete and ready to go. We’re working with the parks department on when they can close and restrict access to McCormick Park. Timing that project is something we’re working with parks on.”

Other transportation projects included on the 2018 list include $3 million for sidewalk installation and replacement, $1.2 million for street improvements and maintenance, and $200,000 for sidewalk improvements at City Hall.

Committee discussions will continue through next week and will be held open for public comment until the FY 2018 budget is adopted in June.

Contact reporter Martin Kidston at info@missoulacurrent.com