This Week in Government: Board of Health special meeting Monday

Missoula City-County Board of Health

special meeting

When: 9 a.m. Monday.

Where: Missoula Public Health, 301 W. Alder Conference Room 210 or via Microsoft Teams.

Agenda: action on hiring recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners for the Director/Health Officer, Missoula Public Health vacancy.

City Council

When: 6 p.m. Monday.

Where: Virtual: bit.ly/3JVyNJ9; Cable TV Channel 190. YouTube Live and On Demand: bit.ly/3JTikoU. Meetings are conducted via Zoom webinar. Register for the live webinar to attend and/or comment during the live meeting: Zoom page listing of the city’s public meetings: ci-missoula-mt.zoom.us/calendar/list or missoulapublicmeetings.com. If you don’t have a computer, call the City Clerk’s office at 552-6078 to register and receive instructions to join the meeting by phone. 

Board of County Commissioners

When: 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Where: Missoula County Administration Building Conference Room 206, 199 W. Pine St. or via Microsoft Teams.

Agenda: Request board approve and sign an agreement with the Water’s Edge Homeowners Association, Inc. to ameliorates the concerns of Lots 12-14 having to access directly onto Waterside Drive, and requires the HOA to dedicate 15′ wide non-motorized public access through Phases 2 and 3 of the Subdivision; request board appoint Peter Donaldson from alternate to an active seat on the Missoula City-County Library Board; request board appoint Owen Mayer as second alternate member of the Zoning Board of Adjustments.

Missoula Parking Commission

When: Noon Tuesday.

Where: Jack Reidy Conference Room, 140 W. Pine St. or via TEAMS.

Agenda: adoption of the Expansion and Optimization plan as a descriptive document to guide MPC data collection, expansion, and management decisions.

Air Quality Advisory Council

When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Where: Health Board Conference Room 210, 301 W. Alder St. or via Microsoft Teams.

Agenda: presentation on this year’s wildfire outlook; staff report.

Land Use and Planning Committee

When: 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Where: City Council Chambers, 140 W. Pine St. or via TEAMS.

Agenda:  Reappointing Regular/Professional Member to the Historic Preservation Commission; Strong Riverstone 18-Lot Major Subdivision and Rezone; Resolution to Annex 2612 South Ave. West; Final Code Diagnostic Overview and Resolution in Support of Code Reform Guiding Principles.

Budget and Finance Committee

When: 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Where: City Council Chambers, 140 W. Pine St. or via TEAMS.

Agenda: Community Planning, Development & Innovation (CPDI) Budget presentation.

Climate, Conservation and Parks Committee

When: 1:55 p.m. Wednesday.

Where: City Council Chambers, 140 W. Pine St. or via TEAMS.

Agenda: FY24 Update on Climate and Sustainability Team.

Housing, Redevelopment, and Community Programs Committee

When: 2:50 p.m. Wednesday.

Where: City Council Chambers, 140 W. Pine St. or via TEAMS.

Agenda: Resolution to Bond for the Scott Street Ravara Project.

Committee of the Whole

When: 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Where: City Council Chambers, 140 W. Pine St. or via TEAMS.

Agenda: Resolution addressing the City of Missoula’s approach to urban camping and to adopt recommendations from the Urban Camping Work Group.

Historic Preservation Commission

When: 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Where: City Council Chambers, 140 W. Pine St. or via TEAMS.

Agenda: Post hospital demolition presentation; 27 Fort Missoula Road re-roofing presentation. 

Transportation Technical Advisory Committee

When: 10 a.m. Thursday.

Where: Water Conference Room, 1345 W. Broadway or via TEAMS.

Agenda: discussion of upcoming FY25 Unified Planning Work Program; review and approval of Amendment #2 to the FFY2024-2028 Transportation Improvement Program.

Missoula Board of County Commissioners

When: 2 p.m. Thursday.

Where: Sophie Moiese Room, Missoula County Courthouse or  via Microsoft Teams.

Agenda: Evaro-Finley O’Keefe Community Council dissolution.

MDT wants to hear from you on its upcoming projects

The Montana Department of Transportation has slated dozens of construction projects for the next few years, and is asking the public for input on how to finish them.

Last month, the DOT published its annual Statewide Transportation Improvement Projects draft, which identifies statewide infrastructure projects, and how much funding those projects will get.

“Public input is a key component for our projects,” said MDT District Administrator Michael Taylor in an email to the Gazette, “and we want to know more about the public’s experience with driving, walking, bicycling, transit and other modes of transportation in these areas.”

Taylor’s district encompasses south and central Montana, where major plans listed in the STIP included portions of the Billings Bypass project.

Mandated by federal law, the latest STIP contains MDT construction plans for the fiscal years of 2024 through 2028. While road projects dominate the report, the department proposed improvements to rail lines and airports. In general, transportation needs in Montana are about three times the total revenue taken in to address them, and the MDT must prioritize its projects accordingly. The STIP lists projects entering a new phase of construction during those five years, be it the groundbreaking or completion.

The total cost of all the projects in the STIP draft is estimated to be over $2 billion from 2024 through 2028, about a third of which is planned for highway construction and reconstruction. The federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, passed in 2021, set aside about $1.2 trillion for transportation and infrastructure spending, and those federal dollars fill most of the expenses anticipated in Montana’s STIP.

“The funding split varies but is typically 87% federal to 13% state,” Taylor said. “Federal road and bridge revenues are generated from the users of our highways through gasoline and diesel fuel taxes and apportioned to states through federal highway legislation. State road and bridge revenues are generated through fuel taxes, gross vehicle weight fees and other related fees.”

The MDT is also required to highlight projects in the STIP anticipated to have a major impact on travelers, known as regionally significant projects. Among those projects are the plan to reconstruct U.S. Highway 93 through Ronan and adding lanes to U.S. Highway 2 running east of Bainville to the Montana-North Dakota border.

The three regionally significant projects listed for Billings are all part of the larger Billings Bypass project. Construction crews have completed two of the six pieces of the project, which will link the Billings Heights to Interstate 90 in Lockwood.

Last month, construction was finished on a portion of a railroad overpass which connects to the Yellowstone River Bridge. The bypass is tentatively scheduled for completion in 2028, following the construction of the Johnson Lane Interchange and a roadway connecting Five Mile Road to U.S. Highway 87.

Also listed in the STIP for the Billings District are reconstruction on First Avenue North in downtown Billings, making improvements to U.S. Highway 212 from Boyd to Red Lodge and reconstructing Montana Highway 3 south of Lavina, all of which can be viewed and commented on by Montana residents through the MDT’s website. The department will accept public comments through June 15. 

“We encourage the public to share their experiences and provide input on the current needs and deficiencies for the state’s transportation system,” Taylor said. “Public input is valuable and will be used to help identify the issues the projects should consider.”

Key facts about Montana’s surface transportation system May 2024

Investing in Montana’s surface transportation system improves road and bridge conditions and reduces driver costs:

  • A total of 28% of Montana’s major roads are in poor or mediocre condition. Driving on deteriorated roads costs Montana motorists $507 million a year – $583 per driver – in the form of additional repairs, accelerated vehicle depreciation, and increased fuel consumption and tire wear.
  • A total of 7% of Montana’s bridges are rated in poor/structurally deficient condition, meaning there is significant deterioration to the major components of the bridge. A total of 43% of the state’s bridges are at least 50 years old, an age when many bridges require significant rehabilitation or replacement.
  • Vehicle travel in Montana dropped by 31% in April 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic (as compared to the same month the previous year), but rebounded to 6% above pre-pandemic levels by 2023. Since 2000, vehicle travel on Montana’s roads increased 39% and the state’s population increased 26%.
  • The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), signed into law in November 2021, will provide $3.1 billion in state funds for highway and bridge investments in Montana over five years, including a 37% funding increase over the first three years of the program from FY 2022 to FY 2024. Federal funds currently support at least 80% of the state’s transportation department spending on highway and bridge improvements.
  • Construction cost inflation, the erosion of motor fuel taxes due to inflation, improved fuel efficiency, and the adoption of hybrid and electric vehicles threaten the state’s ability to keep pace with growing transportation needs. The Federal Highway Administration’s national highway construction cost index, which measures the rate of inflation in labor and materials cost, increased 37% between 2022 and the first half of 2023 and has increased 59% since the start of 2021.

Roadway improvements can reduce traffic crashes and save lives

  • From 2019 through 2023, 1,052 people died on Montana’s highways, an average of 210 annual fatalities. Montana’s traffic fatality rate of 1.49 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel is higher than the national average of 1.26.
  • A total of 891 people were killed in traffic crashes in work zones in the U.S. in 2022, an 18% increase since 2018. There were 22 Work zone fatalities in Montana from 2018 to 2022. Work zone safety can be improved through the use of safety countermeasures including improved work zone design, improved driver messaging, high-visibility markings and speed enforcement.
  • Traffic crashes in Montana imposed a total of $1.4 billion in economic costs in 2023. TRIP estimates that a lack of adequate roadway safety features, while not the primary factor, was likely a contributing factor in approximately one-third of all fatal traffic crashes, resulting in $472 million in economic costs in the state in 2022. These costs include work and household productivity losses, property damage, medical costs, rehabilitation costs, legal and court costs, congestion costs, and emergency services.

Investing in our transportation system generates jobs, fosters economic recovery and growth, and improves safety

  • Investments in the surface transportation system will boost Montana’s economy in the short-term by creating jobs and in the long-term will enhance economic competitiveness, stimulate sustained job growth, improve access and mobility, improve traffic safety, reduce travel delays, and improve road and bridge conditions.
  • Roads and highways are the backbone of our economy, allowing Montana motorists to travel 13.7 billion miles annually and moving a significant portion of the $88 billion worth of commodities shipped to and from the state each year. But conditions on the system are deteriorating, as the need for transportation improvements far outpaces the amount of state and federal funding available.
  • The design, construction and maintenance of transportation infrastructure in Montana supports approximately 17,000 full-time jobs across all sectors of the state economy. Approximately 214,000 full-time jobs in Montana in key industries like tourism, retail sales, agriculture and manufacturing are completely dependent on the state’s transportation network.

Latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau, USDOT, FHWA, BTS, ARTBA, NHTSA, and AAA compiled and analyzed by National Transportation Research Nonprofit (TRIP). Founded in 1971, TRIP is a private, nonprofit organization that researches, evaluates, and distributes economic and technical data on surface transportation issues. By generating traditional and social media news coverage, TRIP informs and promotes policies that improve the movement of goods and people, make surface travel safer, and enhance economic development and productivity.

From the Desk of Jon Tester: Internet Service

To: Darryl James, Executive Director, Montana Infrastructure Coalition

Dear Darryl,

Thank you for contacting me about internet service in Montana, and the importance of staying connected during the COVID-19 outbreak.  I am fighting to slow the spread of the virus and to ensure that Montanans receive the support they need during these uncertain times.

COVID-19 has disrupted daily American life.  Now more than ever, it is critically important for Montana to have reliable access to high-speed internet.  That’s why I voted for the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (H.R. 748).  This bill includes $100 million for the ReConnect program, an initiative to increase high-speed internet access in rural areas.  The CARES Act also included $50 million for the Institute of Museum and Library Services to expand digital network access in areas of the country where such access is lacking.

I also am pushing Senate leadership to pass my bipartisan bill, the Keeping Critical Connections Act (S. 3569).  This bill would establish a fund to compensate rural broadband providers for offering free or discounted services to families who are struggling to keep up with their bills due to the COVID-19 outbreak.  This legislation would help students in rural areas stay on top of their education as they transition to online learning and allow families to stay connected as more Montanans stay home.  To see what resources are available in your area, visit the Federal Communications Commission:https://www.fcc.gov/keep-americans-connected

I will continue to fight for the needs of Montanans as we work through this unprecedented situation.  Please don’t hesitate to contact me again if I can be of further assistance.

Sincerely,

Jon Tester
United States Senator

Infrastructure Investment – The Time is Now

The Montana Infrastructure Coalition has been in contact with our Congressional Delegation over the last several weeks to discuss the importance of infrastructure investment not just in the midst of the current COVID-related financial crisis, but as a long-term strategy for economic stability and the general health and well-being of our communities across Montana.

Senator Tester has heard from you, and inherently recognizes the importance of investing in our infrastructure.  When asked about his position on various bills making their way through the Washington legislative process, Senator Tester said, “As I travel across Montana, I consistently hear from folks that we need to update our infrastructure.  Whether it is improving our roads, bridges, schools or high speed-internet access, Congress is long overdue in passing a responsible infrastructure bill that strengthens businesses and communities across our state.  Making these investments is essential to the growth of our economy now and for future generations.”

The Coalition has had the opportunity to participate in video conferencing with Senator Daines a couple of times this past month, and in a call just last week, Executive Director Darryl James asked Senator Daines about the federal role in state and local infrastructure funding.  Senator Daines was very clear in stating that Congress needs to resist thinking about infrastructure spending as a novel expenditure.  He said, “Infrastructure investment is more appropriately viewed as payment on a debt we already owe to our country.  Previous generations built the majority of the infrastructure we enjoy today, and it’s our responsibility to make sure we properly maintain that infrastructure so the next generation isn’t left with a massive infrastructure debt that they can’t build their way out of.”

When asked specifically about his down vote on a House infrastructure funding bill earlier this month, Congressman Gianforte said, “Transportation bills should be bipartisan and focus on our country’s pressing infrastructure needs.  Unfortunately, Nancy Pelosi chose to speed down a partisan road toward the Green New Deal.  That’s a dead end in Montana, which is why I voted against it.  Since the Senate won’t pass Pelosi’s partisan bill, I look forward to working toward a compromise bill that actually addresses Montana’s critical needs.”

Montanans should be pleased that our voices are being heard in Congress, and that our delegates understand and appreciate the need to take infrastructure investment seriously.  The injection of Federal monies into local infrastructure right now could translate into immediate employment for Montana’s skilled labor force, an opportunity to chip away at our infrastructure deficit, and securing a safer and healthier place to do business and raise families across our state.  Continuing to ignore the need for assistance means that even basic service needs in our local communities continue to go unmet, and that we risk a sluggish and languishing recovery from the current economic crisis.

If you haven’t already done so, please reach out to Senators Tester and Daines, and Congressman Gianforte to thank them for their support, and encourage their continued engagement in the infrastructure funding dialogue on behalf of the great state of Montana.

Support for Covid-19 Economic Recovery Funding for Montana Local Governments

On Tuesday, May 19, 2020, Montana Infrastructure Coalition (MIC) and its individual members collectively drafted and sent the following letters to Montana’s congressional delegates requesting that further economic recovery funding be routed directly to local governments to ensure that the revenue shortfalls caused by the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders be backfilled with federal relief aid. MIC and its members requests full support of a COVID-response funding package that provides funding directly to local governments to backfill lost revenue to ensure that essential services can continue and more importantly that significant investments can be made in infrastructure for both short and long-term economic benefits.

Support for AASHTO Allocation Request for COVID-19 Economic Recovery Funding

On Tuesday, May 12, 2020, Montana Chamber of CommerceMontana Infrastructure CoalitionMontana Association of REALTORS®, and Montana Contractors Association collectively drafted and sent the following letters to Montana’s congressional delegates in support of a funding allocation request from the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO). The allocation would provide COVID-19 economic recovery funding necessary to alleviate lost revenue from fuel taxes and weight-mile taxes as a result of a significant decrease of vehicle miles travelled. This revenue is necessary in maintaining and improving essential transportation infrastructure.

Much Of Montana’s Infrastructure Is Old And Outdated, Report Says

There’s been some improvement in Montana’s roads, bridges and other public works projects since 2014, but they’re still generally in mediocre shape. That’s according to a new report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Read more here!

2018 Montana Infrastructure Report Card

The 2018 Report Card for Montana’s Infrastructure was released by the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) Montana Section, giving 10 categories of infrastructure an overall grade of “C.” The report includes an evaluation of the state’s bridges, drinking water, dams, energy, rail, roads, schools, solid waste, stormwater and wastewater. The last Report Card for Montana’s Infrastructure was released in 2014.

Check out the 2018 Report Card here!

Supporters Look to Learn from Past Infrastructure Failures

“It doesn’t make sense to kick that can down the road when we are talking about critical infrastructure in someone’s community,” said Darryl James.

The rejected bonding bill only allocated about $30 million for critical infrastructure, like wastewater systems, roads and bridges. The coalition hopes to find support for a much larger investment this session, saying Montana could wisely spend $100 to $200 million on water and sewer projects alone. But James said even $200 million for waterline maintenance is only a “drop in the bucket.”

“Most of the urban water and wastewater systems were built between 75 and 100 years ago,” said James. “There are softball-sized holes in these water lines. We are going to reach catastrophic failure somewhere.”

Please check out the full article here.