As the city looks at upgrading Kagy Boulevard, the east-west arterial street that carries nearly 16,000 cars a day through Montana State University’s campus in south Bozeman, it’s been hoping to accommodate the area’s thousands of walkers and bikers.

But, in part because of features like roundabouts and pedestrian underpasses, an initial cost estimate for 1.3 miles of improvements between Willson and 19th avenues has come back at a staggering $15 million — enough city officials are now saying they expect to delay the project, which had been set for 2018.

“We just don’t have enough money to build it at this point,” Public Works Director Craig Woolard said this week.

As a result, he said, he’s going to recommend city commissioners vote to push the project back as they take their annual look at the city’s infrastructure to-do list.

A conceptual design for the project, prepared by engineers with Sanderson Stewart, includes roundabouts at Kagy’s intersections with Seventh, 11th and Willson, Woolard said, as well as pedestrian underpasses at Seventh and 11th.

The idea of adding roundabouts was met with enthusiastic response from the public, he said, saying they make a lot of sense considering factors like football games held at Bobcat Stadium.

The rub, though: They’d cost at least twice as much as intersections with traditional signals — $1.5 to $2.5 million apiece, compared to $750,000 to $1 million.

And pedestrian underpasses, considered an ideal way to accommodate both game-day crowds and pedestrians walking to campus from student housing like Stadium View, come with a similarly hefty price tag, in the neighborhood of $1 million apiece.

The city, Woolard said, has about $8 million available from the pot of money it intends to use for Kagy, funds provided by the state to help municipalities pay for projects on major streets. Those funds, he said, accumulate at about a million dollars a year.

As a result, Woolard said he’s recommending the city hold off on Kagy until enough money is banked, waiting to do the project right instead of pushing forward with a partial expansion that would need to be redone in short order.

“On a corridor that’s that important, I would hate to do what we’ve done in the past in parts of Bozeman,” he said.

A report prepared by city consultant Robert Peccia and Associates estimates that 15,900 vehicles a day use Kagy as it cuts between MSU’s south fields and Bobcat Stadium. By 2040, it estimates that number is likely to rise by a quarter, to 19,600 — a figure that doesn’t account for pedestrians or bikers.

Sanderson Stewart engineers have also estimated that 1,400 pedestrians currently cross Kagy on an average week day, and counted 7,000 people crossing in the hour before kickoff in MSU’s homecoming football game last fall.

City Manager Chris Kukulski and Mayor Carson Taylor said this week that the city has had conversations with MSU about helping fund the project, but hasn’t received any commitment.

“It would be great if they would come up with some money, but I don’t expect that there’s an easy way to do it,” Taylor said. “It’s a complicated thing for them."

The university has offered up right of way to help with the project, he said.

MSU spokesman Tracy Ellig said in an email Wednesday that the university has paid $1 million in city impact fees since 2012 and is also subject to legal limitations on how it can use state funding allocated for academics.

"If the Board of Regents would be willing to divert tuition dollars to projects like Kagy,” Ellig wrote, "it would mean fewer dollars for academics — such as hiring faculty and staff — and student support services and/or a tuition increase.”

Eric Dietrich can be reached at 406-582-2628 or edietrich@dailychronicle.com. He is on Twitter at @eidietrich.

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