Toston Bridge

Crews work to remove the old bridge as vehicles drive over the new bridge over the Missouri River on U.S Highway 287 near Toston in this IR file photo.

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Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte on Thursday signed into law a package of legislation containing more than $500 million to fund infrastructure projects across the state.

That’s mostly in addition to hundreds of millions of dollars that will be flowing into Montana from the federal American Relief Plan Act (ARPA). Most of that money was appropriated in separate legislation once lawmakers gained more clarity on the federal relief funds.

The package of nine bills Gianforte signed into law all passed with broad bipartisan support, a departure from recent sessions marked by bitter fights over funding priorities for infrastructure.

The 2019 session finally saw a break in a nearly decade-long stalemate between Republicans and Democrats who had been at odds over how to pay for both rural projects and big-ticket priorities in urban areas. A pair of bills passed that year established a framework for a mix of cash and general-obligation bonds that both sides found palatable.

House Bill 14 included many of the big-ticket capital works projects. It was amended after the passage of ARPA to include $37.5 million in federal relief funds, along with $21.3 million in funds matched by the state university system.

House Bill 5, funding the long-range building program, includes $41 million for the Montana Heritage Center museum in Helena.

Most of the other bills included smaller amounts of money for more targeted purposes, including grants for cultural projects, renewable resource projects and restoration. House Bill 5 authorizes $274.2 million for capital development projects. House Bill 8 authorizes up to $78.6 million in loans for water projects.

House Bill 10 appropriates $53.5 million for large IT projects, and House Bill 11 taps the Treasure State Endowment Program for water, wastewater and bridge projects totaling $19 million.

House Bill 12 is the product of negotiations last legislative session that resulted in funding for the Montana Heritage Center Museum in Helena. As a compromise, the Montana Historic Preservation Program will direct $5.5 million over the next two years to smaller historic preservation projects in more rural parts of the state.

New appropriations for other big-ticket projects in the infrastructure package include:

  • $25 million for the University of Montana’s Conservation and Science Lab.
  • $17.9 million for a Department of Military Affairs vehicle maintenance shop in Malta
  • $11 million for Montana State University’s Agricultural Experiment Station research centers and the wool lab.
  • $10 million for renovations and office improvements in the Capitol Building complex
  • $10 million for improving the Yellowstone Airport in West Yellowstone
  • $9.8 million for the Department of Labor and Industry’s veterinarian diagnostic and agricultural analytical laboratories.
  • $7.8 million for Flathead Lake recreation access
  • $7.2 million to renovate the University of Montana Western’s Block Hall.
  • $6 million for DMA barracks at Fort Harrison

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