Missoulian: Tester tours Missoula stimulus projects, holds public meeting

Mayor John Engen had a concise explanation for Sen. Jon Tester of Missoula’s new North Higgins streetscape.

“It’s for fellows our size and larger to walk side by side without anyone getting injured,” Engen joked as he led the senator on a tour of the new 20-foot-wide sidewalks between Broadway and Alder Street. The creation of 15 good jobs, better bike lanes and room for restaurants to set out streetside tables were also benefits, he said.

Tester was in town on Monday to see the project’s results and hear from other Missoulians about how the economy fares. He got a thank you from Worden’s Market owner Tim France, who helped convince the city’s Business Improvement Board to take on the $1.4 million project even though it scrambled downtown traffic for much of the summer. Tester supported the federal stimulus bill that provided the money.

Brent Campbell of WGM Group recalled how when the national economy cratered two years ago, his engineering firm lost 35 percent of its business.

“Things have stabilized now, but the stimulus was important to bridge that gap,” Campbell said. “We’re seeing more private activity coming on, but there’s still plenty of need for infrastructure. We’ve just scratched the surface.”

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