MISSOULA, Mont.—Mountain Line’s proposal to build a new Maintenance, Operations, and Administration Base (MOAB) was selected by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) as an award recipient, bringing more than $39 million of federal infrastructure funding to the agency and paving the way to build a critically necessary new facility. The applicant pool included 475 projects, with 130 selected for funding.
“Mountain Line is thrilled to get this vote of confidence from the FTA,” says Corey Aldridge, CEO and General Manager of Mountain Line, which was named Transit System of the Year for North America in 2021. “Our biggest need right now is a new facility to better serve a rapidly growing Missoula—and this funding will allow us to fulfill that need.”
The Missoula Urban Transportation District (MUTD), which operates Mountain Line, has been at its current facility on Shakespeare Street for more than four decades. In recent years, the lack of sufficient space has restricted the agency’s ability to prepare for Missoula’s increasing population and the corresponding demand for public transit, especially in areas of dense development and new housing.
The awarded funds, part of the FTA’s Low or No Emission Grant Program, will enable MUTD to design and build a new facility that can develop with the agency in multiple phases through the coming decades. The new MOAB will be fully electric, in keeping with the agency’s commitment to a zero-tailpipe-emissions fleet by 2035. Mountain Line is nationally recognized as an industry leader in its bus electrification efforts, and the new facility will support its ongoing transition to a more sustainable transit system.
The federal funds awarded require a local match, which MUTD has been preparing for in recent years while seeking a new location.
“This award comes at a pivotal moment for Mountain Line and Missoula,” says Projects & Planning Manager Colin Woodrow. “This funding leverages local money to meet current space and programming needs and addresses Missoula’s growing demand and Mountain Line’s future growth, as well as reaching other key strategic goals, including those shared by the City and County.”
Since 2017, Mountain Line has successfully applied for multiple competitive FTA awards under the Low and No-Emissions and Bus & Bus Facilities programs to fund its transition to a battery-electric fleet, including a $10.9 million award last August for the purchase of 10 new electric buses. Funding a larger facility will lay the groundwork for MUTD to deliver additional service, including ambitious collaborative efforts like Bus Rapid Transit along the Brooks Street corridor, currently being studied in the Transform Brooks—Connect Midtown planning project.
This discretionary grant award will come from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). “Reliable, affordable public transit plays a key role in supporting our state’s economy and creating good-paying Montana jobs,” said Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), a prominent supporter of the infrastructure package.
Other local and state officials submitted letters of support for Mountain Line’s grant proposal, including Senator Steve Daines (R-MT), the Missoula Board of County Commissioners, and Missoula Mayor Jordan Hess.
“I’m certain that the support we received from community partners and elected officials helped us get across the finish line this year,” says Aldridge. “We came into the application process prepared with a concrete plan and a clear vision for Mountain Line’s role in Missoula, and the enthusiastic support of our partners and leaders showed that Missoula is ready for us to follow through on that plan and invest in a more connected, mobile, and sustainable community.”
Mountain Line was named the top public transit agency in North America in its size in 2021, earning the American Public Transportation Association Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award. The agency also won the Montana Transit Association statewide safety award in 2021 and was named Montana’s System of the Year in 2023. Committed to a zero-tailpipe-emissions fleet by 2035, Mountain Line has a long-standing commitment to clean air, public health, and a more sustainable future. Since becoming a zero-fare system in 2015, ridership has increased nearly 70 percent. Mountain Line provides more than 1.5 million rides annually, helping students get to school, employees get to work, and older adults and those living with disabilities stay active, mobile, and independent. By reducing the number of single vehicles on the road, lessening traffic congestion, and investing in electric buses, Mountain Line benefits us all.