The U.S. Department of Transportation announced on Jan. 25 that it has awarded $66.4 million to Montana for a project to repair a section of the I-90 highway in Mineral County.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was signed into law by President Joe Biden in 2021, is providing the financing for the award.
The National Infrastructure Project Assistance program, which funds large and complex construction projects, was created by the infrastructure law and is the source of $32 million of Montana’s award. The remainder will come from the previously established Infrastructure for Rebuilding America grant program, the funding for which was increased by over 50% by the new law.
In addition to the Montana project, the department announced that an additional 36 projects across the country will receive new funding.
“With this announcement, we are advancing projects so large, complex, and ambitious that they could not get funded under the infrastructure programs that existed prior to the Biden administration,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement.
The project will involve repairing and replacing infrastructure along I-90 between the Idaho-Montana border and the town of Alberton, Montana. The Alberton Gorge Bridge, which was constructed in 1965, will be replaced. The Montana Department of Transportation previously determined that ongoing rehabilitation and spot repairs were no longer cost-effective or practical.
In a 2018 report on the state of Montana’s infrastructure, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave its roads a letter grade of “C-“ and its bridges a “C.” The report noted that each year $101 billion in goods are transported by truck over Montana’s roads, but “46% of the major roads are in poor to mediocre condition.” The society calculated that these poor conditions cost Montana residents $385 per year in extra operating costs.
Democratic Sen. Jon Tester praised the new funding.
“Roads, bridges, and highways in Montana are essential to keep our communities connected and our state open for business. I’m looking forward to seeing these projects set the stage for safer and smoother travel in Mineral County and along I-90,” Tester said in a release.
When the infrastructure bill was being debated in Congress, Tester was the only member of the state’s congressional delegation to back it. Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Matt Rosendale, both Republicans, opposed the bill.
“This bill is a trojan horse filled with billions of dollars to fund Green New Deal priorities, push the Left’s social justice agenda, and invade Americans’ privacy,” Rosendale said in a November 2021 statement explaining his opposition to the bill.
Rosendale then sent a letter to Buttigieg in May 2022 supporting the state transportation department’s application for grant funding for the I-90 project.
“I-90 is a critical transportation route for our county,” Rosendale wrote. “As a windy road in mountainous terrain, crashes occur on I-90 somewhat frequently, and the burden to respond to these accidents is placed on our already financially stretched local fire and rescue teams. Improving safety on I-90 is a high priority.”Rosendale is reportedly considering running for the Senate seat currently held by Tester.