Bill to Fund Montana Roads and Bridges Passes Legislature

The SAFER Act, sponsored by Rep. Courtenay Sprunger, R-Kalispell, will create a fund to match federal grant dollars, expanding infrastructure improvement opportunities throughout the state

By Denali Sagner
Roadwork along Montana Hwy 206 on Nov. 22, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte on March 13 signed into law House Bill 267 — known as the SAFER Act — an infrastructure funding bill brought by Kalispell Rep. Courtenay Sprunger that will create a fund to provide state match dollars for road and bridge projects.

The bill will allow for the creation of the Securing Access to Federal Expenditures to Repair (SAFER) Montana Roads and Bridges Account, a state account that will hold $100 million from the general fund. SAFER funds will be specifically allotted to match federal transportation grants and additional one-time-only federal funding opportunities, which are available annually each August when states are able to request funds from the Department of Transportation that other states have left on the table that year.

Per House Bill 267, up to $15 million per year will be allotted to match grants and redistribution dollars. Funds that are not used will be rolled over to the next year. Sprunger estimated that the $100 million SAFER account will help the state secure around $800 million in federal match dollars.

“Every year, the state has as much as a billion dollars in road work. However, we only have $400 million dollars available, leading to a growing list of deferred maintenance and degrading roadways. Through the SAFER Act, we will be able to infuse $750 to $850 million in federal one-time-only dollars into our roads and bridges over the next five to seven years,” Sprunger said in a March 13 press release. “This generational investment will make a tremendous difference for our state and I thank the Governor for his visionary leadership in supporting the SAFER Act.”

Sprunger, a freshman Republican legislator, has sponsored bills this session that seek to increase funding to state public libraries, establish an adoption tax credit, bolster personalized learning opportunities for public school students and expand when auxiliary law enforcement officers can carry non-lethal weapons.

“For a decade, I’ve worked on transportation projects across the state and the resounding message from Montanans has been that we need to do more to reduce traffic congestion and improve safety,” Sprunger said about the SAFER Act. “I committed to driving infrastructure solutions and tackling traffic on roadways such as the Kalispell Bypass and West Reserve Drive. The SAFER Act takes a big step toward that goal in the Flathead, and it will provide a similar opportunity for communities throughout Montana.”

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