Missoula Bridges Planning Study
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the Missoula Bridges Planning Study?
The Missoula Bridges Planning Study is a planning-level assessment occurring before project-level environmental compliance activities under the National and Montana Environmental Policy Acts (NEPA/MEPA). MDT uses this process to provide a better link between early transportation planning and environmental compliance efforts. The process involves conducting a planning–level evaluation of safety, operational, and environmental conditions to identify needs and constraints.
MDT can save time and money in subsequent project phases by facilitating early identification of constraints through coordination with local government, resource agencies, and other stakeholders; screening of possible improvement options; and elimination of infeasible options.
A planning study considers multiple improvement options to address the needs and objectives within a study area. The planning process is distinct from a NEPA/MEPA environmental compliance document and from design, right-of-way acquisition, and construction phases for an individual project.
For additional information, refer to MDT's planning study process.
What does a "pre-NEPA/MEPA planning study" mean?
The National and Montana Environmental Policy Acts (NEPA/MEPA) require state and federal agencies to disclose impacts resulting from state and federal actions. In the context of transportation projects, the NEPA/MEPA process is intended to assist officials in making transportation decisions, while taking into account the human and natural environment and the public's need for safe and efficient transportation. The NEPA/MEPA process ensures that information about anticipated transportation project impacts is available to the public before decisions are made and carried out.
The Missoula Bridges Planning Study is a pre-NEPA/MEPA study that will involve a planning-level assessment of the study area. The planning process will include a review of potential environmental issues and concerns. The results of this planning-level environmental review could be used to assist in later NEPA/MEPA environmental compliance phases for an individual project.
Who is conducting this study?
The Montana Department of Transportation is conducting this study in partnership with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and in coordination with the City of Missoula. DOWL HKM is assisting MDT to complete the planning effort by March 2014.
What steps will be taken during the study?
Steps in the planning process are described below. Public involvement opportunities will be included throughout the planning process.
- Develop study work plan
The planning team will assess the complexity of issues within the study area and the level of effort required to address the issues.
- Develop existing conditions report
The team will assess the structural characteristics, crash history, and existing operational characteristics of the Higgins Avenue and Madison Street Bridges, as well as traffic patterns and environmental resources within the study area.
- Identify needs and objectives
The planning team will identify needs and objectives for the bridges. Comments submitted during public and resource agency involvement efforts will be considered during this process.
- Identify bridge improvement options
The planning team will identify potential short-, mid-, and long-term improvement options for the Higgins Avenue and Madison Street Bridges, which will be evaluated based on their ability to address the study needs and objectives. Potential impacts, mitigation opportunities, and estimated costs will be identified for each improvement option.
- Prepare draft study report
The planning team will prepare a draft report documenting the planning process, including public and agency input, key findings, recommendations, and next steps. The team will seek comments on the draft report from resource agencies, stakeholders, and members of the public.
- Finalize study report
The planning team will finalize the study report after considering comments from members of the public, resource agencies, and other interested parties. Recommendations from the study will assist MDT in identifying potential projects based on needs, objectives, and funding availability.
What happens next?
A planning study considers multiple improvement options within the study area. This early planning process is distinct from the environmental compliance, design, and construction phases of an individual project. Any future steps will be determined by MDT in conjunction with FHWA and the City of Missoula.
How can I be involved in the study?
The public is encouraged to participate in the planning process. Two public meetings will be held during the study. The date, time, and location for these meetings will be announced before each event through local media and this website. Members of the public may also review information posted on this website and provide input throughout the study. See "How can I stay informed?" below.
MDT and DOWL HKM will collect and consider all comments to better understand potential issues, concerns, opportunities, and constraints. The planning team will recommend improvement options that best meet the bridge needs and objectives developed through the planning process.
How can I stay informed?
MDT encourages members of the public to join the study mailing list by submitting contact information to Sarah Nicolai at the address or email below or by submitting a comment.
Study information will be published on this website, in local media venues, and via newsletters throughout the planning study process.