The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) conducts research to discover, develop, or extend knowledge to operate, maintain, and improve the statewide multimodal transportation system. More specifically, MDT focuses on applied research to answer questions and solve problems, resulting in more efficient and cost-effective operations; increased safety, economic vitality, and sensitivity to the environment; and improved quality.
The very first step to initiating a research project is to discuss the idea with research staff. It may be that the solution already exists and can be found through a literature search of published transportation research (TRID (Transportation Research International Database) or the solution may soon exist as determined by a search of the Research in Progress database. Also, it may be that the idea is more suitable for NCHRP or pooled-fund research. Research staff can guide you in your journey to find the answers you need.
The research project process is diagrammed below.
There are four ways to initiate a research project as indicated below and by the blue shaded boxes in the above diagram.
Annual Research Solicitation
The most common way to initiate a research project is through MDT's annual solicitation, which runs November through December of each year. Research ideas can be submitted at any time; however, if submitted mid-cycle, an idea may not be considered until the next solicitation cycle begins.
To submit a research idea, a Research Problem Statement form must be completed. Please visit our Solicitation page for more information and an electronic version of the Research Problem Statement Form.This form contains the following fields:
The last two fields are optional. Champions are internal to MDT, support the project, and are willing to lead the project, if approved, through implementation. Sponsors are MDT Division Administrators or higher, who believe in the idea and are willing to implement the research results. Administrators are ultimately responsible for implementing research results.
Champions and sponsors are verified/obtained in early January of each year. If Research staff is unable to obtain either a champion or a sponsor for an idea, the research idea goes no further. For those projects with both a champion and a sponsor, the champions present their ideas to both the Research Review Committee (RRC) and the District Administrators at the end of January of each year. Following these presentations, both of these groups then rate each idea. In late February, the RRC then decides which ideas move forward as research projects.
Technical Panels are formed for each of these new research projects. The champion usually chairs the Technical Panel, which is responsible for project oversight through implementation. The Panel first determines the need for research based on a literature and Research in Progress review. The panel may decide to implement results obtained from this review, initiate a pooled-fund study, submit an idea through some other process such as NCHRP, proceed with a research project, or cancel the project.
If the panel chooses to proceed with a research project, the research project statement form is completed and a scope of work is developed. If the work is to be given to a public entity, a proposal is obtained, otherwise an RFP is issued. The Panel may present the top proposal to the RRC for final funding approval. Once funding is approved and the research is initiated, the Panel is responsible for project oversight through progress reports and meetings, and developing implementation recommendations. The Research staff member on each panel serves as the Project Manager and is the point of contact between the contractor and the Technical Panel outside of panel meetings. Division Administrators are responsible for developing an implementation plan based on recommendations from the Principal Investigator, RRC, and Technical Panel.
Montana Partnership for the Advancement of Research in Transportation (MPART)
The MPART program consists of an agreement MDT has with both Montana State University and the University of Montana to quickly initiate research to address immediate research needs. These projects must be low-cost (< $25,000) and short-term (< one year in duration). MPART projects are listed below.
High Priorities Identified by MDT's Administration
Research projects can also be initiated if MDT's Administration feels strongly that the need for a research project exists and this need does not correspond to our solicitation cycle. Research Projects initiated in this manner are listed below.