Statewide and Urban Planning Section
The Statewide and Urban Planning Section provides general management of overall statewide and urban transportation planning activities and programs in cooperation with local, state, and federal officials. The section assists local governments in developing and implementing transportation plans, programs, and projects in accordance with state and federal procedures; manages the Surface Transportation Program-Urban (STPU) Program that provides funding for improvements on the designated urban highway system; manages the scenic historic byways program; works with the Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) to develop programs relating to urban transportation; conducts rest area planning; manages the Montana Corridor Planning Process; and manages the statewide transportation planning process. These programs are described in detail below.
Surface Transportation Program-Urban (STPU)
The STPU Program provides financial resources to construct improvements on the Urban Highway System in Montana's 19 urban areas. Funding levels are established by the Montana Transportation Commission and distributed to the urban areas by a statutory population formula based on decennial census population (Authority - MCA 60-2-125 & 127).
This funding can be used for programs in urban areas and projects on urban system routes such as: construction of new facilities; reconstruction, resurfacing, restoration, and rehabilitation of existing facilities; operational improvements; bicycle facilities; pedestrian walkways; and carpool projects and programs.
Priorities are established by the local governments within each urban area and final approval is by the Montana Transportation Commission. Statewide and Urban Planning staff assist local planners in project selection, prepare commission agenda items for project approval, request programming for preliminary engineering, and track project funding. Projects are developed and implemented by MDT Engineering and District staff.
Eligible areas are:
Metropolitan areas are urban areas with a population over 50,000. The metropolitan planning process establishes a continuing, cooperative, and comprehensive framework for making transportation investment decisions in metropolitan areas. Montana has three metropolitan areas – Billings, Great Falls and Missoula. Each area has a designated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).
An MPO is a transportation policy-making organization composed of representatives from local government and transportation professionals.
- An MPO is a cooperative policy-making body required by Title 23 USC for areas with greater than 50,000 population. Members include local government & transportation agency staff.
- MPOs receive federal Metropolitan Planning funds for carrying out transportation planning and programming in their respective areas.
- MPO responsibilities are identified in an agreement between the state and the MPO.
- Decisions flow from recommendations of a technical body to the policy-making body.
- MPOs develop and approve required documents including the Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP), long-range transportation plan, and the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).
MPO Required Documents
|Document||Time / Horizon||Contents||Updated|
|UPWP||1-2 years||Planning tasks to be conducted including staff hours, funding & schedule completion||Annually|
|Long–Range Plan||20 years||Future goals, strategies & projects for all transportation modes plus financial & implementation plan||Every 5 years (4 years for non-attainment & maintenance areas)|
|TIP||Minimum of 4 years||Priority list of projects from plan to be implemented - project description, cost, funding source||Varies|
Transportation plans establish an agency's future vision, policy direction, and/or wish list of improvements. Transportation plans guide development, management, and operation of transportation systems and facilities (including bicycle and pedestrian) for urban areas over the long term. These plans are developed through an extensive public involvement process and typically cover a 20-year planning horizon including both long– and short-range strategies and actions. They identify projected transportation demands and address all transportation modes. They include general design concepts and scopes of recommended transportation improvements, which must be consistent with the area's comprehensive long-range land–use plans and metropolitan development.
Federal laws require MPO's (Billings, Great Falls, and Missoula) develop such plans in accordance with federal requirements. Funding is provided through federal and state planning funds. MDT also encourages and provides funding assistance for smaller communities (populations less than 50,000) to develop plans.
Statewide Long-Range Transportation Plan - Tran PlanMT
TranPlanMT defines MDT's policy direction for operating, preserving, and improving Montana’s transportation system over a 20-year period. It serves as the guiding document for MDT decisions, especially those related to investing Montana’s limited transportation funds.
Originally adopted in 1995 as TranPlan 21, the 2017 update, TranPlanMT, is an essential component of an ongoing, statewide planning process that identifies Montana’s transportation needs, evaluates future transportation concerns, and establishes policy goals and strategies. This is accomplished through input from the public, gathering and analyzing data, and identifying emerging trends.
Corridor Planning Process
The Statewide and Urban Planning Section manages Montana's Corridor Planning Process that allows for earlier planning-level coordination with the public and resource and other agencies and develops specific products that can be used in the environmental review process.
The intent of the corridor planning process is to bridge the gap between Montana's statewide long-range transportation policy plan and project–level Montana and National Environmental Policy Act (MEPA/NEPA) processes. The goal of these corridor plans is to better scope projects before moving into the project development process in order to achieve the lowest level environmental document possible while minimizing costs and time for project delivery and provide early input opportunities for public and resource agencies.
Corridor planning complements the environmental process and ensures decisions are made at the appropriate level, while considering low-cost improvement options and available funding. The process provides a means for early and continuous involvement of appropriate agencies, stakeholders, and the public to reduce the cost of the environmental process and speed project delivery.
Scenic Historic Byway Program
The Montana Scenic Historic Byway Program (SHBP) has been developed to promote tourism and further the understanding and appreciation of the state's heritage in concert with the preservation, protection, and enhancement of the state's scenic, historic, and cultural resources. The Statewide and Urban Planning Section is responsible for coordinating the SHBP and works with the Scenic Historic Byway Advisory Council to manage the program and review applications for scenic byway designation. The Montana Transportation Commission approves roads that are to be included or deleted from the program.
Community Transportation Safety Plans
The Multimodal Planning Bureau developed and manages this program that provides transportation safety planning assistance to Montana communities and offers technical and financial support for the development of Community Transportation Safety Plans using a process similar to the Montana Comprehensive Highway Safety Plan. The goal of this program is to enable communities to identify, analyze, address, and track their specific transportation safety issues and reduce the number and severity of fatal and incapacitating injuries on Montana's roads and streets. The community safety plans must be comprehensive and data driven, and address engineering, enforcement, emergency medical services, and education components of community safety issues.
Rest Areas - Planning and Policy
The Statewide and Urban Planning Section oversees the department's Rest Area Plan, which was adopted by the Montana Transportation Commission in December 1999 and amended in May 2004. The plan was the first comprehensive document to establish policy recommendations to help MDT develop future rest area priorities, and set goals for improving Montana's rest areas over the next twenty years.
The Statewide and Urban Planning Section also manages the City Park Rest Area Program (CPRA) that is a low-cost way to help address rest area needs on Montana's Primary and Non-Interstate National Highways. The program provides local governments much-needed funding to construct or improve locally owned park facilities, which reduces or eliminates the need for MDT to construct and maintain similar facilities. In return, the local governments agree to open and maintain the rest areas from April through November of each year. Thirteen locally owned facilities were established between 1991 and 1997 to serve as highway rest areas. Funding assistance is available on a cost reimbursement basis for operational and maintenance costs including caretaker/janitorial services and basic repairs to continue the City Parks Rest Area Program.
Functional Classification/System Designation
Statewide and Urban Planning staff conduct functional classification and system designation reviews.
Urban and rural functional classification provides the basis by which federal funding eligibility is established and federal and state highway systems are designated. Type and use characteristics guide functional classification of all public roads and streets in the United States. Federal guidelines are used to review modifications to functional classification in cooperation with local officials. MDT or others can initiate the request for review. Once the review is completed, recommendations are made to the Transportation Commission. If approved, the route reclassification is submitted to FHWA for final approval.
Highway system designations relate to funding eligibility, design standards, speed limits, and other issues such as regulation of outdoor advertising. The Interstate and National Highway Systems are designated by virtue of federal laws and guidelines. The Primary, Secondary and Urban Systems are designated by virtue of state laws and Transportation Commission actions.
There are established processes for undertaking changes in systems designation. Local governments may request changes to the Secondary and Urban Systems any time significant changes in functional usage occur. System designation is based on functional classification. After receiving a request, MDT staff analyzes the route in accordance with MDT guidelines and Transportation Commission policy to determine if the proposed change is justified. They then make a recommendation to the Montana Transportation Commission.
Urban Travel Demand Models
Urban travel demand models analyze traffic conditions at the system level. They replicate current travel demand and forecast future travel demand. These models are used as part of the transportation plan to forecast future needs of the local street network, analyze impacts that current actions or planned actions may have, and assist in establishing future transportation investments. The modeling is largely based on population, housing, and employment data to determine urban travel demand. MDT primarily uses TransCad software by Caliper Corporation for urban travel demand models.
Billings, Missoula, Great Falls, Bozeman, Butte, Helena, and Kalispell
Rail, Air Quality and Studies Section
The Rail, Air Quality and Studies Section has the responsibility for managing the CMAQ funded programs including the MACI Discretionary and Guaranteed programs; coordinating Division activities related to mobile source National Ambient Air Quality Standards issues, including planning and programming conformity for PM10, CO and PM2.5; managing rail planning activities; administering the Montana Essential Freight Rail Loan program, providing administrative and technical support for the Rail Service Competition Council; conducting MDT's economic analysis and liaison activities; assisting in the development and implementation of the Division’s public involvement processes; tracking and reporting on legislative and hearings of interest to the Division; managing public stakeholder surveys for MDT's long range plan (TranPlan 21); managing the Department’s Federal Discretionary grant programs and other multimodal program activities.
Staff administers the state and federal Rail Freight Loan Program as stated in MCA 60-11-113 to ensure Montana is served by an efficient rail system integrated into the state transportation system. Staff provides administrative support and technical assistance to the Rail Service Competition Council.
Highway Economic Analysis
An economist provides analysis of the economic impact of proposed projects or programs through data updates and maintenance; coordinates pertinent analysis of data with the Montana Economic Developers Association and other economic groups in tracking and distribution of data analysis projections. Projections are provided for requested studies, department research projects, and division programs. Economic analysis is also performed in the study of rail and freight development, tourism, bicycle and pedestrian planning, and transportation demand management programs.
MDT Needs Study
The MDT Needs Study is prepared in odd–numbered years and reflects MDT's best estimate of funding needs over a ten-year period. It covers the funding needs associated with the highways, aeronautics, and transit programs in which MDT is involved.
Congestion Mitigation & Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) Program
Federal funds available under this program are used to finance transportation projects and programs to help meet the requirements of the Clean Air Act. Eligible activities include transit improvements, traffic signal synchronization, bike/ped projects, intersection improvements, travel demand management strategies, traffic flow improvements, and public fleet conversions to cleaner fuels. At the project level, the use of CMAQ funds is not constrained to a particular system (i.e. Primary, Urban, or NHS). Of the total received, 86.58% is federal and 13.42% is non-federal match. A requirement for the use of these funds is to estimate the reduction in pollutants resulting from implementing the program/project. These estimates are reported yearly to FHWA.
TEA-21 provided for significantly more flexibility in the use of CMAQ funds. Prior to TEA-21, almost all CMAQ funds had to be used in Missoula, Montana's only moderate CO non-attainment area. Although Missoula continues to receive the CMAQ funds that come to Montana by virtue of the federal formula, MDT has directed approximately 90% of Montana's CMAQ apportionment to several new state programs.
Pure CMAQ funds that come to Montana based on the federal formula and are directed to Missoula, Montana's only moderate CO non-attainment area. Projects are prioritized through the MPO process.
Montana Air & Congestion Initiative (MACI) Discretionary Program
Projects using MACI discretionary funds are selected through a proposal process administered by the Transportation Planning Division of MDT. Projects are prioritized and selected amongst all eligible areas based on air quality benefits.
Montana Air & Congestion Initiative (MACI) Guaranteed Program
MACI guaranteed funds are distributed to Billings and Great Falls at a level equivalent to what Missoula receives each year in CMAQ funds. Projects are prioritized through the MPO planning process.
Publications, Surveys, Studies
Activities include public outreach, research, data analysis, and document development of annual reports and surveys, quarterly Newsline publication, scheduled updates, and requested studies of special concern. Data gathering and management of stakeholder information is a continual activity in providing current and timely information. Coordination includes contacting surveyors and scheduling timely gathering activities. Research activities include gathering and cataloging/file management of press releases and articles that pertain to specific projects, programs, and funding. Process Handbook