Montana Department of Transportation

Malcolm “Mack” Long, Director


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I-15 Gore Hill to Emerson Junction

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the I-15 Gore Hill to Emerson Junction Corridor Planning Study?

The I-15 Gore Hill to Emerson Junction Corridor Planning Study is a pre-National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)/Montana Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) planning-level assessment occurring before project-level design and development. This process provides a link between early transportation planning and environmental compliance efforts, and involves a planning–level evaluation of safety, operational, and environmental conditions to identify needs and constraints.

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, time and money spent on subsequent projects can be reduced.

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, please see 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 need for a safe and efficient transportation network. The NEPA/MEPA process ensures that information about anticipated transportation project impacts is available to the public before decisions are made and executed.

The I-15 Gore Hill to Emerson Junction Corridor Planning Study is a pre-NEPA/MEPA study that involves 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 conducted this study?

The Montana Department of Transportation conducted this study in partnership with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and in coordination with the Great Falls MPO. Robert Peccia and Associates (RPA) assisted MDT in completing this planning effort.

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.

  1. Develop Study Work Plan
    The advisory committee will assess the complexity of issues within the study area and the level of effort required to address the issues.
  2. Develop Existing Conditions Report
    The advisory committee will assess the structural characteristics, crash history, and existing operational characteristics of I-15, as well as traffic patterns, safety concerns, and environmental resources within the study area.
  3. Identify Needs and Objectives
    The advisory committee will identify needs and objectives for the I-15 corridor. All comments received during the planning process will be considered by the advisory committee.
  4. Identify Improvement Options
    The advisory committee will identify potential short- and long-term improvement options for the I-15 corridor, which will be evaluated based on their ability to address the study area needs and objectives. Potential impacts, mitigation opportunities, and estimated costs will be identified for each improvement option.
  5. Prepare Draft Study Report
    A draft report will be developed documenting the planning process, including public and agency input, key findings, recommendations, and next steps. The committee will seek comments on the draft report from resource agencies, stakeholders, and members of the public.
  6. Finalize Study Report
    The study report will be finalized 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 the needs and objectives developed through the planning study process, as well as funding availability.

What happens next?

The planning study will consider 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 Great Falls.

How was the public involved in the study?

The public was encouraged to participate in the planning process. Two informational meetings took place throughout the study. The date, time, and location for these meetings was announced prior to each event through local media and this website. Members of the public were able to review information posted on this website and provide input throughout the study.

Public comment was considered to better understand potential issues, concerns, opportunities, and constraints. The advisory committee recommended improvement options that best met the I-15 corridor needs and objectives developed through the planning process.