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) database. or the solution may be in the works 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. Finally, the research may be better suited for an experimental project. All research venues have different requirements and approaches; however, Research staff can guide you in your journey to find the answers you need. The research project process is diagrammed below.


Research Project Process
Click to view a larger image.

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 March through April of each year and Research Topic Statements being due April 30th 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 Topic Statement form must be completed. Please visit our Solicitation page for more information and an electronic version of the Research Topic Statement Form.

This form contains the following fields:

  • Title
  • Topic Statement
  • Background Statement
  • Research Proposed
  • IT Component
  • Urgency and Expected Benefits
  • Implementation Plan
  • Submitter Information
  • Champion Information
  • Sponsor Information

We strongly suggest potential submitters discuss with MDT staff, MDT’s issues and potential research needs, and match these needs to the researcher’s areas of interest. The last two fields are optional; however, if the researcher has discussed MDT’s needs with MDT staff, a champion and sponsor may already be identified. Champions are internal to MDT. They support the project, and are willing to lead the project, if approved, from inception through implementation.

Sponsors are MDT Division Administrators or higher, who believe in the idea and are willing to make sure the results are implemented, as appropriate. Sponsors are ultimately responsible for implementing research results.

Following submittal of a topic statement, in early May of each year, champions and sponsors are verified or identified, if not listed on the Research Topic Statement form. If Research staff is unable to identify 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 May of each year. Following these presentations, both of these groups then decide which ideas move forward as proposed 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 from inception through implementation. The Panel first determines the need for research based on a literature and Research in Progress (RiP) 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 Technical Panel's chair presents 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 and task reports, 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 consultant and the Technical Panel outside of panel meetings. Division Administrators are responsible for the implementation plan based on recommendations from the Principal Investigator, RRC, and Technical Panel.

For more information on specific projects, please visit our Research Project Subject Listing or our Active Research Projects Listing.

Montana Partnership for the Advancement of Research in Transportation (MPART)

The MPART program consists of an agreement MDT has with Montana State University - Bozeman, Montana Tech, and The University of Montana - Missoula to quickly initiate research to address immediate research needs. These projects must be low-cost (< $35,000) 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.

Partnering Projects

Partnering projects can be any project where funds, required resources, expertise, etc. are leveraged by among the partners. Depending on type of partnering project, they can enter the process in one of two steps, as diagrammed above. Pooled-fund studies are an example of a partnering project.