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
- Montana Partnership for the Advancement of Research in Transportation (MPART)
- High priorities identified by MDT's Administration
- Partnering projects, includes pooled fund projects
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:
- 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.
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.
- Analysis and Evaluation of Pavement Marking Materials Reflectivity for the Montana Highway System (1995)
- Applications of Composite Materials to Civil Engineering Infrastructure Retrofit and Repairs (1999)
- Axial Capacity of Piles Supported on Intermediate Geomaterials (2008)
- Burrowing Mammal Impacts on Montana's Highways - Phase I (2010)
- Comparative Analysis of Coarse Surfacing Aggregate Using Micro-Deval, L.A. Abrasion and Sodium Sulfate Soundness Tests (2007)
- Concrete Median Barrier Assessment: Synthesis of Practice (2012)
- Coutts/Sweetgrass Border Crossing (1995)
- Development of an RF Communication Propagation Analysis Program (1999)
- Distracted and Drowsy Driving Intervention for Teen Drivers in Rural America (2009)
- Evaluation of Biodiesel Fuel (2004)
- Evaluation of Organic Matter Compost Addition and Incorporation on Steep Cut Slopes (2003) (2007)
- Evaluation of the Use of RAP/Aggregate Blends for use in Highway Pavement Sections (2005)
- Experimental Assessment of Aggregate Surfacing Materials (2007)
- Feasibility of the Use of Existing Analytical Models and Experimental Data to Assess Current Design Methods for Pavement Geogrid-Reinforced Base Layers (1995)
- Fish Passage Through Culverts in Montana: A Preliminary Investigation (1996)
- Growing Neighborhoods in Growing Corridors: Land Use Planning for Highway Noise (2008)
- Habitat Connectivity and Rural Context Sensitive Design: A Synthesis of Practice (2007)
- A High Fidelity Driving Simulator as a Tool for Design and Evaluation of Highway Infrastructure Upgrades (2007)
- Highway Construction On-the-Job Training Program Review (2007)
- Highway Improvements and Rural Growth (2001)
- Impact Assessment of Revised Retroreflectivity Requirements for Highway Signs in Montana (Phase I) (1995)
- Industry Best Practices for Applications Development (2007)
- Information/Education Synthesis on Roundabouts (2013)
- Investigation of the Soil Air Voids Test for Use in Compaction Control (2005)
- Literature Availability Assessment for Relevant Interactions between Highways, Wildlife, and Fisheries in Montana (2001)
- Monitoring Animal Use of Modified Drainage Culverts on the Lolo South Project (2001) (2004)
- Performance of Steel Pipe Pile to Concrete Bent Cap Connection Subjected to Seismic Loading or High Transverse Loading (1998) (2005)
- Physical and Mechanical Properties of High Performance Concrete Produced in Montana (1999) (2006)
- Prediction of Pavement Temperature: A Tactical Decision Aid for Highway Safety (1999)
- Preventative Maintenance Treatments: A Synthesis of Highway Practice (2006)
- Processing and Analysis of WIM, AVC, and Static Weight Data (1997)
- Recommendations for Winter Traction Materials Management on Roadways Adjacent to Bodies of Water (2004)
- Relating Soil Characteristics to Soil Resistance (2000)
- Review of the Performance and Costs of Contemporary Pavement Marking Systems (2003)
- Synthesis of Warm Mix Asphalt (WMA) Paving Strategies for Use in Montana Highway Construction (2009)
- Seasonal Variation of Subgrade Support Values (1996)
- The KEYS (Keep Encouraging Young Driver Safety) Pilot Study: Increasing Parent Involvement in Teenage Driving Through Driver Education (2009)
- Valuation of Temporary Losses of Use of Transportation Facilities (2002)
- Wildlife-Highway Crossing Mitigation Measures and Associated Cost/Benefits: a Toolbox for Montana Department of Transportation (2007)
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.
- Animal-Vehicle Collisions and Habitat Connectivity Along Highway 83 in the Seeley-Swan Valley
- Effects of Defensive Vehicle Handling Training on Novice Driver Safety: A Case Study in Lewistown, Montana
- Evaluation of Biodiesel Fuel
- Fish Passage at Road Crossings in Montana Watersheds
- Impact of Changes in Truck Weight Regulations on Montana's Economy
- The Revenue Contribution of Montana Department of Transportation to the Montana General Fund
- Review of the Performance and Costs of Contemporary Pavement Marking Systems
- A Study of the Economic Effects of Reconfiguring Montana's Two Lane Highways
- Warm Water Species Fish Passage in Eastern Montana Culverts
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.