Montana Transportation Planning 101

The duties of Montana transportation planners can vary widely from one community to another. In many cases, local transportation planners are responsible for activities which are not directly related to the transportation system. Especially in rural communities, one or two staff persons may serve as part time sanitarians, floodplain administrators, building inspectors, zoning officers - and transportation planners.

Along the same lines, the planning processes and issues faced in larger, rapidly growing communities differ substantially from smaller, rural communities. As a result this page does not attempt to develop a single "one size fits all" comprehensive guide for the local Montana transportation planner, nor does it provide an exhaustive list of all resources. Rather, it provides information on and access to a number of overarching resources that may be of use to transportation planners across the state.

Key resources and web links from two state agencies, two MDT-sponsored institutes, and a state-level professional association are highlighted below. Other resources from national-level organizations are provided elsewhere in the toolkit.

Montana Transportation and Land Use Planning Resources

Montana Department of Transportation: Key References and Resources

Whom should I contact at MDT?

  • Local planners and public professionals often work with MDT through the Rail Transit and Planning Division. An overview of programs and contacts of the division is provided in this link.
  • MDT's organizational chart provides an overview of the department. Additionally, the search function at the top of the page can be used to search for employees by keyword.

What are some introductory resources that MDT can provide?

  • Many of the resources identified on this web page - and other resources - may be available for review or loan through MDT's library in Helena. The MDT library catalog can be accessed online.
  • Access to MDT research and experimental reports is also available online.
  • MDT develops some routine "fact book" brochures that provide are brief, nontechnical discussions directed to lay audiences. Examples include Montana Transportation Facts and Building a Good Road Takes Time.
  • The Newsline newsletter is a quarterly publication of the Rail, Transit and Planning Division of MDT. The newsletter covers a range of topics that may be of interest to local transportation planners.
  • A list of all MDT's Active Projects, including transportation plans, construction plans, and corridor studies, can also be found online.

What are some key publications and guidebooks developed by MDT?

  • TranPlanMT is Montana's long-range transportation policy plan. This plan guides MDT in the development, management, maintenance, and preservation of the statewide multimodal transportation system.
  • The Local Agency Guidelines Manual describes the processes, documents, and approvals necessary to obtain Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) funds to develop and construct local Urban Highway Program transportation projects in Montana's larger cities. The manual is a compilation of information from many sources and is a reference source for administrative and field personnel in the local agency.
  • The Guide to the Systems Impact Analysis Process (SIAP) is a coordinated review of projects undertaken by Montana's local jurisdictions. The process is coordinated by MDT's Transportation Planning Division.
  • MDT uses corridor planning studies to determine cost-effective ways to address corridor transportation needs.
  • This Montana Fuel Tax Allocations to Cities and Counties brochure describes the formula for how State fuel taxes are allocated to cities and counties in Montana, and provides questions and answers to the most frequently asked questions about the allocations.
  • The Guidelines and Mechanisms for Transportation Partnerships describes options for the joint funding of transportation projects. It presents methodologies to determine cost sharing agreements between the state and local or private partners, and provides a brief summary of new approaches for generating local revenue to finance infrastructure improvements.
  • The Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, or STIP, identifies specific highway, rail, aeronautic, and transit improvements that are planned for construction in the next few years. A map of Federal and State tentative construction projects is also available.
  • The Traffic Engineering Manual presents MDT criteria on the selection, design, and placement of traffic control devices on the State highway system and the procedures and practices for highway lighting and traffic engineering investigations.
  • The Road Design Manual includes information on how to prepare consistent, accurate and appropriate project reports (Preliminary Field Review Report, Alignment Review Report, Scope of Work Report, Plan-in-Hand Report and Final Plan Review Report).

Montana Department of Commerce Community Development Division

The Montana Department of Commerce Community Development Division posts the following publications that provide General Planning assistance on their website:

Montana Association of Planners

The Montana Association of Planners (MAP) offers a series of "Planning 101" sessions at its annual conference and upon request. These sessions include information on:

  • Federal/State Constitutions and Planning Boards. A review of rights and responsibilities that a government must balance in land use regulation; including notice, due process, good of the whole, and restraint of rights. Includes a review of the statutory rules and responsibilities of a planning board, including creating work plans, budgets, staffing, public hearings, and general discussion on the legal concepts of planning.
  • Growth Policies and State Law. Information and overview of growth policy preparation and implementation. This critical element of community planning provides the context and the mechanisms for creating local land use laws and programs for assisting communities in achieving development goals.
  • Zoning. An overview of the purpose of zoning, various types of zoning, state statutory requirements, implementation, enforcement, variances, and boards of adjustments.
  • Subdivision Regulation and Review. An overview of the basic purposes of subdivision review, the state statutory requirements, local regulations and review procedures, and the affects of recent legislation.

Montana's Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP)

Montana's LTAP has focused on assisting state and county road offices and city street departments in road and bridge maintenance and repair by sharing technical information and improving the distribution of this information. The LTAP website provides information on training and information sharing opportunities, and links to LTAP websites sponsored by other state DOTs

Western Transportation Institute (WTI)

The Western Transportation Institute (WTI) was founded in 1994 by the Montana and California Departments of Transportation in cooperation with Montana State University-Bozeman (MSU). WTI's research focuses on safety and operations, winter maintenance and effects, road ecology, infrastructure maintenance and materials, systems engineering development and integration, mobility and public transportation, logistics and freight management, and transportation planning and economics. WTI frequently sponsors national workshops or conferences focused on specific issues and information exchange. WTI has plans to create an information clearinghouse specific to rural transportation issues that will catalog all types of rural transportation resources and research results. The WTI website provides access to research reports developed by WTI members.