MDT wants to hear from you on its upcoming projects

The Montana Department of Transportation has slated dozens of construction projects for the next few years, and is asking the public for input on how to finish them.

Last month, the DOT published its annual Statewide Transportation Improvement Projects draft, which identifies statewide infrastructure projects, and how much funding those projects will get.

“Public input is a key component for our projects,” said MDT District Administrator Michael Taylor in an email to the Gazette, “and we want to know more about the public’s experience with driving, walking, bicycling, transit and other modes of transportation in these areas.”

Taylor’s district encompasses south and central Montana, where major plans listed in the STIP included portions of the Billings Bypass project.

Mandated by federal law, the latest STIP contains MDT construction plans for the fiscal years of 2024 through 2028. While road projects dominate the report, the department proposed improvements to rail lines and airports. In general, transportation needs in Montana are about three times the total revenue taken in to address them, and the MDT must prioritize its projects accordingly. The STIP lists projects entering a new phase of construction during those five years, be it the groundbreaking or completion.

The total cost of all the projects in the STIP draft is estimated to be over $2 billion from 2024 through 2028, about a third of which is planned for highway construction and reconstruction. The federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, passed in 2021, set aside about $1.2 trillion for transportation and infrastructure spending, and those federal dollars fill most of the expenses anticipated in Montana’s STIP.

“The funding split varies but is typically 87% federal to 13% state,” Taylor said. “Federal road and bridge revenues are generated from the users of our highways through gasoline and diesel fuel taxes and apportioned to states through federal highway legislation. State road and bridge revenues are generated through fuel taxes, gross vehicle weight fees and other related fees.”

The MDT is also required to highlight projects in the STIP anticipated to have a major impact on travelers, known as regionally significant projects. Among those projects are the plan to reconstruct U.S. Highway 93 through Ronan and adding lanes to U.S. Highway 2 running east of Bainville to the Montana-North Dakota border.

The three regionally significant projects listed for Billings are all part of the larger Billings Bypass project. Construction crews have completed two of the six pieces of the project, which will link the Billings Heights to Interstate 90 in Lockwood.

Last month, construction was finished on a portion of a railroad overpass which connects to the Yellowstone River Bridge. The bypass is tentatively scheduled for completion in 2028, following the construction of the Johnson Lane Interchange and a roadway connecting Five Mile Road to U.S. Highway 87.

Also listed in the STIP for the Billings District are reconstruction on First Avenue North in downtown Billings, making improvements to U.S. Highway 212 from Boyd to Red Lodge and reconstructing Montana Highway 3 south of Lavina, all of which can be viewed and commented on by Montana residents through the MDT’s website. The department will accept public comments through June 15. 

“We encourage the public to share their experiences and provide input on the current needs and deficiencies for the state’s transportation system,” Taylor said. “Public input is valuable and will be used to help identify the issues the projects should consider.”