What is the Missoula Bridges Planning Study?
The Missoula Bridges Planning Study is a planning-level assessment that has occurred before project-level environmental compliance activities under the National and Montana Environmental Policy Acts (NEPA/MEPA). MDT used this process to provide a better link between early transportation planning and environmental compliance efforts. The process involved conducting a planning–level evaluation of safety, operational, and environmental conditions to identify needs and constraints.
MDT can save time and money in subsequent project phases 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.
The planning study considered multiple improvement options to address the needs and objectives within a study area. The planning process was 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, refer to 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 public's need for safe and efficient transportation. The NEPA/MEPA process ensures that information about anticipated transportation project impacts is available to the public before decisions are made and carried out.
The Missoula Bridges Planning Study is a pre-NEPA/MEPA study that involved a planning-level assessment of the study area. The planning process included a review of potential environmental issues and concerns. The results of this planning-level environmental review may be used to assist in later NEPA/MEPA environmental compliance phases for an individual project.
Who conducted the study?
The Montana Department of Transportation conducted this study in partnership with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and in coordination with the City of Missoula. DOWL HKM assisted MDT in completing this planning effort.
What steps were taken during the study?
- Develop study work plan
The planning team assessed the complexity of issues within the study area and the level of effort required to address the issues.
- Develop existing conditions report
The team assessed the structural characteristics, crash history, and existing operational characteristics of the Higgins Avenue and Madison Street Bridges, as well as traffic patterns and environmental resources within the study area.
- Identify needs and objectives
The planning team identified needs and objectives for the bridges. All comments received during the planning process have been considered by the planning team.
- Identify bridge improvement options
The planning team identified potential short-, mid-, and long-term improvement options for the Higgins Avenue and Madison Street Bridges, which were evaluated based on their ability to address the study needs and objectives. Potential impacts, mitigation opportunities, and estimated costs have been identified for each improvement option.
- Prepare draft study report
The planning team prepared a draft report which documented the planning process, including public and agency input, key findings, recommendations, and next steps. The team reviewed comments on the draft report from resource agencies, stakeholders, and members of the public.
- Finalize study report
The planning team finalized the study report after considering comments from members of the public, resource agencies, and other interested parties. Recommendations from the study assisted MDT in identifying potential projects based on needs, objectives, and funding availability.
What happened next?
The planning study considered multiple improvement options within the study area. This early planning process was 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 Missoula.
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 and were announced before each event through local media and this website. Members of the public also reviewed information posted on this website and provided input throughout the study.
MDT and DOWL HKM collected and considered all comments to better understand potential issues, concerns, opportunities, and constraints. The planning team recommended improvement options that best meet the bridge needs and objectives developed through the planning process.