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What is a Corridor Planning Study?

A Corridor Planning Study is a high-level evaluation of safety, environmental and geometric concerns along a transportation corridor where needs, possible improvement options and costs are identified before a project can proceed. Community input and consensus is an important consideration in this process. It is important to note that the Corridor Planning Study is part of a planning process and is not a design or construction project. Another consideration is how costs and the availability of funding affect the nature of any possible improvements and phasing of the possible improvements.

The Winifred to Big Sandy Corridor Study allows for earlier planning-level coordination with the public, resource agencies and other entities. The study may develop specific factors that can be used in the future if a subsequent environmental review process is required.

What does a "pre-NEPA Corridor Study" mean?

NEPA is the National Environmental Policy Act. Modeled after NEPA, MEPA is the Montana Environmental Policy Act, and it only applies to state agencies and state actions. NEPA is a federal law that outlines policies, goals, and procedures to insure environmental information is available to public officials and citizens before decisions are made and actions are taken. The NEPA process is intended to assist public officials in making decisions taking into account the human and natural environment and the public’s need for safe and efficient transportation. The Winifred to Big Sandy Corridor Study is a pre-NEPA/MEPA study that will include a high level environmental scan of potential issues.

Who is conducting this study?

Fergus and Chouteau Counties, with support from Montana Department of Transportation (MDT), are conducting this study. DKS Associates (DKS) is assisting Fergus and Chouteau Counties and MDT in completing the planning effort by the end of March, 2011. Who has ownership and responsibility for maintenance of this stretch of Secondary 236? Secondary 236 is a major collector on the Montana Secondary Highway System and serves as the north-south corridor between Hilger and Big Sandy.

The southern portion of the corridor from Winifred (R.P. 24) to R.P. 48 is gravel and is maintained by Fergus County. The northern portion of the corridor from R.P. 48 to Big Sandy (R.P. 90) is in Chouteau County. It comprises both a gravel section from R.P. 48 to R.P. 74 that is maintained by the county and a paved section from R.P.74 to R.P. 90 that is maintained by MDT. View study area map.

What steps will be taken during the Corridor Study?

The following steps will be followed to produce an effective corridor plan. These include:

  1. Identify corridor study candidate. The Secondary 236 corridor, between Winifred and Big Sandy, includes a long gravel section within Fergus County and Chouteau County. The counties have identified concerns with the corridor. As a result further study has been initiated by the counties and MDT.
  2. Develop corridor study work plan. The planning team will assess the complexity of issues within the corridor and the level of effort required to address the issues.
  3. Develop existing and projected conditions report. The report will analyze existing and projected conditions, incorporate findings from an environmental scan, and consider local community vision, goals and objectives. Perceived corridor deficiencies, known impacts and potential mitigation opportunities will be documented as part of the report.
  4. Identify needs, issues, impacts, goals, and screening criteria. The planning team will consider comments from resource agencies and public involvement to develop screening criteria and objectives for improvement options analysis. The screening criteria will be related to the identified needs, issues, impacts, goals, costs, and funding and resources available.
  5. Determine improvement options advanced and not advanced. The planning team will analyze each improvement option using the identified screening criteria leading to a selection of preliminary improvement options advanced and not advanced.
  6. Recommend improvement options. The planning team will recommend potential improvement options (if any) for Secondary 236. Potential impacts, mitigation opportunities and estimated costs will be identified for each option.
  7. Prepare draft corridor study report. Based on key findings, needs, screening criteria, and recommendations, the planning team will develop a draft corridor study report. Input and comments on the draft report will be obtained from resource agencies and through public involvement.
  8. Make recommendations. The planning team will finalize the corridor study report. This corridor plan may then transition forward to implementation.

What happens next?

The study serves only as a planning process, not a design or environmental review. Based on the results of the study, Fergus County and Chouteau County will determine what, if any action to pursue.

How can the public/community become involved in the study?

The general public is invited to participate in the process through public meetings and ongoing project information review and input. A web site has been developed to provide on-line opportunities to comment on the needs of Secondary 236 and later on the draft plan recommendations. Dates, times, and locations for all public outreach will be announced prior to the events through the local media and the project mailing list.

Those with a specific interest in the project are encouraged to join the project mailing list. They can do so by submitting their name and contact information to Bob Schulte at the mailing address or e-mail address shown below, or completing and returning the project comment sheets from the public meetings.

When is the best time to give comments?

There is no formal time period for the study team to receive comments. The study will take 12 months to complete and comments will be considered throughout the process.