Montana Transportation and Land Use Planning and Toolkit

Montana Department of Transportation

The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) recognized that effective coordination of transportation and land use planning decisions is vital to the State’s long-term economic growth and fiscal well-being. In Montana, as in most states, land use regulations and many transportation-related decisions are matters of local governance. The MDT set out to provide information that would assist Montana’s growing communities in coordinating their planning and transportation investment decisions to preserve and leverage scarce resources.


  • Build a collaborative process for integrated transportation and land use decision-making.
  • Increase opportunities for interagency communication and trust.
  • Identify and communicate prior local practices that have enhanced coordination between land use and transportation.
  • Provide tangible and proven guidance that MDT and local planning professionals can use to help frame discussions with local decision-makers to develop well-integrated transportation and land use systems.
  • Improve credibility with the general public, who frequently view transportation professionals as happily advocating capacity increases to major roadways.
  • Ultimately, save money by reducing the need for retroactive capacity increases on state highways in expanding urban areas.

Our Approach

Key elements of Cambridge Systematics’ approach included:

  • A targeted review of national planning practices combined with an assessment of the formal regulatory context and informal procedures that influence transportation and land use practices in Montana;
  • Material assembly into themes related to the research objectives (Local Street Network; Local System Financing; Impacts to State and Local Roads; and Multimodal/Transit Development), and rigorous analysis to produce a shortlist of potential tools;
  • Web site development to organize tools, examples, and case studies into a structure consistent with the needs of Montana’s local planners and decision-makers.
  • Gap analysis to identify missing or incomplete content and to identify and prioritize future research needs; and
  • Activities to integrate resources into Montana’s local transportation and land use planning practices, including stakeholder interviews and outreach; surveys; webinars; and informational literature.

Project Results

The work effort in this research project resulted in an on-line resource of policies, practices, analytic methods, data sources, software, and other ideas – collectively known as tools – that are assisting Montana’s expanding cities and surrounding areas better coordinate transportation and land use planning and decision-making. The on-line resource illustrates successful tool application in communities throughout Montana and similar states through a series of examples and cross-cutting case studies. It is oriented for local transportation and land use planners, and features “off-the-shelf” tools now in use nationally that are practical for application in Montana and smaller communities throughout the intermountain west.