The Montana Department of Transportation is asking for input from the public on a plan for the future of transportation in Montana.
The "TranPlanMT" will serve as a framework for the state to make decision about its operations and maintenance plans over the next two decades.
The report says between 5% and 10% of bridges in the state are structurally deficient. MDT is also facing a budget shortfall with the need for improvements outpacing available funding by 3 to 1.
Charity Watt, Transportation Planner at MDT, says the department’s primary focus will be on preserving and maintaining the current infrastructure rather than investing in new projects.
“The long and short story is that our needs are growing for this state, and to fund that we need to be very judicious. So that looks at preventative maintenance of bridges and pavement first before we invest in expanding the system," Watt said.
MDT added that for every dollar not spent on preventative maintenance, four to eight dollars will be needed for reconstruction later.
The department also conducted a public survey before releasing the draft to determine what priorities were most important to the public.
The number one area of concern was preservation and maintenance of current infrastructure while highway safety was the second highest concern among the public.
MDT says from 2006 to 2015, the average number of fatal crashes and serious injuries in Montana decreased by 33%.
“Safety certainly has always been a priority. That is at the top of the list, but then the preservation and maintenance comes in second,” Watt said.
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