Thanks for stopping by! Are you ready to learn about projects that could be included in Missoula Connect, our region’s long-range transportation plan? Please watch this short video. and take a look through the information below to learn more about scenario planning.  

Missoula Connect, our long-range transportation plan, is rooted in community values and engagement. We've worked with our project committees and Missoula area residents, gathering feedback over the last year. This summer and fall, we developed a framework to identify and prioritize projects for funding and implementation. This framework includes five steps, and we are ready for your input on Step 4: Scenario Planning. 



We gathered more than 200 project and program ideas, including recommendations from the 2016 Long-Range Transportation Plan and new suggestions from our committees and from residents across the region. 


We sorted through the ideas and identified those that are appropriate for a regional long-range plan. We combined some projects and passed others along to the City and County for their planning efforts. Finally, we moved the program ideas into a separate list so they can be added to our final Missoula Connect recommendations.


Even after screening the projects, we had more than 150 individual ideas for improving the transportation system. We used over 20 criteria to score these projects and determine which best meet Missoula Connect goals.    


We used the projects that scored the highest—or those that are most likely to advance our region’s goals—to develop three transportation network scenarios. These three scenarios and two approaches to growth are the focus of this round of community outreach. 


After hearing from you about the scenarios that best meet your needs, we’ll work closely with our committees to create a recommended scenario. That scenario might be one of the three you’re seeing today, or it might combine projects from different scenarios based on your feedback. We will prioritize the projects within that recommended scenario to identify which should come first, and we’ll share that recommended project list with you for additional input in early 2021. 

Here’s what we’ve done and what’s coming next:  

We have many more potential projects than dollars to pay for them. That’s where scenario planning comes in!  

Scenario planning is a way to compare different combinations of high-scoring projects (from Step 3 of the evaluation process) to see which does the most to meet our goals. The scenarios try to achieve different outcomes, but they include projects for all modes of travel. Some scenarios lean more toward one type of project versus another. For example, having one scenario more focused on new roadway and trail connections rather than intersection improvements  helps to make the scenarios as different from one another as possible. Each scenario is also limited to the number of projects that “fit” within the future funding we expect to have available over the next 30 years.  


Scenario planning helps us: 

  • Understand how land use and transportation decisions work together  

  • Explore trade-offs between different scenarios or combinations of projects 

  • Evaluate the benefits of future multimodal investments  

Growth Scenarios

We developed two growth scenarios to test against three transportation scenarios. We call the growth scenarios “Business as Usual Growth” and “Strategic Growth.” While the same growth rate is used in both scenarios, where the growth happens in the region differs.  


  • The Business as Usual scenario assumes that future households will locate in areas where our City and County growth policies have identified capacity. This scenario lets growth happen as it will and doesn’t necessarily focus growth in a particular part of the region.  


  • The Strategic Growth scenario targets growth in specific areas like the core of Missoula, as well as areas with existing  transit service, and pedestrian, bike, and trail facilities. This scenario also works within our current growth policies, but it concentrates more growth in areas that have more capacity.  


We are using these two growth scenarios to understand whether a more inward-focused growth pattern, like the Strategic Growth scenario, does more to advance our transportation goals than our current approach to growth in the Business as Usual Scenario.

To help describe the focus of our three transportation scenarios, we named them “New Connections,” "Enhanced Connections," and “Regional Equity.” While there are a few projects that are included in all three scenarios, each one generally includes a different mix of projects. This approach helps us test the combinations of projects that will best achieve our goals and accommodate future growth.  

The projects in each scenario range from construction of new roads, bridges, and shared-use paths to improving existing active transportation facilities, complete streets, intersections, and crossings of major barriers. Each scenario includes non-committed projects that total $178 million, which is our estimate of the funds that will be available for regional transportation projects in the next 30 years.  

The three scenarios are described below, and you can hover over the scenario icon to read a brief descriptions and click "Learn More" for a closer look at each scenario. You can also use our interactive map  to explore the projects for all three scenarios in greater detail.  

Enhanced Connections maintains and improves our current networks to support inward growth. It focuses on closing gaps and completing investments. This scenario includes many lower-cost projects, such as neighborhood greenways and targeted intersection improvements. It also includes Reserve Street protected bike lanes and the River Road complete street.

Regional Equity focuses on projects that scored high on our equity criteria and those in Invest Health neighborhoods. This scenario connects people to affordable transportation options like transit, walking, and biking. It represents a more equitable use of transportation funds, with projects like the Howard Raser Drive connection between the Northside neighborhood and North Reserve and the Highway 200 complete street. 

New Connections expands the roadway network through complete street reconstruction and creates new trails and bridges for all modes. It includes larger projects, such as the extension of Russell Street to I-90 and a new non-motorized bridge from McCormick Park to the Riverfront Triangle development. 

For more detailed information on the project evaluation process and our scenarios, feel free to review the this memo or watch the October Transportation Policy Coordinating Committee meeting.  

How do the scenarios compare?

We used a dozen metrics to evaluate the scenarios and compare them against each other. The metrics tie to Missoula Connect’s goals and reflect what we hope our transportation investments will help us achieve.


Below you’ll find a graphic showing how the scenarios performed against some of the metrics, with a few highlights. The good news is that all three of the transportation network scenarios move us toward the Missoula Connect goals. They each have their strengths, and they often achieve the goals in different ways. For example, the New Connections scenario improves access for freight and goods movement in key corridors, and the Enhanced Connections scenario makes it easier for people walking and biking to connect to schools.  


Another important finding is that the Strategic Growth scenario amplifies the benefits of each transportation network scenario. Across most metrics—and especially accessibility, equity, and the sustainability measures—we see more positive outcomes with Strategic Growth. You can visit the scenarios page to read more about how the scenarios stack up in three key areas and find links to much more detailed information and analysis.

What comes next?

As we head into the new year, we’ll be developing our recommended scenario and prioritized list of projects. We will also have draft programs and policies ready for review. You can expect to hear from us again in February and March as we create the final long-range transportation plan and get ready to move these recommendations forward.  

Project background

Kicking off in January 2020, Missoula Connect began gathering insights from residents, businesses, and community organizations with an emphasis on values-based priorities for the area’s future transportation. The public was first asked to weigh in on what is important and why. Examples of values based input include: ‘I value an efficient commute so I can spend more time recreating or with family,’  Wider bikes lanes are important to me so I feel safe riding downtown,’ or ‘I’d like to see increased bus service mid-day so it’s easier to use public transportation for my errands.’   Learn more about the MPO and the LRTP update below.

Interested in learning more about the Missoula Metropolitan Planning Organization?    MPOs are federally required for urban areas greater than 50,000.  Missoula's MPO was established in 1982 and is responsible for long-range planning and programming of federal transportation funds within the Missoula area. Click here to learn about more about who we are, what we do, and why we do it.

One of the Missoula-area's largest planning projects that will be underway in 2020 is an update to our Long-Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), which we're calling Missoula Connect.  The federal government requires that we prepare a LRTP every four years.  It is a plan that looks at all modes of transportation and identifies future priorities for projects and funding.  Missoula is on the move and we need to ensure we're not only keeping pace but staying ahead. Click here to learn more about Missoula Connect and view the project timeline. 

COVID-19 Updates​

To ensure the safety of our residents and staff, we will be cancelling all non-essential, in-person meetings and open houses until further notice. Planning projects will continue on schedule, with any in-person meetings or events taking place remotely, as it allows. In the meantime, please feel free to contact us via email with any questions or concerns. 


For more COVID-19 updates, you can stay informed through the City/County Health Department web site and information line at 406-258-INFO.

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