By Nick Fitzmaurice
In September, the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) released its draft Carbon Reduction Strategy (CRS) for a public review period that month. Developing a CRS in each state is a requirement under the Carbon Reduction Program (CRP) within the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law) to access funding for projects that will reduce carbon emissions from transportation sources.
While the draft CRS establishes that the current transportation emissions baseline in Montana is 8 million tons of CO2 per year (mostly from direct tailpipe emissions), the MDT did not use the strategy as an opportunity to commit to specific emissions reduction goals. MDT split its projects into the following strategy buckets: Transportation Demand Management, Mode Choice, Vehicles, Parking, Transportation System Management & Operations, Energy, and Construction/Maintenance. While numerous valuable strategy areas and projects are superficially explored within these themes, little detail is provided on the potential projects. MDT makes no explicit commitments to pursue any of these projects and there is no analysis of their emission reduction potential.
In the public review period, MEIC advocated for a number of improvements. These included focusing more on the electricity generation and associated emissions powering Montana’s growing electric vehicle fleets; expanding passenger rail access in Montana, particularly along the I-90 corridor in partnership with the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority; and containing suburban sprawl, moving away from car-centric development and bolstering transit connectivity for more walkable and bikable cities. MEIC particularly emphasized that MDT must develop an explicit plan and emission reduction targets to not let available funds go to waste.
Having collected public input, including from MEIC and our members, MDT finalized the strategy document in November. The projects outlined will direct the allocation of an estimated $68.1 million in funding apportioned to Montana over the next five years.
This article was published in the December 2023 issue of Down To Earth.