Transportation in Montana
Construction sign for I-90 in Montana during the mid-20th century
|Transit type||Rapid transit, commuter rail, buses, private automobile, taxicab, bicycle, pedestrian, highways|
|Operator(s)||Montana Department of Transportation|
Transportation in Montana comprises many different forms of travel. Montana shares a long border with Canada, hence international crossings are prevalent in the northern section of the state; there are 13 road crossings and one rail crossing.
As the fourth-largest state in the United States, journeying from one side to the other takes a long time. The state has an extensive network of roads, including state highways, Interstate highways and U.S. routes. Rail connections are also well-established and were an important method of transportation in Montana since the 1880s. Within individual cities, public transportation includes rapid transit and high-frequency bus services.
For travel further afield, 16 airports are operational within Montana. Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport in Gallatin County is the busiest airport and there are another seven major airports and eight minor ones providing commercial services.
Montana has approximately 70,000 miles (112,654 km) of highways which start in, pass through or are entirely inside the state.
1,198.8 miles (1929.2 km) of the Interstate Highway System, which serve as a thoroughfare for long-distance road journeys, is contained within Montana, and all of these are maintained by the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT). Speed limits are generally 80 mph (129 km/h) in rural areas and 65 mph (105 km/h) in urban areas.
Montana's Interstate highways are as follows:
- I-15 – Monida, Sweetgrass
- I-90 – Mullan, Ranchester
- I-94 – Billings, Beach
Eleven national U.S. routes are within the state, as seen in the list below:
- US 2 – Troy, Bainville
- US 12 – Lolo Hot Springs, Marmarth
- US 20 – Henrys Lake, Yellowstone National Park
- US 87 – Ranchester, Havre
- US 89 – Yellowstone National Park, Carway
- US 93 – Lost Trail Pass, Roosville
US 93 Alt. – Kalispell Bypass
- US 191 – Yellowstone National Park, Loring
- US 212 – Red Lodge, Cooke City
- US 287 – Yellowstone National Park, Choteau
- US 310 – Frannie, Laurel
In addition to these primary routes, Montana has a large number of state highways and smaller secondary routes. Speed limits on these roads are generally posted up to 70 mph (113 km/h) along rural areas.
Vehicles themselves in Montana are required to display a Montana licence plate on the back and front by the Department of Motor Vehicles. Eight different primary plate designs have been issued since drivers were required to register their cars in 1913.
The public transportation system in Montana is sparse as a whole, but several individual cities have local bus networks.
Intercity bus service
Across Montana, the bus network does not have a large amount of intercity routes but Greyhound Lines goes to 20 cities including Helena, Sidney and Bozeman, connecting passengers with journey frequencies of between once to five times per day.
Local bus service
Some individual cities have their own bus network provided by a transit corporation.
Missoula is served by ASUM Transportation and Mountain Line; The Mountain Line public transit system runs twelve services around the city and the University of Montana. It is indirectly controlled by the local government which have appointed members onto the board of the transportation district.
All four agencies run routes with fairly frequent schedules allowing commuters quick movement around different areas of the cities.
All passenger rail in Montana is provided by Amtrak. Twelve stations exist within the state. All along the line Empire Builder, they serve communities along the most northern section of Montana which carries on out either side into Idaho and North Dakota.
In terms of freight transportation, the BNSF Railway is the largest freight railroad with 1,983 miles (3,191 km) of track in Montana. The Class II Montana Rail Link operates 817 miles (1,315 km) of track leased from BNSF within the state. A number of other small railroad companies also exist.
Many now-defunct historical railroads existed in the industrial period of the 19th and early 20th century:
Commercial air travel is common in Montana and there are up to 71 public and private airports in the state. The largest is Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport, located eight miles northwest of Bozeman, an hour and forty minutes away by road from Helena. The next largest is Billings Logan International Airport, near Billings, which has three runways and had over 388,000 enplanements in 2010.
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