The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) Road Design Manual (RDM) was last updated in the 1990s. Since that time, design methodologies and standards have changed. The updated RDM needed to effectively communicate engineering principles and emphasize that design is more than just applying a standard from a table — it’s an understanding of tradeoffs, and how design, safety, and operations interact.


Kittelson and MDT worked collaboratively to update the RDM with current national research and MDT design practices. Starting with a new table of contents, Kittelson prepared white papers on key road design topics for consideration and developed an annotated outline for the new manual. Kittelson led workshops with MDT staff across engineering disciplines to gather input and collaboratively generate new material that reflects current design research, updated project development processes, and best practices for road design, such as performance-based design. Developing the new manual involved incorporating a national perspective on performance-based design and other state-of-the-art elements of the design process, as well as understanding MDT’s organizational structure and the interaction of its bureaus, departments and sections to better coordinate and streamline the design approach.


The Outcome

Writing the Book on Montana Roadways

From the annotated outline, the team developed the new RDM, building on existing chapters, incorporating nationally recognized research, and creating new chapters on multimodal and urban design considerations. This is one of the first state-level road design manuals in the United States to embrace performance-based design that provides engineers with the approach and guidance to apply the appropriate standards to the project context. The team is proud to have been awarded a 2017 American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) Engineering Excellence Award in Montana for their work on this project. You can reference the published Road Design Manual on MDT’s website here.




Montana DOT