Montana 2014 Report

2014 Montana Infrastructure Report Card

2014 Report Card GPA: C-

Montana’s aging infrastructure is approaching a critical state of disrepair, earning a cumulative grade of C- in the inaugural Report Card for Montana’s Infrastructure. From neighborhood roads and community schools to safe drinking water, dams that produce energy and prevent flooding to waterways that irrigate fields, this infrastructure is used by all Montana residents and is essential to our economic future. Montana’s citizens have an interest in solving our infrastructure problems. Regular maintenance and improvements will keep them running longer and save taxpayers money. This Report Card shows us that better stewardship is needed from our leaders to ensure that public health, safety, economic mobility, and welfare are maintained in the Big Sky State.

Read the Report Card Executive Summary

Get the Facts in the Report Card Brochure

2014 report card for montana's infrastructure

Montana Infrastructure Grades


Montana’s 3,316 dams hold approximately 34.5 million acre-feet of water, roughly the amount of water it would take to cover the states of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont in water one foot deep. Yet Montana averages only 35% of the average dam safety state budget per dam. The majority of Montana’s dams were constructed between 1930 and 1970, and many have reached the end of their design life. The overall condition of Montana’s dams is difficult to track because 75% do not have periodic engineering inspections and are not required to have operation permits. Overall, dams designated high hazard are in significantly better condition than dams designated low hazard, as they are inspected and routinely maintained. Montana’s Dam Safety Program is allocating the limited resources available to the dams that would have the greatest impact on public safety, but as all dams continue to age, the unknown risk and need for maintenance and rehabilitation will continue to increase. Currently, the funding available for dam maintenance and rehabilitation is not adequate to continue to ensure dam safety.

Drinking Water
Drinking Water

Montana has over 5,300 miles of water distribution and transmission piping, a longer stretch than driving roundtrip from Billings to Miami. Montana has approximately 700 public water systems consisting of those in the seven largest cities, about 60 serving communities larger than 1500 people, and the remaining 630 being cities, towns, districts, associations, and private systems. Some systems have piping dating back to the late 1800s and early 1900s, with many systems including pipe that is 75 to 100 years old. Most systems, without regard for size, experience major leaks on an annual basis that waste valuable water. Over 50% reported that the capacity of their distribution system is five years or less. In 2011, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality identified an immediate water system financial need of $885 million. Of the 700 public water systems, more than 1 in 5 are currently not compliant with monitoring requirements and other regulatory requirements.

Irrigation Canals
Irrigation Canals

Montana has over 2 million acres of irrigated land, an area almost double the size of Glacier National Park. 60% of this irrigated acreage receives some or all of its water needs from a canal supply. Suppliers include 20 State Water Projects, 17 U.S. Bureau of Reclamation facilities, and approximately 246 private irrigation organizations. 32% of owners identified their structures as notably impaired, with more than half reporting impairments due to infrastructure age of greater than 50 years. There is strong support for government facilities, but this is offset with the challenges of non-government facilities that have limited funding resources and a lack of assistance for facility operation. As Montana’s irrigation systems continue to age and deteriorate, maintenance and repair demands increase, and operators should act now to better address these looming concerns.


Montana has over 2,000 school buildings that 144,129 students attend. 68% of these schools were built prior to 1970. 40% of Montana’s schools have fewer than 50 students, and others range from remote, one-room schoolhouses to larger community schools stretched to capacity. A 2008 assessment reported that $903M was needed to bring all Montana facilities to good condition. A bottom-to-top statewide school facilities review revealed that 66% of schools showed signs of damage and wear, as well as environmental needs such as HVAC, roof, and electrical issues. Recent energy conservation efforts have begun to curb some energy costs. However, available grant funding was not enough to address incomplete exterior wall insulation, a deficiency in 43% of schools, and incomplete roof insulation, a deficiency in 48% of schools. Montana’s children deserve safe, healthy schools in which they can focus their efforts on learning.

Solid Waste
Solid Waste

Of the 1.6 million tons of solid waste generated annually in Montana, approximately 1.3 million tons are landfilled. Since municipal solid waste rules changed in 1993, significant improvements have occurred within Montana’s solid waste infrastructure and operations, including a reduction from over 300 facilities statewide to just 31. The state has approximately 38 years of landfill capacity currently permitted. Most of the municipal landfills were either constructed or have received significant upgrades within the last 25 years, providing good to excellent environmental protection. In addition, the support infrastructure, including roads, stormwater controls, and equipment buildings are in relatively good condition. One exception is rural container sites and some transfer facilities, which are generally older and in fair to poor condition, posing significant public safety issues. Montana has improved the percentage of material diverted from its landfills, but needs to continue to make progress towards increasing waste diversion through reuse and recycling. Overall, Montana’s solid waste infrastructure is in relatively good condition and solid waste rates are reasonably affordable.


In Montana, 65 different rail, bus, and van services provide rural and urban transit service; 36 of these are public transit systems. While Montanans who have access to transit have increased their ridership over the past decade, it is estimated that statewide, only 17% of transit needs are being met. Several agencies benefited from over $15 million in Federal recovery investments in 2009, which essentially doubled short-term transit funding in the state, although future maintenance efforts will fall to Montana. 31% of Montana transit agencies responded to a survey that funding levels are “Inadequate” or “Not at All Adequate” to meet future needs. When asked, “What should public transit/public transportation in Montana look like in 20 years?” the single word answer was “more.”


Montana has the third highest fatality rate in the nation, with a backlog of transportation projects waiting for available funding. 46% of major roads are in poor to mediocre condition and 40% of gravel roads are in poor or failed condition. These rough roads cost each Montanan approximately $292 to $484 per year in extra maintenance costs depending on their area’s roads. 59% of the $60 billion in goods shipped within Montana travel by truck across the state’s vast highway infrastructure, further emphasizing the vital role of the Montana transportation network. It is estimated that $14.8 billion is needed to take care of Montana’s roadway system and bridges, but projected funding can only meet 25% of those needs. Despite being under funded, the state’s highways are in fair to good condition and 92% of the state highway bridges are in good condition, efficiently moving citizens and goods from place to place. The overall lack of adequate funding cripples the effectiveness and lowers the overall rating to a C.


Montana has approximately 180 public wastewater treatment systems. Of those, 20% of the publicly owned wastewater treatment facilities have significant effluent violations and another 20% are under formal enforcement actions to correct system deficiencies to achieve compliance. Many of the collection systems date back to the early 1900s, and some of this original piping has never been replaced. It is not uncommon for the pipelines in originally established areas to have vitrified clay tile pipe that has cracked or failed. The majority of agencies report replacing little or no wastewater piping on an annual basis. Based on the current rate of replacement, it could take 70 to 90 years to replace Montana’s water and wastewater infrastructure. Many communities have completed system additions since the 1950s, but over 60% reported a remaining capacity of less than five years. Current estimates to completely replace Montana’s entire water and wastewater infrastructure are estimated to range between $12 billion and $15 billion.

Each category was evaluated on the basis of capacity, condition, funding, future need, operation and maintenance, public safety, resilience, and innovation

Key Facts about Montana's Infrastructure


71 public-use airports


465 (8.80%) of the 5,276 bridges are structurally deficient

Bridge Funding

$30,141,744 spent on state bridge capital projects in 2013

Dams with EAPS

87% of the state regulated dams have an Emergency Action Plan


110 high hazard dams

Drinking Water

$885.3 million in drinking water infrastructure needs over the next 20 years


133.7 Trillion BTU of renewable energy every year, ranking it 27th

Hazardous Waste

17 sites on the National Priorities List


85 miles of levees

Public Parks

$200 million of unmet needs for its parks system


3,200 miles of freight railroads across the state, ranking 20th nationally


75,007 miles of Public Roads, with 10% in poor condition

Road Costs

$382 per motorist per year in costs from driving on roads in need of repair


$191 million gap in estimated school capital expenditures


4,060,814 annual unlinked passenger trips via transit systems including bus, transit, and commuter trains


$363 million in wastewater infrastructure needs over the next 20 years

Key Solutions

Our nation’s infrastructure problems are solvable if we have leadership and commit to making good ideas a reality. Raising the grades on our infrastructure will require that we seek and adopt a wide range of solutions.

We can no longer afford to defer investment in our nation’s critical infrastructure systems.

Leadership & Planning

Smart investment will only be possible with leadership, planning, and a clear vision for our nation’s infrastructure.

Preparing for the Future

We have to utilize new approaches, materials, and technologies to ensure our infrastructure is more resilient.

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