Traffic Controls & Engineering

Traffic Controls

Traffic control measures become necessary when the individual drivers along roadways experience conflict points as they each attempt to reach their destinations and cross paths at intersecting points. At these intersections where two or more roadways cross paths, City Traffic Engineers work to minimize the risk to drivers and pedestrians by increasing the safety within the intersection with the most efficient means available. 

The type of traffic control used within an intersection is determined by a variety of factors. There are strict guidelines outlined in the Federal Highway Administration’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). The type of intersection traffic control is determined by a variety of factors including: traffic volumes, sight distance, crash histories, speed limits, and street classifications.

Uncontrolled intersections are the most minimal form of intersection traffic control. These intersections are low traffic volumes, low speed roadways typically in residential neighborhoods that rely on the Uniform Vehicle Code (UVC) to determine right-of-way. The code states that “the driver of the vehicle on the left shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles approaching from the right that are close enough to constitute an immediate hazard”. More simply stated; a driver must yield to the vehicles on their right. Occasionally, uncontrolled intersections need additional traffic control, but do not warrant the higher levels of traffic control shown below. In these special cases, various forms of “traffic calming” can be used to aid in the neighborhood traffic. Traffic calming is discussed in more detail in the Traffic Engineering Section of this page.

When the traffic increases to a point where the UVC can no longer safely pass traffic, right-of-way for approaching vehicles is assigned with the use of signs. Prior to installation, an engineering study is performed to determine the need and type of signage. STOP or YIELD signs are the commonly used signs to assign this priority.

Traffic signals and/or roundabouts are used for the more complex intersections along heavily traveled roadways. Both traffic signals and roundabouts have advantages/disadvantages over the other. However, both intersection treatments are used to progress higher level traffic through intersections in the safest, most efficient way possible. Traffic engineers have to take into account a variety of factors when determining whether to use a traffic signal or a roundabout.

The City is constantly monitoring problematic intersections for potential solutions. Each intersection presents unique characteristics that can be better handled with one intersection treatment over the others. A roundabout may work at one intersection, whereas a traffic signal or 4-way stop signs are a better fit at another intersection. The City takes our role in solving traffic problems very seriously, yet the ultimate burden of safety rests with you, the motorist.

  1. Engineering Services Office


    Physical Address
    2224 Montana Avenue
    Billings, MT 59101

    Phone: 406-657-8231


  1. Crosswalks
  2. Roundabouts
  3. Signals
  4. Signs

Overview

There are two types of crosswalks: “marked” and “unmarked”. A marked crosswalk consists of white paint outlining the traveled path of pedestrians. An unmarked crosswalk is the portion of the street that connects two aligned sidewalks across the intersection. The formal definition of a crosswalk from State law is shown below:

“The part of a roadway at an intersection included within the connections of the lateral lines of the sidewalks on opposite sides of the highway measured from the curbs or, in the absence of curbs, from the edges of the traversable roadway; or

Any portion of a roadway at an intersection or elsewhere distinctly indicated for pedestrians crossing by lines or other markings on the surface.”

At any and all crosswalks (marked or unmarked; at an intersection or midblock), drivers are required by State law to yield the right-of-way, slowing down or stopping if need be, to pedestrians. However, this is not happening in Billings. The Engineering Division has implemented a number of different crossing treatments in an effort to draw attention of the drivers to crossing pedestrians to improve both the compliance rate and safety of the intersections. HAWK1

Pedestrian Crossing Enhancements

In an effort to draw attention to both pedestrians and crosswalks and aid in the vehicular compliance rate, the City has used a number of different enhancements. These enhancements include the following:

Ladder-style crosswalks These crosswalks use more paint to highlight the crossing and have been reserved for school crossings or trail crossings.

Pedestrian refuge island This treatment provides a “safety” island for pedestrians to rest as they cross one direction of traffic at a time. This enhancement also minimizes the crossing distance and the exposure of the pedestrians within the traveled way.

School crossings These crosswalks are unique in their proximity to schools and come with their own sign clusters. 

Overhead signage and lighting The signage and lighting enhances the visibility of the crossing and thus gives the driver advanced warning that pedestrians may be present.

Rapid Rectangular Flashing Beacon (RRFB) These are pedestrian activated flashers located beneath the crossing signage. The unique pattern in which the beacons flash has proven to better alert drivers to the presence of pedestrians. This enhancement has been reserved for trail crossings of major roadways.

HAWK Signals This is a relatively new and effective crosswalk treatment in the City. 

The City takes our role in solving traffic problems very seriously, yet the ultimate burden of safety rests with you, the motorist. State law requires drivers to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians within a crosswalk. 

Traffic Engineering

Traffic Engineering is a branch of civil engineering which deals with the planning, geometric design and traffic operations of roads, streets, and highways. It further analyzes the roadway networks, terminals, abutting lands and relationships with other modes of transportation for the achievement of safe, efficient, and convenient movement of persons and goods.

Traffic Engineering applies engineering principles to help solve transportation problems and safety issues, and brings into play a knowledge of psychology and habits of all users of the transportation systems. It focuses mainly on research for safe and efficient traffic flow, such as:

  • Road geometry
  • Road surface markings
  • Segregated cycle facilities
  • Shared lane markings
  • Sidewalks/crosswalks
  • Traffic signals
  • Traffic signs

The purpose of traffic engineering is to then maximize the safety of all users by applying the research, tendencies, and principles while maintaining the maximum level of efficiency in transporting both the system users and the goods they are moving.

In 2011, the City of Billings adopted a Complete Streets Policy. This resolution defines a complete street as a road that has design features that contribute to a safe, convenient, or comfortable travel experience for all users. More generally, a complete street is one that accounts for not only vehicles, but also bicycles, pedestrians, transit, and users of all ages and abilities. This policy has placed added importance to the design and education of all types of users of the public roadways and the interaction between the different users.

Seasonal Adjustment Factor and Traffic Count Maps



  1. Calming
  2. Downtown Traffic Study
  3. School Zones/ Routes

Institute of Transportation Engineers is an international agency that defines traffic calming as changes in street alignment, installation of barriers, and other physical measures to reduce traffic speeds and cut-through volumes in the interest of street safety, livability, and other public purposes. 

Traffic calming is typically classified as either speed or volume control. The City of Billings will not typically implement volume control retroactively, but more information this type of traffic calming can be found at the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) website

Speed Control Sub-Types

The City has implemented speed control traffic calming in numerous locations. This type can be further classified into three different sub-types: 

  • Horizontal measures
  • Narrowings
  • Vertical measures

Horizontal Measures

Horizontal measures force the vehicles to slow down before safely navigating around them. Curves and angle points are introduced within the road's alignment to decrease the driver's comfort level. The decrease in driver comfort results in the driver slowing down. 

Realigned intersections, roundabouts, and alternating angled parking are some of the examples of horizontal measures used within the City.

Narrowings

Narrowings alter driving habits by confining the comfort zone of drivers. The more "cramped" a driver feels, the more they will slow down. Narrowing streets also brings the added benefit of narrowed crossings for pedestrians. 

The narrow street crossings will lessen the time a pedestrian needs to spend within the roadway. Curb bulb-outs are the typical narrowings used in numerous locations across the City.

Vertical Measures

Vertical measures force vehicles to slow down before driving over them. Speed humps are the standard vertical measure most often used within the City of Billings. It should be noted that speed "bumps" are not allowed within the City's public streets. 

Speed "bumps" are more abrupt and are typically used in the parking lots of large retail shops (such as Target, Costco, and shopping malls). Speed bumps do too much damage to vehicles, and more importantly, impact fire trucks and ambulances too severely.

Neighborhood Traffic Calming

The City currently does not have a funding source for neighborhood traffic calming. Therefore, it falls on the individual neighborhoods to fund a localized project. Typically, this funding is raised through a Special Improvement District (SID)

Resolution 13854 Neighborhood Traffic Control, provides information on the City Policy to preserve residential neighborhood integrity by discouraging through traffic in these areas.