Traffic Engineering

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Overview

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 & Traffic Count Maps

The City of Billings collects traffic volumes at over 300 locations throughout the Billings Metropolitan Planning Organization’s boundaries. These locations are divided in half and counted every other year. Check out our INTERACTIVE TRAFFIC COUNT MAP, or select from the links below:

Seasonal Adjustment FactorsTraffic Count Maps
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  1. Engineering Services Office


    Physical Address
    2224 Montana Avenue
    Billings, MT 59101

    Phone: 406-657-8231

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  1. About Intersection Control
  2. About Stop Signs
  3. About Traffic Signals
  4. About Roundabouts
  5. About Crosswalks
  6. About Traffic Calming

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.