Rod Nelson was recently appointed as the new Billings District Administrator for the Montana Department of Transportation.  Rod has a civil engineering degree from MSU in Bozeman and has served many functions throughout his 30 year tenure at MDT.
When asked how he sees MDT playing a part in trail development, Rod says he is encouraged by partnerships between the local MDT office and local organizations such as the City of Billings, Billings TrailNet, who collaborated on projects along Highway 3 at Swords Park and more recently, the underpass and pedestrian path leading from it toward Zimmerman Park.

“The biggest challenge all of us have is funding,” says Rod. “Most projects are doable, but we just have to work through funding issues in order to accomplish them. If we can work together we can accomplish great things,” he remarked.

He says it is important to know the funding constraints MDT faces. In fact, he reports that MDT has done enough studies to know that demand/need for projects and maintenance outweighs funding by 3 to 1.

But partnerships with other organizations and creative problem solving can lead to even better outcomes, which is exactly what happened with the underpass under Zimmerman Trail. As MDT managed the Zimmerman Trail improvement project, they were able to add the pedestrian underpass at a relatively lower cost to create a more viable future for the Skyline Trail to safely connect people with Zimmerman Park. This happened with the partnership of City of Billings, Parks and Recreation and Billings TrailNet.

“Understanding each other is what makes a partnership great,” says Rod, and he invites people to contact him with any ideas or questions, at 657-0229.

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