The National Center for
Rural Road Safety is proud to announce the inaugural Rural Road Safety
Awareness Week (RRSAW), which will take place the week of September 28th
– October 2nd, 2020.
The goal of RRSAW is to
dedicate a week to promoting rural road safety to the public, community
leaders, and potential partners by telling the “rural story.” This event will shine
a light on rural needs, challenges, and solutions, especially those that help all
stakeholders make progress on the Rural Road to Zero fatalities and serious
RRSAW will be a social
media driven campaign, so high levels of social media interaction will be the
key to success for RRSAW. The Center
encourages individuals and agencies to use their own social media platforms to
extend the reach of RRSAW’s stories and messages:
First, please friend the Center on Facebook (@ruralroadsafety)
and follow it on LinkedIn (@national-center-for-rural-road-safety) to see
daily posts during the week of RRSAW.
Next, please share or repost messages (or create original ones
that highlight your own agency). Event organizers will be using hashtags #RuralRoadSafety
and #RRSAW2020 for posts and encourage you to use the same
The Rural Safety Center
has created daily themes for the week and will release targeted materials for
Monday: Defining Rural
Tuesday: Rural Safety Champions
Wednesday: Rural Road Modes
Thursday: Proven Rural Safety Countermeasures
Friday: Rural Safety Culture
Through these topics, everyone will have a chance to share their experiences, answer fact-check questions, and learn about the topic of the day. Use the generic hashtags #RRSAW2020 and #RuralRoadSafety AND the specific hashtag of the day to makes sure you are included in the nation-wide conversation. The Rural Safety Center will be releasing a RRSAW Toolkit complete with social media messages and graphics at the end of August on the RRWAW webpage. Please feel free to share this with your colleagues and contact the Rural Safety Center with any questions you might have about the campaign.
WTI recently launched a new project to conduct a
transit study in Humboldt County, a coastal county in northern California. The
goal is to provide the Humboldt County Association of Governments (HCAOG) and
the Humboldt Transit Authority with a review of all current transportation
services, and to investigate the potential for new service in the town of
Led by Principal Investigator Andrea Hamre, the study will begin with the collection and analysis of data from the existing public transportation services in the county and a review of demographic and travel data to explore new transit service scenarios within McKinleyville as well as between McKinleyville and other communities in the region. Tasks will include the development and assessment of potential service and route options, preparation of cost estimates, identification of management impacts, and development of recommendations based on the findings. The project is jointly sponsored by HCAOG and the Small, Urban, Rural and Tribal Center on Mobility (SURTCOM). As the study progresses, updates will be available on the project webpage.
On Wednesday, August 12, the Western Transportation Institute (WTI), Montana State University (MSU), and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) co-hosted a national forum to raise awareness on “The Importance of Focusing on Transportation Safety in Rural America.”
NHTSA officials had
originally planned August field tours to western states and public lands to
view rural safety conditions and engage with state and local stakeholders on
initiatives to enhance rural transportation safety. WTI was slated to host one
of the public meetings on the MSU campus. Due to current travel restrictions,
the entire field visit was transformed into a virtual forum.
Jason Carter, MSU Vice President of
Research, Economic Development and Graduate Education, served as the webinar
host, providing the welcome address and introducing remarks by NHTSA Deputy
Administrator James Owens, USDOT Secretary Elaine Chao, U.S.
Senator Steve Daines (MT), and U.S. Representative Greg Gianforte
In a panel discussion moderated
by WTI Director David Kack, presenters provided an overview of critical
rural transportation issues that impact the safety and effectiveness of the
entire national transportation network, as well as current initiatives to
enhance travel through rural areas:
Nic Ward, Director of the Center for Health and Safety Culture at MSU, discussed the importance of addressing driver behavior to improve safety and gave an overview of how traffic safety culture approaches can be effectively used for issues such as seat belt usage, speeding, and impaired driving.
Loren Smith, USDOT Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, introduced the federal ROUTES Initiative, which addresses transportation infrastructure disparities between rural and urban areas. He included an overview of the new ROUTES Applicant Toolkit, which is designed to help rural agencies access federal grants and resources.
The Montana State
University (MSU) Student Chapter of the Institute of Transportation Engineers
(ITE) has worked hard in recent years to grow its membership and its
professional opportunities for engineering students, and the effort has paid
off! At the annual meeting of the
Western and Mountain ITE Districts, the MSU Chapter was selected for the
Momentum Award, which recognizes the student chapter that has most improved
over the last year. The MSU attendees
also took second place in the Collegiate Traffic Bowl, a team competition that
tests the knowledge of students on a variety of transportation planning and
ITE is a national association for transportation professionals, offering technical resources, training, and professional development. To attract and prepare the next generation of professionals, ITE encourages student involvement through university ITE chapters, leadership summits, competitions, and awards. The student chapter at MSU currently has about 35 active members. WTI research engineer Dr.Ahmed Al-Kaisyserves as the chapter’s faculty advisor. They have been very busy over the last academic year, with activities that included attending a student leadership conference in Los Angeles, CA, leading activities for K-12 students at the annual MSU Engineer-a-Thon, hosting professional speakers and networking events, and conducting hands on technical activities like traffic data collection.
President Bryce Grame and four other members attended the District
Meeting held in early July. Although
virtual this year, the attendees found it very rewarding. “With
some virtual sessions having upwards of 200 attendees, the access to industry
knowledge was expanded exponentially by moving the conference online,” said
Bryce. “As a student, I had the privilege of learning about new industry
findings and best practices through technical sessions, participating in
student leadership workshops to better serve our ITE@MSU student chapter,
receiving feedback from professionals on my resume, networking with my peers
through online social events, and competing in the annual Student Traffic Bowl
The National Center for
Rural Road Safety is excited to announce that the Third National
Summit on Rural Road Safety will take place September 29 – October 1,
2020. Registration is now open for this action-oriented event, which is
designed to provide professionals with plans and strategies for meeting their
region’s Rural Road to Zero goals.
This year’s virtual
Summit will feature knowledgeable speakers and interactive sessions, including:
Results oriented safety strategies for rural areas
Action plans for growing positive safety culture in rural communities
The summits have become a national forum for engaging a wide variety of stakeholders and raising awareness on critical rural road safety issues. In 2016, the first summit, Moving Rural America, invited stakeholders to articulate critical issues and identify collaborative safety initiatives. The second summit, held in 2018, focused on Bridging the Gap, highlighting proven safety measures and other strategies that participants could implement in their regions. Previous summits have attracted participants from across the country and presenters from FHWA, CDC, National Association of Counties (NACO), Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), and more. Registration for the 3rd Summit is open until September 21, 2020. There are also numerous opportunities for sponsors and vendors to participate and support the event.
2020 will always be remembered as the year we all worked remotely – even our summer interns! WTI is pleased to welcome Jonathan Fisher, who is working from his home in Vermont. While far from Montana, he is well situated to help Andrea Hamre with a Travel Behavior Analysis project, for which he is analyzing and modeling data from traveler surveys in Chittenden County, Vermont.
Jonathan is a recent graduate of Middlebury College, where he majored in Geography and minored in French. With his skills in GIS and data analysis, combined with an interest in the environment, he sees the internship as an opportunity to learn more about transportation topics like mode choice, transportation behavior, and commuter benefits: “I have always loved working with numbers and I was eager to put my new statistical skillset to use on a professional research project.” Andrea added, “It’s been a true pleasure working with Jonathan this summer. We’ve worked through an ambitious research plan together, and I hope this introduction to transportation research with WTI supports his career development.”
A lifetime Vermont resident, Jonathan is considering a move to Boston in the near future to start his professional career. When he’s not crunching numbers, learning how to write a journal article, or checking out the job market, he also manages to find time for running, basketball, baking and reading.
WTI research is being put into practice! The New Mexico Department of Transportation has approved a $500,000 project to develop and implement a culvert assessment management project. The project builds on the recommendations of a research study led by WTI to identify best practices for identifying, inspecting, and maintaining culverts and similar drainage structures. WTI researchers, including P.I. Natalie Villwock-Witte, Karalyn Clouser, and Laura Fay, also identified strategies for integrating and enhancing NMDOT databases that house the agency’s inspection and inventory information. The long-term goal of these projects is to implement a systematic inspection process that helps identify critical maintenance needs in a timely manner and prevent potential hazards like the development of sinkholes.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the Washington Post is reporting on a wide range of impacts, including the effects on wildlife. In a recent feature, “Pandemic shutdowns saved thousands of animals from becoming roadkill, report suggests,” the Post highlights recent research that found large reductions in the number of large mammals involved in car crashes during March and April when stay-at-home orders were in place. WTI Road Ecologist Marcel Huijser was interviewed for the article and discussed how the data may be useful in demonstrating the value of investing in fences and overpasses that help prevent wildlife-vehicle collisions on an ongoing basis.