IN THE NEWS: WTI Road Ecologist Offers Insights Into Utah Project

Head shot of Rob Ament

In 2018, the Utah Department of Transportation completed the state’s largest wildlife crossing, which traverses six lanes of traffic on Interstate 80.  The crossing structure made the news again last week, when research footage captured deer, moose, elk, bears, bobcats and a variety of smaller mammals using the bridge.  In news coverage by Smithsonian Magazine, “Animals are Using Utah’s Largest Wildlife Overpass Earlier Than Expected,” WTI Road Ecologist Rob Ament is quoted regarding the high percentage of collision reductions that typically occur after the installation of crossing structures.  Rob’s quote is also included in a similar article by Nature World News.

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NEW REPORT: Innovative Strategies to Reduce the Costs of Effective Wildlife Overpasses

car on a rural highway approaching a wildlife overpass in mountainous region

The U.S. Forest Service has released a new report authored by wildlife crossing experts from WTI, ARC Solutions, and other partner research organizations, which compiles key guidance information that may lead to the installation of more wildlife crossing structures.

Wildlife crossing structures are one of the most effective means of reducing animal-vehicle collisions on highways, while facilitating essential animal movement across the landscape. Yet the widespread implementation of such structures, especially wildlife overpasses, has been hindered by cost concerns. In 2014, WTI hosted a workshop in partnership with ARC Solutions and prominent wildlife crossing experts from Canada and the United States to determine whether there are design parameters and construction techniques that could be added, changed, or adjusted to reduce costs, while maintaining or improving the effectiveness of wildlife overpasses.

Concepts identified during the workshop were developed into specific strategies.  This document presents 32 potential cost savings considerations, which were consolidated into three categories:

  • planning
  • design and construction
  • procurement, delivery method, and cost accounting considerations

The full report is available for download from the WTI website or the USFS website.

Citation: McGuire, Terry M.; Clevenger, Anthony P.; Ament, Robert; Callahan, Renee; Jacobson, Sandra, eds. 2020. Innovative strategies to reduce the costs of effective wildlife overpasses. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-267. Albany, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station.

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RESEARCH NEWS: Winter is coming — What’s new in Cold Climate research?

snow plow drives on snowy 2 lane highway through forest

Montana is not the only place concerned with keeping the roads clear and safe during the winter months. Over the last year, WTI’s Cold Climate Operations and Systems program has added a number of new projects with multi-state partnerships to improve the tools, resources, and staffing available to winter maintenance agencies.

  • Roadway Friction Modeling: Improving the Use of Friction Measurements in State DOTs. States often use road friction measurement devices as guidance for snow removal activities, but there are challenges with interpreting the readings from multiple sensors. The goal of this project is to conduct friction testing that will improve the understanding of the relationship between weather conditions and road friction, which in turn will help to standardize data obtained and improve the ability of state DOTs to use these devices to predict friction on roadways.  This is a joint research effort with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, sponsored by the Aurora Pooled Fund Research Program.
  • Ongoing Issues with Winter Weather Severity Indices. Many state DOTs use winter-focused Weather Severity Indices (WSI) (aka Severe Weather Indices (SWI) or Storm Severity Indices (SSI)) to measure performance and manage winter maintenance operations. However, most WSIs lack the capability to capture more complex winter conditions, such as the impact of blowing and drifting snow. Through this project, WTI will create a working group of experts to advance the state of the practice of weather severity indices (WSI). This is a joint research effort with the National Center for Atmospheric Research and is sponsored by the Aurora Pooled Fund research program.
  • Recruitment and Retention of Highway Maintenance Workers. State departments of transportation (DOTs) and local public works departments (DPW) are grappling with recruiting, retaining, and training a highly proficient roadway maintenance workforce, including winter maintenance specialists. The goal of this project is to produce a concise, comprehensive guide of innovative but practical ways for DOTs/ DPWs to recruit and retain a highly proficient, productive, versatile, and committed roadway maintenance workforce.  The project is sponsored by the Clear Roads research program.

Cold Climate Program Manager Laura Fay is encouraged by the strong interest in winter maintenance collaborations: “WTI was one of the early advocates of winter maintenance peer exchanges, which really facilitated the sharing of best practices for operations. Now there are opportunities to work together on advancing new technologies and other tools that may also make it easier to monitor and manage roads in severe weather conditions.”

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STUDENT NEWS: Gaining Research and Testing Experience in the Cold Climates Lab

Staff photo, Lura Johnson

The Cold Climate Operations and Systems program has new student support in the Lab!

WTI is pleased to welcome Lura Johnson as an undergraduate lab technician, who will assist with various road deicing tests and materials.  Working closely with Program Manager Laura Fay and Mat Bell, she is currently supporting the Ice Melting Capacity Test and the Roadway Friction Modeling project.

Lura is currently pursuing a B.S. in Environmental Engineering here at MSU and also participates in the Honors College. Originally from Keene Valley in upstate New York, she has a strong interest in the protection of public and private lands, like the Adirondack Park near her hometown.  Her long-term goal is to pursue a career in resource preservation with an emphasis on pollution control.  When she’s not studying or working in our labs, she enjoys making art, backcountry and nordic skiing, trail running, backpacking, and swimming.

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