18th Annual Western States Forum a Success

The Western States Rural Transportation Technology Implementers Forum(the Western States Forum or WSF) continued the tradition of success at its 18th annual event in June. Designed to share rural transportation solutions that have been deployed in the field, the Forum featured seven technical presentations and demonstrations and provided a variety of networking and discussion opportunities for state departments of transportation (DOTs) and local and public agencies. Its small size (a maximum of 50 participants), invite-only guest list, and absence of vendors kept presentations in-depth and discussion lively and open. The 2023 Forum had a full house, with 49 participants representing eight states (AZ, CA, MT, NV, OR, TX, UT, WA), and six DOTs, including all five of the Western States Rural Transportation Consortium (WSRTC) member states (CA, OR, NV, UT, WA).

The Forum design is unique; speakers submit two drafts of their presentation for review by a steering committee, which then provides detailed feedback. This review process helps maintain the level of technical detail which distinguishes WSF from other conferences. A day and a half are devoted to presentations, so speakers are given an extended amount of time to delve into the “nuts and bolts” of their project’s outcome, whether it relates to equations, source code, component-level discussion, or lessons learned. Forum participants are also encouraged to engage with speakers and discuss the material presented both during and at the end of each presentation.

A dump truck pulling an enclosed trailer with metal towers erected at either end. People are gathered to view the inside of the trailer.

The Caltrans Office of Radio Communications satellite communications truck and trailer.

This year’s agenda included presentations from California, Utah, Nevada, and Washington, each with their own unique topics and perspective. Presenters from Caltrans District 2 provided a detailed review of broadband communication design strategies for Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) applications and explored how the system architecture has evolved and expanded successfully. Speakers from Caltrans District 3 discussed a web application and server that interfaces with existing transportation management systems to send batches of CMS messages based on a message playbook. The presentation also demonstrated how other organizations could create similar applications. The Caltrans Office of Radio Communications brought over their satellite communications truck and trailer from District 1 and accompanied their presentation with a parking lot demonstration.

The Utah DOT Weather Operations group spoke on a topic new to the Forum: wildfire response and a process for analyzing wildfire burn severity and debris flow probability with the use of portable Road Weather Information System – Environmental Sensing Stations (ESS). Their presentation explained how the process and system provides automatic alerts to stakeholders to minimize the time required to clear the debris flow area and keep personnel safe. Washington State DOT discussed their experience testing and procuring a wrong-way vehicle detection system that accurately detects vehicles entering a highway from the wrong direction. They also described how that system integrates with current infrastructure to alert the TMC if a vehicle is confirmed to be driving in the wrong direction. Nevada DOT had a contingent of speakers who presented on two topics. The first discussed their newly implemented managed lighting control system, which enables real-time adjustments to roadway lighting levels, along with monitoring for maintenance. The second presentation described NDOT’s use of the 3-GIS network management software for telecommunications infrastructure and asset management.

WTI has coordinated the Forum since its inception in 2006. It is supported by the Western States Rural Transportation Consortium, a transportation pooled fund consisting of five Western states – California, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, and Washington (lead state). Over the years, the Forum has hosted more than 650 participants, with nearly 300 individuals from 14 different states. The 2023 forum was joined by 22 first-time participants and nine “regulars” who have attended 11 or more events.

The WSF has been established as an excellent means of disseminating information on Rural ITS among designers, engineers, and maintainers. It has also resulted in many examples of projects that were inspired by, or built upon, past WSF presentations. Sharing lessons learned (positive or otherwise) only advances the state of practice. Check out the Forum website for technical content and images from past events: Home | Western States Forum, http://www.westernstatesforum.org/. Information about the 2024 event will be posted this fall.