MSU Selects Jay Otto for Employee Recognition

Head shot of Jay Otto

On April 14, Center for Health and Safety Culture Principal Scientist Jay Otto was selected for “Pure Gold,” a Montana State University employee recognition program.  Nominated by colleague Annmarie McMahill, Jay was recognized for his meaningful research projects and his “above and beyond” efforts to serve the university and community. Read the full story on the Pure Gold recipients webpage.  Congratulations, Jay!

In Memoriam: Dr. Bill Jameson

Portrait of Bill Jameson with his two dogs

We are saddened to share that former WTI staff member Dr. Bill Jameson passed away on January 2.  Bill joined WTI in 2003 as a Senior Research Scientist, two years after his “retirement” from a distinguished engineering career that encompassed military, private sector, public sector, education, and research and development experience.  At WTI, he specialized in the development of telecommunications systems for transportation applications and was instrumental to the development of the Systems Engineering, Development and Integration Program.  He is fondly remembered as a wise educator, generous mentor, and good friend to all.

For more personal memories, we are pleased to share this tribute by another WTI alumni, Doug Galarus:

Former WTI staff member Dr. Bill Jameson died on January 2nd. Those of you who knew and worked with Bill will surely be sad to hear this. Those who did not know Bill should know a bit more about him.

I met Bill shortly after moving to Bozeman to work for WTI in 2003. Bill was chairing a session at a communications conference at MSU. Coincidently, I had been assigned to a project that involved significant data communication challenges. Several WTI staff members and I attended the conference and crossed paths with Bill. Subsequently Bill became a member of and helped what became the “Systems Group” at WTI with projects such as “Redding Responder” and “TMC-TMS Communications.”  Bill had previously worked with law enforcement on radio communications and other projects, and he brought a wealth of knowledge and a long list of contacts who could help us on these projects. Bill had also been faculty in the MSU Electrical Engineering Department.

I will never forget the time when Bill insisted that he and I travel to his family cabin in the mountains near Red Lodge to test a satellite communication system. Bill said that if there was any place where communication would be a challenge, it was there, and he was right. After carefully setting up the system and a camera to document our experiment, I turned around to find a cow moose looking me in the face! That was not exactly the challenge I expected.

Bill accompanied me on a later project trip to California where we toured facilities and roadways in Caltrans Districts 1 and 2 in Northern California to truly appreciate the communication challenges faced there. We toured the Redwoods and confirmed that communication was a huge challenge in the presence of “large conifers,” as Bill called them. We drove long, winding roads, including late at night as our flight to California had been delayed six hours in Seattle and we had a meeting scheduled the first thing the next morning. We went with District 2 staff to the top of Bass Mountain north of Redding to see the mountain top antennas that provided service to roadside cameras, signs, and weather sensors in the winding Sacramento Canyon. To call the path we followed a road would be an overstatement given the huge boulders we bounced over and around. We suspected that the vultures flying circles above us at the top of the mountain were there for a reason – they didn’t expect us to survive the trip! Despite the rough ride, Bill quickly became friends with Caltrans staff, and they always asked how he was doing. He never forgot that bouncy ride when talking to or about them.

When Bill’s involvement with projects at WTI ended, he continued to maintain a presence, and we were happy to provide him with an office. After various moves and consolidations in space we were no longer able to do that, and it was a sad day to see Bill leave with his belongs. He continued to stop by and say hi and bring donuts or other goodies to staff. While working at WTI and afterwards, Bill was a friend and mentor to staff and students.

Bill combined his wisdom with humor. Whenever someone would attribute something to “Murphy’s Law”, Bill would calmly reply, “I knew Murphy.” And he did!!! Another one of my favorite Bill sayings was eventually printed and given to me as something I should frame. Given the often-cluttered state of my desk, Bill would remark, “If a cluttered desk is sign of a cluttered mind, then what is an empty desk a sign of?” Bill’s desk mirrored mine, if not worse. Bill’s mind was full of great ideas and thoughts and was not cluttered. He had a big heart, and he will be missed.Bill loved his dogs, and his WTI staff photo showed Bill with two of his dogs. Baxter, his basset hound and Missy, his most recent rescue dog at that time looked right at home on the walls of WTI, along with Bill grinning from ear-to-ear. That same photo was used for his official obituary and is truly a good one to remember him by.

2021 30th Annual UTC Outstanding Student of the Year Awards

Headshot of Ali Rahim-Talegani

Congratulations to Ali Rahim-Taleqani of North Dakota State University (NDSU). Ali has been recognized as a 2020 Outstanding Student of the Year by the University Transportation Centers for his contributions to the Small Urban, Rural and Tribal Center on Mobility led by the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University.  Ali has over 10 years of experience in international freight forwarding, logistics, and domestic transport.  He received his PhD in Transportation and Logistics from NDSU in May 2020.

During his doctoral studies, he worked on several projects relating to micro-mobility using simulation, optimization, and machine learning.  Now a master’s degree student in Computer Science, Ali is conducting research with the Small Urban and Rural Center on Mobility (SURCOM) at NDSU’s Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute.  He is currently developing a web application that will help rural and small urban transit agencies identify and project their state of good repair.

In addition to receiving his PhD in 2020, Ali published his third journal article, “Maximum Closeness Centrality K-Clubs: A Study of Dock-Less Bike Sharing in the Journal of Advanced Transportation.

Milestones in Service: Faculty and Staff Honored at Virtual Ceremony

On November 5, Montana State University hosted the 7th annual Milestones in Service celebration with a virtual awards ceremony to honor faculty and staff for their dedication and years of service to MSU. Awards are provided in 5-year increments based on cumulative years of service. This year’s ceremony recognized a number of faculty and staff who work closely with WTI or are part of our WTI “alumni” family.

Portrait of Ahmed Al-Kaisy

Dr. Ahmed Al-Kaisy received an award for 15 years of service as a Transportation Professor in the Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering (NACOE).  Over that same 15-year period, Ahmed has also served as a WTI Researcher and Program Manager for Safety and Operations Research.

outdoor portrait of Kari Finley

Dr. Kari Finley was recognized for 5 years of service as a Senior Research Scientist at the Center for Health and Safety Culture.  She has led and collaborated on numerous projects related to traffic safety culture, substance misuse, and child development.

Two MSU employees who started their MSU careers at WTI were also honored. Jenni West, who managed the Transit in Parks Technical Assistance Center (TRIPTAC) for WTI for many years, received a 10-year award.  She now serves as the Associate Director of the Montana Manufacturing Extension Center (MMEC) in the MSU College of Engineering (NACOE).  Dr. Laura Stanley was also recognized with a 10-year service award. She formerly served as a WTI researcher in our human factors safety program and led many projects in the Driving Simulation Laboratory.  She now serves as an Associate Professor of Computer Science in the MSU Gianforte School of Computing.

Finally, we congratulate several long-time NACOE employees who have provided invaluable support to WTI.  Dr. Ernest Visser has served as the IT Manager for the NACOE Dean’s Office for 20 years, and during that time he helped create, maintain, and troubleshoot many of WTI’s key IT systems.  Dr. Joel Cahoon, Civil Engineering (25 years), has been a frequent collaborator on fish passage and hydraulics projects. Kathy Osen, NACOE’s Director of Administration and Finance received her milestone award for an impressive 35 years of service to MSU. She has offered administrative guidance and assistance to WTI for many years. The Milestones in Service ceremony was hosted by Dr. Waded Cruzado, who received her own award for 10 years of service as the President of MSU. The recorded ceremony is available to view on the MSU website.

NEW PROJECT: MSU Researcher Receives Seed Grant for Commuter Project

outdoor portrait of Matt Madsen

Congratulations Matt Madsen!  He received a seed grant from MSU’s Outreach and Engagement Council, which will support a collaboration between MSU students and community partners, including Gallatin County and the city of Bozeman, to develop a social marketing plan and rebranding for BozemanCommute.org. The website encourages people to replace drive-alone trips to work with trips by bike, foot, bus, carpool, or vanpool and telework in the greater Bozeman area. Organizers hope the project will encourage higher participation and a greater understanding of transportation options available to people living in and around the greater Gallatin Valley.

Logo for Bozeman Commuter project including tagline Rethink Transportation

Watch for updates, including an announcement of student research opportunities related to this project.  To learn more about the seed grants and the other recipients, read the full MSU news release.

ARC Solutions Presents Former WTI Director with a Lifetime Road Ecology Leadership Award

Steve Albert receives lifetime achievement award at ARC event 2020
Steve Albert

On October 20, ARC Solutions presented former WTI Director Steve Albert with a Lifetime Road Ecology Leadership Award in recognition of his enduring legacy in making our nation’s roads safer for both people and wildlife.A not-for-profit network working to promote leading-edge solutions to improve human safety, wildlife mobility and landscape connectivity, ARC celebrated Steve’s leadership, his encouragement, and his creativity, first as a co-founder of the ARC International Wildlife Crossing Infrastructure Design Competition and then as an original member of the ARC Steering Committee. Executive Director Renee Callahan highlighted a variety of successes supported and inspired by Steve during his decade-plus tenure with ARC, including:

“Winning 4 Wildlife” – Aimed at introducing middle school students to the concepts of safe passage and the need for creative wildlife-friendly solutions to make our highways safer, this curriculum was co-developed by three Montana teachers as part of WTI’s Innovative Transportation Systems Research Engagement for Teachersprogram in 2018.

WVC Reduction and Habitat Connectivity Pooled Fund Study – ARC partnered with the State of Nevada to launch a pooled fund study on WVC Reduction and Habitat Connectivity. Study members, including Alaska, Arizona, California, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation and Parks Canada, have since committed $1.275 million in research funds to identify cost-effective solutions to integrate highway safety and human mobility with wildlife conservation and habitat connectivity. WTI Road Ecologist Marcel Huijser is leading a team of researchers conducting the research task to identify and evaluate cost-effective strategies.

Fiber-Reinforced Polymer Crossing Structure – In one of the research projects under the Pooled Fund Study, WTI is teaming with ARC Solutions, Ryerson University and the California Department of Transportation to explore design-based opportunities to build North America’s first fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) wildlife crossing in Siskiyou County, CA. A highly-versatile materialthat is durable, modular, and virtually maintenance free, FRP is widely used in Europe for bike-ped infrastructure and promises to be a game-changer in the construction of the next-generation of wildlife infrastructure in the U.S.

Renee Calahan makes presentation at ARC event 2020
Renee Callahan, ARC Solutions Executive Director

During the ceremony, ARC presented Steve with a keepsake card and commemorative print by renowned wildlife photographer Joe Riis depicting mule deer crossing a roadway within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Family, friends, and colleagues joined in the festivities by sharing personal and professional tributes illustrating Steve’s exceptional leadership within the field of road ecology. ARC is fiscally sponsored by the Center for Large Landscape Conservation in Bozeman, MT. To learn more about ARC’s work, please visit arc-solutions.org. To learn more about WTI’s research in this area, visit the WTI Road Ecology webpage.

National Safety Council Selects Safety Center as Finalist for Green Cross Award

Logo for National Center for Rural Road Safety

Congratulations to the National Center for Rural Road Safety, which was recently named as one of three finalists in the country for the 2020 Green Cross for Safety Award – Safety Advocate!

Each year, the National Safety Council selects honorees for demonstrating leadership in keeping people safe, with awards in three categories: Safety Advocate, Safety Excellence, and Safety Innovation.  The Safety Center is a finalist for the Safety Advocate Award, which “recognizes those who have made a significant impact on safety by raising awareness and bringing about change.”

“We’re excited to be recognized as a finalist, especially in the company of other national safety leaders from public, private, and non-profit agencies,” said Jaime Sullivan, Director of the Rural Safety Center.  The full announcement is available in a news release on National Safety Council website. The winners will be announced in a virtual celebration on October 1.

STUDENT NEWS: MSU ITE Student Chapter Honored at Annual Meeting

Group photo of members of MSU ITE Student Chapter
MSU ITE Student Chapter (Photo credit: Prof. Eric Shen, USC)

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 engineering topics.

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-Kaisy serves 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.

Chapter 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 Competition.”

WTI is pleased to work with the MSU ITE student chapter each year, collaborating on research project activities, providing speakers, and sponsoring activities.  For more information about the chapter, contact ITE.montanastateuniversity@gmail.com or visit https://montanastateite.weebly.com/

David Kack named WTI Director

Outdoor portrait of David Kack in 2020

Last week, Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering (NACOE) Dean, Brett Gunnink, named David Kack as Director of WTI.  David has served as Interim Director since last July, in addition to his duties as SURTCOM Director and Mobility Program Manager.  The College highlighted the appointment in an article on the NACOE homepage.

In more good news, NACOE also selected David for its 2020 Research Professional Employee Award for Excellence, in recognition of “extraordinary service during the most challenging of times.” Due to current event restrictions, the awards ceremony will be scheduled for a later day.

Congratulations, David, and thank you for all your hard work on behalf of WTI!

LTAP Director Named to TRB Low Volume Roads Committee

Head shot of LTAP Director Matt Ulberg

Matt Ulberg, director of Montana’s Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP), has been named to the Transportation Research Board (TRB) Standing Committee on Low-Volume Roads — AFB30. TRB is one of seven program units of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, which provides independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation and conducts other activities to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions. Through their appointment, members agree to actively participate in and support the committee’s activities, including those that will require volunteer work. This TRB committee provides strategic planning for research and serves as a clearinghouse for information and resources pertaining to all aspects of low-volume roads including planning, design, construction, safety, maintenance operations, environmental, and social issues.

 WTI has a long history of participation on the TRB Low Volume Roads Committee, given the importance of low volume roads in rural transportation networks.  WTI Program Manager Laura Fay is also a member of this committee, and was one of the key organizers of the TRB International Conference on Low Volume Roads, hosted in Montana in 2019.