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.

CHSC Grad Student Competes in Finals of Thesis Competition

Jubaer Ahmed making research presentation with large presentation slide projected behind him in 2020Congratulations to Jubaer Ahmed, who was one of seven finalists in the “Three Minute Thesis” Competition hosted by the Montana State University College of Engineering. On February 27, he presented “How Does Emotional Intelligence Predict Driving Behavior?” before a full house of faculty, students, and community members in the COE Inspiration Hall.  The topic builds on his research for his Ph.D. and for the Center for Health and Safety Culture, where he works in collaboration with his advisor (and CHSC Director) Nic Ward.

Three Minute Thesis is a research communication competition developed by the University of Queensland in Australia. It encourages graduate students to develop their presentation skills and learn how to explain complex concepts to general audiences. Competitors must give an engaging summary of their research in only 180 seconds, using only one slide.

TRB Committee Elects WTI Researcher as New Chair

Congratulations to WTI’s Natalie Villwock-Witte! She was selected as the new chair of a National Academy of Sciences Transportation Research Board (TRB) Committee — ADA 40, Transportation Needs of National Parks & Public Lands. She will serve a three-year term starting in April, succeeding outgoing chair and longtime friend of WTI, Steve Suder.

WTI has a long history with this committee and its research.  Retired WTI Executive Director Steve Albert was a founding member and held several leadership positions through the years.  A number of other WTI staff have served on the committee and been active in its activities, including two national conferences on the transportation needs of national parks and public lands.

WTI Research Expenditures Highlighted by Montana State University

Graphic: Montana State University with Western Transportation Institute unit identifierAt the end of September, Montana State University announced that research spending for the 2018-2019 fiscal year set a new record of $138 million.  “MSU records yet another strong year for research” notes that research expenditures were up more than 9% over the previous year, and gave a shout out to high performing departments and centers, including WTI: “The Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering had research expenditures of $18.3 million, led by its Western Transportation Institute, Center for Biofilm Engineering and Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering.” WTI Interim Executive Director David Kack added “We’re very proud that WTI ranked #4 of all organizations at MSU in terms of research expenditures. We had an increase in expenditures of 33.5% over FY 18, an increase of almost $2 million, which is due to the hard work of the entire WTI staff.”

WTI’s contribution to MSU research was also mentioned in “Montana State sets new research record of $138 million,” a related article in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

New Vistas and Opportunities Ahead

Group photo of David Kack, Danae Giannetti, Dani Hess and Rebecca Gleason with award plaque in 2019Mobility Project Assistant Dani Hess has announced that she will be leaving WTI at the beginning of October.  Dani first joined WTI in 2016 as a student assistant and was promoted to the professional staff in 2018, working primarily on commuter and bike/ped projects for the Small Urban, Rural and Tribal Center on Mobility.  She has been a tireless champion of the Bozeman Commuter Project and made tremendous progress on implementing and expanding the “pop-up” traffic calming projects on local roads.  This summer, Rebecca Gleason and Taylor Lonsdale acknowledged her hard work and accomplishments by nominating her for the Young Professional of the Year Award from the Association for Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals, which she received a few weeks ago at the association’s annual conference!

In October, Dani will embark on a monthlong bikepacking adventure, traveling by mountain bike from Utah to Mexico. Long-term, she plans to return to Bozeman to pursue new work opportunities. After October 2, Dani Hess can be reached at hessds@gmail.com

Montana LTAP Director Elected to National Post

Head shot of LTAP Director Matt UlbergCongratulations, Matt Ulberg!  The Director of the Montana Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP) was elected Vice President of the National Local Technical and Tribal Assistance Program Association (NLTAPA) at the Annual NLTAPA Meeting August 14th in Stowe, Vermont. As the National Association’s Vice-President, Matt also serves as the co-chair of the NLTAPA Partnership Work Group. In 2021, he will serve a term as President of the organization.

LTAPs and Tribal Technical Assistance Programs (TTAPs) provide training and resources to county and tribal transportation agencies on topics such as workzone safety, equipment and vehicle use, and incident management. NLTAPA serves as the national organization supporting 52 LTAP and TTAP partner programs around the United States and Puerto Rico, maintaining a broad focus not only on the needs of the LTAP/TTAP program, but also on the perspective of the NLTAPA partners including the Federal Highway Administration, (FHWA), National Association of County Engineers (NACE), American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), American Public Works Association (APWA), and National Transportation Training Directors (NTTD). The Association’s main objectives are to build awareness about LTAP in the transportation community, assist FHWA with developing strategies for the Program, and build the capacity of each Center to best meet the needs of its customers.

“NLTAPA and our partners are doing important work to increase the knowledge and improve the skills of our current transportation workers, and also to plan for the critical skills that will be needed by the next generation,” said Ulberg. “I’m excited to contribute to national initiatives, as well as enhance resources that I can bring back to our programs in Montana.”

Montana LTAP is an integral part of the network of centers at the Western Transportation Institute (WTI) at MSU-Bozeman.

WTI wins AARP Community Challenge Grant for Bozeman Street Project

Volunteers paint traffic calming murals along residential street.Congratulations are due to WTI and the City of Bozeman, recently selected for a Community Challenge grant awarded by the American Association for Retired People (AARP). WTI partnered with the City to submit a proposal for a traffic calming project, which will include pedestrian crossings, curb extensions, and traffic circles.  It will build on ongoing efforts of the partnership and neighborhood groups to test and evaluate temporary calming projects for effectiveness and public acceptance.

The AARP Community Challenge project awarded nearly $1.6 million to “quick-action” projects across the country, focusing on community projects that make immediate improvements or help jumpstart long-term progress.  Bozeman was one of only 159 projects to be selected from a highly competitive pool of more than 1600 applications.  In 2017, the City of Bozeman, WTI and their  other partners received an AARP Community Challenger grant for the Mobile Pop-up Project Trailer.

“We’re very excited to have continued support from the Livable Communities initiative at AARP,” said WTI Project Assistant Dani Hess, who led the award submission effort. “It’s great to see these short-term projects move towards longer term improvements with support from the City of Bozeman and the neighborhood groups who took initiative to make their streets friendlier for all.”

On to the Next Adventure…

Group photo of WTI staff and guests at Steve Albert retirement party in July 2019

Marking the end of era, WTI’s two most senior leaders retired this month.  We bid a fond farewell to our Executive Director Steve Albert and our Assistant Director for Administration and Finance, Jeralyn Brodowy.

On July 17, Montana State University College of Engineering Dean Brett Gunnink hosted a retirement reception for Steve Albert, which was well attended by WTI staff, past and present.  Special guests included retired MSU Civil Engineering professors Joe Armijo, a WTI founder, and Ralph Zimmer.   Former WTI staff who surprised Steve for the occasion included Kate (Heidkamp) Laughery, Eli Cuelho, and Carol Diffendaffer.

Joe Armijo speaks at Steve Albert retirement party in July 2019Steve retires after leading WTI for 23 years, transforming a tiny organization with only two staff people and two engineers into a large, nationally and internationally recognized transportation institute, with a multi-million dollar research portfolio.  He will always be highly regarded not only for his leadership at WTI, but also for his contributions to the fields of rural transportation and advanced transportation technologies.

Kate Laughery at Steve Albert retirement party 2019WTI gathered for Jeralyn’s retirement party on July 3, honoring her 20 years of service to our organization.  After starting as Business Manager in 1999, she quickly advanced to the  position of Assistant Director. She has not only been instrumental in the long-term growth of WTI, she has also served as a mentor to other research centers around the country through her leadership in the Council of University Transportation Centers.

Both Steve and Jeralyn will be greatly missed at WTI, but we wish them all the best as they embark on the next chapters of their lives!

 

WTI staff and guests at Jeralyn Brodowy retirement party in July 2019

WTI staff and guests at Steve Albert retirement party in July 2019

Newspaper Lauds Parenting Website

Logo for ParentingMontana.org shows outline of state with the website address and tagline "Tools for your child's success"ParentingMontana.org continues to receive great reviews. In a recent editorial, Karen Sullivan of the Montana Standard called the website “one of the best resources on parenting I’ve run across, and Montana parents are lucky to have it.”

ParentingMontana.org features practical tools for parents with kids ranging from age five to age nineteen, covering challenging topics such as anger, bullying, chores, homework, peer pressure, and underage drinking. The Center for Health and Safety Culture (CHSC) developed the project in cooperation with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS).

The website also offers access to a repository of videos, radio and print materials, as well as contact information for assistance resources in Montana, such as prevention specialists, treatment services, and a crisis text line.  In her editorial, Sullivan concludes that ParentingMontana.org “is an incredible free resource that might just make the parenting journey a little easier.”

Research Partners Reunite at National Regional Transportation Conference

David Kack, Lonnie Hunt, and Bob Bashaw at the 2019 National Regional Transportation ConferenceSURTCOM Director David Kack traveled to Columbus, Ohio last week for the National Regional Transportation Conference, which is hosted by the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO). David caught up with Lonnie Hunt (center) and Bob Bashaw (right) from the Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG), which partnered with WTI and SURTCOM on a project to create a voucher program in five counties in southeast Texas.   Natalie Villwock-Witte was the PI for the DETCOG project, which won a 2019 Excellence in Regional Transportation Award from the NADO Research Foundation and Rural Planning Organizations of America (RPO America). In total, WTI worked with the NADO Research Foundation on three projects: the DETCOG project; a transit feasibility Study for Lebanon, Missouri (also led by Natalie); and a feasibility study for a commuter transit service between Cortez and Durango, Colorado (led by David). WTI staff Karalyn Clouser, Laura Fay and Rebecca Gleason also contributed to these projects.