WTI Researchers traveled to Fort McDowell, Arizona last week for the National Rural Intelligent Transportation Systems Conference and Exhibit, held in conjunction with the 25th Anniversary of ITS Arizona, which focused on the theme of “Creating ITS Implementation Solutions for All Communities.”
WTI helped launch NRITS more than 25 years ago, and staff members continue to play a leading role by sharing their expertise at the annual forum. WTI Director Steve Albert opened the conference at the plenary session, presenting a history of NRITS and a eulogy for longtime NRITS champion, Bill Legg of Washington DOT. Later in the conference, Steve led the “Roundtable on Rural ITS,” which offered an overview of the challenges and opportunities facing rural areas interested in developing and implementing new transportation technologies. At the workshop on “Utilizing ITS for Rural Road Safety,” Natalie Villwock-Witte presented the Rural ITS Toolkit, which was recently updated by WTI staff through the National Center for Rural Road Safety. David Kack was a speaker at the “Multimodal Transportation Technology” workshop, where he presented on the Wyoming Intercity Bus Study, which provides a model for finding and filling transit gaps in rural areas, and Doug Galarus spoke at the “Rural ITS Weather Applications” workshop, where he presented on the Aviation Weather Information (AWI) system developed for the California Department of Transportation.
At the annual meeting of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) in Minneapolis in October, WTI Researcher Natalie Villwock-Witte and her research partners at Minnesota Department of Transportation and Bike Minnesota were invited to lead a presentation entitled “Bicycles and Pedestrians: Advocacy, Planning, and Research.” Known as the “The World’s Largest Conference for Women Engineers,” SWE is attended by more than 10,000 engineers, students, and industry leaders.
Following a highly successful inaugural forum in 2016, the National Center for Rural Road Safety and the National Association of County Engineers will host the 2nd National Summit on Rural Road Safety from December 4-6, in Savannah, Georgia. At the first summit, more than 100 attendees from around the country collaborated on defining the future for “Moving Rural America” by articulating the key transportation safety issues facing rural areas, culminating in a call to action of “On the Road to Zero, We Cannot Ignore Rural.”
For the second summit, participants will continue to move the rural conversation forward and focus more intently on safety solutions and “Bridging the Gap.” Some of the key questions they will tackle include how to create a unified voice for rural areas, and how to implement safety solutions with rural constraints.
“After the first summit, participants were encouraged by the progress we made to develop an initial action plan and they wanted to keep the momentum going,” said Safety Center Manager Jaime Sullivan. “At the upcoming summit, we’re looking forward to taking the next step of how to select and implement safety solutions that will make a real difference on rural roads.”
If you’re interested in attending, early bird registration closes on November 12! The agenda and registration information are available here.
In September, the Infra Eco Network Europe (IENE) held its International Conference in the Netherlands, focusing on the theme of “Crossing borders for a greener and sustainable transport infrastructure.” WTI’s Road Ecology staff members were front and center throughout the 5-day event, presenting their research and experience on wildlife crossings, habitat connectivity, and related topics to more than 300 attendees from around the world.
Tony Clevenger had the distinction of presenting a keynote address on his 17 years of research in Banff National Park, which IENE described as “one of the best testing sites of innovative highway mitigation in the world.” He also gave a presentation on emerging wildlife mitigation and policy in Latin America. Rob Ament led a workshop and gave a presentation on the impact of international transportation policy on the development of wildlife friendly roads, and gave a “lightening talk” on the potential for using plastic bridges for wildlife crossings. Perhaps the busiest staff member at the conference, Marcel Huijser served on the planning committee for this international event, facilitated a workshop on wildlife mitigation performance, presented on wildlife crossing structures and fencing on US 93, led a lightening talk on the reliability of species identification data, and presented a poster on the impact of short and narrow roads on wildlife vehicle collisions.
WTI’s Bozeman Commuter Project is working with Bozeman neighborhoods to implement Pop-up Traffic Calming projects to reduce drivers speeds on residential streets, and bring more visibility to bikes and pedestrians. This weekend residents of Northwest Bozeman in the Valley Unit neighborhood will be setting up a temporary demonstration of curb extensions and a traffic circle at three intersections near Valley Unit park. Data will be collected via intercept surveys and radar speed detection units to better understand how these designs can reduce vehicle speeds and increase safety for local residents and those traveling by bike, foot, bus, stroller, walker or wheelchair.
Related News Story: AARP Highlights Bozeman Traffic Calming Project in National Publication
At the West Region Transportation Workforce Center (WRTWC), the first Research Experience for Teachers in Innovative Transportation Systems (ITS-RET) program is well underway. Ten middle, high school, and community college faculty participants are conducting multidisciplinary transportation research for six weeks at Montana State University this summer. The research topic areas focus on the unique challenges of rural transportation systems and developing solutions to transportation challenges through innovation. In addition to working with faculty and research mentors on research, the ITS-RET participants are translating their research experiences into classroom curricula.
On July 31 and August 1, the teachers were able to implement new teaching materials they developed during a two-day workshop held for middle and high school students. The classroom activities demonstrated what an excellent vehicle transportation is for integrated STEM learning. The young workshop participants were able to hone computational thinking skills during a programming challenge, test the strength of different materials, build and test crash attenuators, and use drones to survey a landscape before designing and building wildlife crossing structures. The classroom modules will be posted to the WRTWC website next month as a resource for other teachers. Teachers interested in participating in the RET program next summer can visit the Center website for additional information: http://wrtwc.org/resources/for-educators/
When the Infra Eco Network Europe (IENE) meets for its International Conference this fall, one of the keynote speakers will be WTI Research Scientist Tony Clevenger. Tony will travel to the Netherlands in September to present “Through the lens of time: Long-term research integrating behavior, landscape ecology and conservation along the Trans-Canada Highway.” He will discuss his 17 years of research in Banff National Park, which IENE describes as “one of the best testing sites of innovative highway mitigation in the world.” Additional information about the conference and Tony’s presentation is available on the IENE conference website.
At the end of June, the Center for Health and Safety Culture (CHSC) hosted its first research symposium on the role of positive culture in promoting safe and healthy behaviors. Nearly 50 participants from across the country, and even from as far as American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands, gathered in Bozeman, Montana for three days to learn about the latest best practices and research relating to transforming culture.
While CHSC staff, including Nic Ward, Jay Otto, Katie Dively, Kari Finley, Kelly Green, Annmarie McMahill, Jamie Arpin and Tara Kuipers, facilitated the symposium sessions, all participants were encouraged to actively participate and share knowledge. “Our attendees included health practitioners, safety professionals, prevention specialists, and advocates,” said Director Nic Ward; “we hope they gained a stronger understanding of what positive culture can do, and especially some communication skills and leadership strategies to integrate these principles into their daily work.”
More information about the Symposium is available on the CHSC website. Also, watch interviews with Nic Ward and Katie Dively that were featured in a news story on ABC Fox Montana.
Congratulations to the Small Urban, Rural, and Tribal Center on Mobility (SURTCOM), which was selected to host the 2020 meeting of the Council of University Transportation Centers (CUTC). SURTCOM, a University Transportation Center housed at WTI, will hold the 3-day meeting in Big Sky, Montana in the summer of 2020. These events provide an opportunity for UTC Directors from across the country to share ideas and best practices on improving UTC programs and maximizing available resources. Officials from USDOT, which sponsors the UTC program, also attend to provide the directors with program training and updates. “While each UTC might specialize in a particular region or research area, we all share the same goal of trying to maximize the impact of our research,” said SURTCOM Director David Kack; “we’re looking forward to showcasing some of the successes at our UTC and learning a lot from everyone else at the 2020 meeting.”
CUTC celebrated its 40th anniversary at the 2018 meeting earlier this month, when Montana’s selection as the host for 2020 was announced. WTI Director Steve Albert is a long-time member and former President of the organization. WTI last hosted the meeting in 2006.
WTI Hosts International Workshop to Inspire Creative Designs
In early May, WTI hosted a group of engineers, ecologists, and landscape architects from Canada and the U.S. for a two-day workshop to create innovative designs for wildlife crossing structures. In particular, they were focused on whether a high-strength, fiber reinforced plastic could be used to build bridge-like structures over roadways. If feasible, using plastic structures could make it easier and less expensive to install wildlife crossing structures in more locations.
The workshop was led by Rob Ament, Program Manager for WTI’s Road Ecology research, and Nina-Marie Lister, Director of the Ecological Design Lab at Canada’s Ryerson University. Participants were split into two teams to create “competing” designs for prototype wildlife crossings at Hyalite Canyon and Bozeman Pass on Interstate 90. Also taking part were WTI Research Scientist Tony Clevenger, and graduate student Matt Bell, who is conducting research on wildlife crossing structures while pursuing a Master’s degree in Civil Engineering at MSU.
MSU News highlighted the workshop in a recent feature story, which is available on the MSU website.