In 2017, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) awarded a Community Challenge grant to WTI and the City of Bozeman to purchase a mobile Pop-up Project Trailer, which neighborhoods and local groups can use to work towards safer multimodal streets. WTI and the City, in partnership with volunteers from Big Brothers and the community, used the trailer to install the Tamarack/Tracy traffic calming demonstration project last fall.
The project is now highlighted on the AARP website, as part of a feature showcasing what the grant winners achieved with their funding. It is also included in AARP’s 2018 publication Where We Live: Communities for All Ages — 100+ Inspiring Examples from America’s Local Leaders.
MSU News is highlighting a successful collaboration between WTI and the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) to use blankets made of Montana wool to prevent erosion and promote plant growth along highways. For a recent feature article, Principal Investigator Rob Ament invited MSU news staff to visit the test site along Highway 287 near Three Forks, Montana. Despite harsh conditions at the site, researchers are observing what Rob calls “vigorous plant growth” where the blankets were placed for field trials. In addition to the erosion control benefits, the blankets could also have economic benefits by creating a new market for Montana wool. Check out the article and photos by MSU News, and learn more about the project on the WTI website.
At a recent meeting, the county commissioners of Teton County, Wyoming approved a wildlife crossings master plan, which will now become part of the region’s Integrated Transportation Plan. The Plan was developed by WTI’s Road Ecology program, with Research Ecologist Marcel Huijser serving as the Principal Investigator. Focused on key highway segments near Jackson, Wyoming and Grand Teton National Park, the Plan identifies and prioritizes locations where the installation of wildlife crossing structures can enhance safety, prevent collisions, and preserve connectivity. During the course of the project, Road Ecology staff also traveled to Wyoming for public meetings to assist with local outreach efforts. Approval of the plan was covered by the Jackson Hole News; the full plan is available on the WTI project page.
Congratulations to WTI’s own David Kack, who was honored with a Big Sky Chamber of Commerce Award at the Chamber’s Annual Dinner last week. David was selected for the “Business Person of the Year” Award, in recognition of his 15 years of work to establish and grow the Skyline bus service, as well as his more recent leadership efforts in partnership with the Chamber and other stakeholders to successfully secure a $10 million federal TIGER grant for improvements to the transportation network in the Big Sky region. The Awards dinner was also featured in today’s issue of Explore Big Sky.
The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has begun the planning and development of a wildlife crossings bridge on Highway 17, a commuter corridor that passes through deer and wildlife habitat in the Santa Cruz Mountains. According to a recent article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, Caltrans consulted with WTI’s Marcel Huijserduring the planning process, and used cost-benefit analysis strategies from a 2009 WTI journal article co-authored by Marcel to assess mitigation options. In addition, WTI Road Ecology staff hosted two forums for Caltrans staff in 2016 to educate them on wildlife connectivity issues and mitigation options.
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.
Last week, the Jackson Hole News and Guide published a feature article on the Teton County (Wyoming) Wildlife Crossings Master Plan developed by WTI. The draft Plan, which was recently presented to County Commissioners, identified priority sites for wildlife mitigation and recommended site-specific solutions. As part of the plan, twelve sites were proposed for wildlife crossing structures to increase both roadway safety and habitat connectivity. Principal Investigator Marcel Huijser was interviewed for the article, which is available on the Jackson Hole News website.
Laura Fay, David Kack and Natalie Villwock-Witte (PI) recently traveled to the Jasper, Texas area for six meetings related to the Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG) transportation voucher program. This pilot project will show how transportation vouchers can be used to provide basic mobility to those who have limited options. Meetings were held in Jasper, as well as Ivanhoe, Newton, Pineland and San Augustine. Similar to many rural areas in Montana, people in the DETCOG area often travel 45 miles or so (one way) for groceries, medical care, and other essential services. Currently, this pilot project is focused on those who are 60 years old or older. The long-term vision is to secure additional funding so that those with low incomes or a disability will also be able to use the voucher program.
The pilot program should start in May and will include approximately 25 participants. Demand for the vouchers already exceeds existing funding, so data from the pilot project will be used to reach out to potential funding sources. The WTI staff is supporting the DETCOG staff to ensure that this program can grow and meet the needs in this rural part of Texas. The new program was big news in the City of Ivanhoe – the photo shows the City marquee informing community members about the meeting to discuss the voucher program.
For the second time in less than six months, TR News magazine has selected a WTI project for its “Research Pays Off” section, which highlights research that has produced tangible and valuable benefits. “Wyoming Intercity Bus Service Study: Finding and Filling the Gaps in Rural Areas” is featured in the March/April 2018 issue of TR News, published by the National Academy of Sciences Transportation Research Board. Authored by Principal Investigator David Kack, the article describes a project conducted for the Wyoming Department of Transportation to identify potential Intercity bus routes that would increase access for underserved communities. The study led directly to the expansion of available services after a transportation provider contacted the Wyoming DOT to initiate a partnership that resulted in new service on one of the identified routes. The full article is posted on the project page.
The November/December 2017 issue of TR News highlighted the One-Stop Shop Traveler Information project in the “Research Pays Off” feature. This article is also available on the WTI website.
(TR News is copyright, National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; posted with permission of the Transportation Research Board.)
Congratulations to the City of Bozeman, one of only three communities across the nation selected to receive State of the Art Transportation Trainings from Transportation for America (T4America). WTI’s Rebecca Gleason served on the team that developed the successful grant application, led by Cathy Costakis of the Montana Nutrition and Physical Activity Program along with Randy Carpenter of Future West, Jim Madden of Mountain Time Arts, with support from Bozeman Mayor Cyndy Andrus. Through this program, Bozeman will receive technical training workshops from T4America on how to partner with local arts leaders and organizations to develop “out of the box” transportation solutions and broaden public support for current or future projects. Bozeman hopes to engage its vibrant arts community into transportation planning efforts across the Gallatin Valley, and in particular, into initiatives to create a first-class regional transit system as the region grows. “We are excited to be selected for this unique program, which is great fit for Bozeman given how rapidly our population is growing,” said Rebecca.