IN THE NEWS: High Country News Reports on Montana Passenger Rail

Outdoor portrait of David Kack in 2020

In a recent article, High Country News provides an update on the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority, a Montana coalition that is working to revive a passenger rail line that would span 600 miles across the state.   “Montana Counties Band Together to Reinvigorate Passenger Rail” summarizes efforts to secure local, state and federal support, as well as funding, to restore Amtrak service that would connect residents to some of the larger cities in the state, including Missoula, Bozeman, and Billings.  WTI Director David Kack was interviewed for the article, discussing how rail service can provide valuable mobility options for people in rural towns who can no longer drive or who lack access to a vehicle.

NEW NAME, NEW CHALLENGE: The Bozeman Commuter Project Has Rebranded

Join the GoGallatin MSU Commuter Challenge this week

2021 graphic logo for Gallatin Commuter Project

In October, WTI was awarded an Office of Outreach & Engagement Seed grant to begin a rebrand of the existing Bozeman Commuter Project. Four Montana State University students are working with WTI project lead Matt Madsen as a collaborative team to move the project forward (stay tuned to learn more about all the students!). The goal of the project was to create a more encompassing program, now rebranded as the Gallatin Commuter Project and GoGallatin. The existing BozemanCommute platform has become GoGallatin and provides all the same ride tracking, carpool options, transit schedules and other transportation demand management solutions.

2021 graphic logo for GO Gallatin

To kick off the rebrand, The Gallatin Commuter Project is sponsoring the GoGallatin MSU Campus Commuter Challenge. This year’s challenge is open to all students and staff at MSU and runs from April 5th – 11th. Join this campus-wide event (and invite your friends), then start commuting this week via biking, walking, taking the bus, carpooling, scootering, roller-blading, even pogo-sticking!

How Does it Work? By tracking your commute trips, you can be in the running for gift cards to local businesses. Once registered, track your commute as an individual or part of a team by joining or creating a team of your MSU colleagues, peers, and/or community members. If you need help, send us an email at gallatincommute@montana.edu To see how your team is stacking up against other teams in a friendly competition, you can keep an eye of the leaderboard!

Rewards and incentives: Every participant who logs 2 trips during the week will be entered into a drawing for gift cards to various local restaurants and businesses! You can win a gift card to one of these fine establishments:

  • Bangtail Bikes
  • Bridger Brewing
  • Columbo’s Pizza
  • Essy’s
  • International Coffee Traders

Registration Register on the Gallatin Commuter Project Platform at: https://bozemancommute.org/#/ to create an account, join a team, and log your commute trips! Faculty and Staff can register as part of the MSU Network; students can register as a part of the MSU Students Network. Want to join the WTI team? Follow this link to join: https://bozemancommute.org/s/western-transportation-wd.  More information is also available on the MSU Events page.

IN THE NEWS: TRB Highlights Interview with WTI Cold Climates Researcher

Laura Fay -WTI Research Scientist

The impact of extreme weather on transportation systems and infrastructure was the focus of a recent feature article by the National Academy of Sciences’ Transportation Research Board. In “Preparing for Winter Weather with Transportation Resources,” TRB interviewed WTI Research Scientist and Cold Climates Program Manager Laura Fay about the importance of prevention in the winterization process.  Fay, who serves on TRB’s Standing Committee on Winter Maintenance, discussed how good prevention for maintaining roads starts with road design and continues with the decisions made before, during, and after a storm hits.

The article also highlights several of Fay’s studies, including a recent Transportation Research Record journal article she co-authored on friction and snow pavement bonds, and an NCHRP synthesis project she led on strategies to mitigate the impacts of chloride roadway deicers.

ON THE AIR: Road Ecologist Highlights Wildlife Crossing Structures Advancements

Head shot of Rob Ament

On February 25, Road Ecology Program Manager Rob Ament was a guest on Top of Mind with Julie Rose, a BYU Radio program. For a feature segment on wildlife crossings, Rob discussed how crossing structures are designed, how they make roads safer for both animals and motorists, and where the newest structures are being built, both in the U.S. and globally.  The full Wildlife Crossings interview is available to stream on the BYU Radio website.

In the News: Ennis Traffic Calming Project Featured in Local News

Traffic calming delineators installed along Main Street in Ennis, Montana

The Madisonian, a newspaper for Montana’s Madison Valley, reports on a completed WTI research study in a recent feature article.  “Traffic calming data released” summarizes the findings of a traffic calming project in Ennis, Montana, for which WTI and the Montana Department of Transportation collaborated on a “pop-up” installation of curb extensions and other strategies to reduce speeds on the town’s Main Street, which is also a state highway.  For the analysis, the WTI research team, led by Matt Madsen, collected data on speeds, pedestrian counts, and the number of drivers yielding to pedestrians before and after the installation. The final report is available on the WTI website project page.

In the News: Traffic and Transit Magazine Showcases Rural Research Roadmap Project

An NCHRP project led by WTI is the focus of a current feature article in Traffic and Transit, a national transportation publication.  “Mapping the Future of Rural Transportation Research” highlights the development of the Research Roadmap for Rural Transportation Issues (NCHRP 20-122), which will provide a detailed, long-term agenda for research aimed at improving rural transportation throughout the U.S., including the creation of a series of research needs statements on specific topics. The project is led by Principal Investigator Jaime Sullivan, in collaboration with Iowa State University.

graphic listing 15 rural transportation research categories

To date, the project team has produced 15 topical research portfolios; 26 research needs statements; and 13 research problem statements, which are more fully developed project proposals ready to submit for funding consideration.  Sullivan provided an update on the project at the Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting, during the Rural Transportation Issues Coordination Council meeting, which she chairs. The new Council will serve as the home for ongoing activities related to the Research Roadmap project.

TRB Annual Meeting Kicks off Four Weeks of Virtual Events

Each January, the National Academy of Sciences’ Transportation Research Board holds its Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., a week-long forum that brings together thousands of transportation researchers and leaders from around the world.  Due to COVID, this year’s committee meetings, workshops, and other events will all be hosted virtually, but will be spread over four weeks to facilitate broad participation.

WTI staff members continue their long tradition of leadership in TRB committees and other activities.  During the first week of the Annual Meeting, which kicked off on January 6, highlights included:

  • On January 7, Jaime Sullivan was introduced as the Chair of the newly formed Rural Transportation Issues Coordination Council at the Council’s kick-off event
  • Also on January 7, Natalie Villwock-Witte presided over the Transportation Needs of National Parks and Public Lands Committee, for which she serves as Chair
  • Matt Ulberg participated in the Low Volume Roads Committee on January 7
  • Andrea Hamre serves as the Paper Review Coordinator of the Public Transportation Marketing and Fare Policy Committee, which met on January 8
screen shot of Andrea Hamre presenting at TRB virtual meeting
Andrea Hamre presenting at TRB committee meeting

Committee meetings will continue this week, followed by presentations, workshops and poster sessions during the last two weeks.  If you are attending the Annual Meeting, look for WTI researchers at the following events:

  • January 21 – Moving Research to Practice – Ahmed Al-Kaisy will present on research to create a new method for screening low-volume roads. (Workshop #1016)
  • January 22 – Rob Ament and Natalie Villwock-Witte will facilitate a workshop on National Standards for Wildlife Vehicle Data Collection (Workshop #1041)
  • January 22 – Ahmed Al-Kaisy will participate in a panel discussion on new safety developments on low-volume roads (Workshop #1044)
  • January 25 – Laura Fay will present her research on Deicing Alternatives at a lecturn session on Winter Maintenance (#1093)
  • January 26 – Advances in Travel Behavior Research – Andrea Hamre will present a poster on the Chittendon County, Vermont project (Poster Session #1203)
  • January 26 – Laura Fay will preside over a Lectern Session on Low Volume Road Improvements under the Great American Outdoors Act (#1241)
  • January 27 – Jaime Sullivan will facilitate a Lectern Session on Hot Topics in Rural Transportation (#1280)
  • January 28 – Hot Topics in Ecology – Mat Bell will present a poster on the FRP wildlife crossing project (Poster Session #1363)

More updates to follow throughout the month!

IN THE NEWS: WTI Road Ecologist Offers Insights Into Utah Project

Head shot of Rob Ament

In 2018, the Utah Department of Transportation completed the state’s largest wildlife crossing, which traverses six lanes of traffic on Interstate 80.  The crossing structure made the news again last week, when research footage captured deer, moose, elk, bears, bobcats and a variety of smaller mammals using the bridge.  In news coverage by Smithsonian Magazine, “Animals are Using Utah’s Largest Wildlife Overpass Earlier Than Expected,” WTI Road Ecologist Rob Ament is quoted regarding the high percentage of collision reductions that typically occur after the installation of crossing structures.  Rob’s quote is also included in a similar article by Nature World News.

STUDENT NEWS: Students in CATS Program Spearhead Local Stormwater Survey

Logo for CATS student engagement program including icons of different project types

The City of Bozeman and Montana State University (MSU) students are partnering up to strengthen stormwater outreach efforts. Dr. Sarah Church, a professor in MSU’s Department of Earth Sciences, is leading a group of undergraduate students in a Geography course in the development of an online survey. This project is in collaboration with City staff who implement the City’s Stormwater Management Program. Bozeman residents received an insert in utility bills last month to encourage participation in the survey. Survey responses will help the City understand how to best create effective messaging and tailor programs specifically for Bozeman residents.

Dr. Church said that the students have worked hard over the past two months to learn about survey design and have developed excellent survey questions. “We are all excited to see the survey responses and the students are eager to begin analyzing the data to report back to the City – the more responses we get the more robust our findings will be,” Church said.

Frank Greenhill, a Water Quality Specialist with the City’s Stormwater Division, said that he is excited for the opportunity to work with such a talented group of students at MSU. “This is a great example of how a strong relationship between the City and MSU can work to solve complex local challenges.”

Mr. Greenhill also said that he is looking forward to analyzing the results of the survey as they will help the City key in on certain program areas and introduce new opportunities. “Surveys provide a valuable opportunity to hear from the customers we serve, and to reflect on what works, what does not, and, most importantly, what we can do better.”

Are you a Bozeman resident?

Support this project by completing the 10-15 minute survey available at the following link: www.tinyurl.com/bozemanstormwater

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.