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.
Congratulations to the WTI staff members who were recognized last week for their years of service to Montana State University. Many of them were able to attend the Milestones in Service ceremony on October 2, during which they received congratulations and service awards from MSU President Waded Cruzado. Thanks to all of you for your (combined) 75 years of dedication and contributions to WTI and MSU!
In two news stories last week, WTI was one of the MSU departments noted for its strong annual research totals: “The Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering rounds out the top three colleges for research expenditures with $15 million, led by its Center for Biofilm Engineering, Department of Electrical Engineering and the Western Transportation Institute.”
The Streamline Bus Service in Bozeman achieved a major milestone in August – 12 years of service and three million rides! KBZK Channel 7 visited the community barbecue hosted by the Human Resources Development Council (HRDC), which operates Streamline, and interviewed WTI’s David Kack on the history and growth of the service over the years. Watch the full news story with David’s interview on the KBZK website.
The Pop-up Traffic Calming Projects, featured in the last issue of Newswire, are also “popping up” in the local news. KBZK Channel 7 traveled to the Bozeman projects locations last week to film the installations in action, and to interview WTI’s Dani Hess (in the rain!). This news clip is available on the KBZK website. The Bozeman Daily Chronicle also featured the story on the front page of the Sunday September 2, 2018 issue.
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.