On October 11, the CBS
News Show 60 Minutes aired an in-depth feature story on grizzly bears in
Montana and the impacts of the growing populations of both bears and humans in
the state. In one segment, Bryce Andrews, Director of the non-profit
organization People and Carnivores, discusses efforts by his organization to
minimize human-bear conflicts, such as electrified fences around chicken coops
and crops that attract bears.
Road Ecologist Marcel Huijser reports that WTI is a partner in testing these strategies. According to Marcel: “People and Carnivores put up an electrified barrier around a melon patch to reduce the number of melons eaten by bears. WTI’s role is to investigate the effectiveness of the electrified gates at the melon patch in keeping out bears, especially black bears. We monitor the four gates and select locations along the fence with wildlife cameras. The farmer estimates melon loss has been reduced about 80 percent this season as a result of the electrified barrier.” The full interview with Bryce Andrews is available to watch on the CBS News website.
Thanks to MSU News Service for highlighting the webinar with a feature article on its website! Read more about the CATS program, the upcoming series of webinars on workforce development topics, and insights from WTI’s Education Program Manager Susan Gallagher, who will be one of the featured speakers.
WTI has completed a project to create a severe weather index for the Maryland Department of Transportation, and the final report was featured in a recent issue of the National Academy of Sciences Transportation Research Board’s newsletter.
A severe weather index
(SWI) is a management tool that can be
used to assess the performance and related costs associated with winter
maintenance operations – it considers the relative severity of each weather
event and the relative severity of weather for that season. On behalf of the Maryland DOT State Highway
Agency (MDOT SHA), WTI researchers Laura Fay, Natalie Villwock-Witte,
and Karalyn Clouser, in partnership with David Veneziano of Iowa State
University, developed and tested an SWI using Road Weather Information System (RWIS)
data and input from maintenance managers.
In addition to the development of the SWI itself, key outcomes of this effort include the identification of locations where blowing and drifting snow impacts the road network, the identification of future sites for RWIS stations, survey results describing RWIS use by MDOT SHA maintenance crews, and a detailed review of the RWIS network and data. The final report also provides recommendations to MDOT SHA for improving the SWI and overall winter maintenance operations. “We’re pleased that MDOT SHA is evaluating the tool and plans to implement it in the 2020-21 winter season,” said P.I. Laura Fay; “The sooner it’s used and assessed during actual storm events, the sooner it can be calibrated and refined, which will improve its usefulness.”
In its Fall 2020 issue, Distinctly Montana continued its series of articles on “Montana in 30 Years.” To explore the topic of transportation, the magazine interviewed MSU Engineering Professor and WTI Safety and Operations Researcher Ahmed Al-Kaisy. Dr. Al-Kaisy discusses a wide range of transportation issues, ranging from current challenges such as highway funding and clean energy development, to the prospects for implementing emerging technologies like autonomous vehicles and even flying cars! Read the full article on the magazine website.
Here at Montana State University, the university just finished celebrating Homecoming Week. Actually – due to current health precautions – it was “Stay HOME-coming” Week. Nonetheless, the MSU Alumni Foundation showcased a full schedule of daily, virtual activities. One of the highlights was the video of the Homecoming Shoebox Parade, featuring creative miniature floats. Watch for the two transportation-themed floats created by our Andrea Hamre! (One float is at about 8:25 in the video, and the second one at about 17:45.)
WTI Road Ecologist Rob Ament is featured in a recent issue of Time Magazine for Kids. A feature article called “Safe Travels” describes the large number of animals that are killed in roadway collisions each year, and how wildlife crossing structures work to protect animals as they move across their habitats. Rob discusses successful designs – like the crossing structures in Banff National Park – and how they are models for new efforts around the world, including a project he is working on in Kaziranga National Park in India.
Time for Kids is a weekly magazine for elementary school children. It offers age appropriate learning material for students and is designed to complement curriculum.
On Wednesday, August 12, the Western Transportation Institute (WTI), Montana State University (MSU), and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) co-hosted a national forum to raise awareness on “The Importance of Focusing on Transportation Safety in Rural America.”
NHTSA officials had
originally planned August field tours to western states and public lands to
view rural safety conditions and engage with state and local stakeholders on
initiatives to enhance rural transportation safety. WTI was slated to host one
of the public meetings on the MSU campus. Due to current travel restrictions,
the entire field visit was transformed into a virtual forum.
Jason Carter, MSU Vice President of
Research, Economic Development and Graduate Education, served as the webinar
host, providing the welcome address and introducing remarks by NHTSA Deputy
Administrator James Owens, USDOT Secretary Elaine Chao, U.S.
Senator Steve Daines (MT), and U.S. Representative Greg Gianforte
In a panel discussion moderated
by WTI Director David Kack, presenters provided an overview of critical
rural transportation issues that impact the safety and effectiveness of the
entire national transportation network, as well as current initiatives to
enhance travel through rural areas:
Nic Ward, Director of the Center for Health and Safety Culture at MSU, discussed the importance of addressing driver behavior to improve safety and gave an overview of how traffic safety culture approaches can be effectively used for issues such as seat belt usage, speeding, and impaired driving.
Loren Smith, USDOT Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, introduced the federal ROUTES Initiative, which addresses transportation infrastructure disparities between rural and urban areas. He included an overview of the new ROUTES Applicant Toolkit, which is designed to help rural agencies access federal grants and resources.
The Montana State
University (MSU) Student Chapter of the Institute of Transportation Engineers
(ITE) has worked hard in recent years to grow its membership and its
professional opportunities for engineering students, and the effort has paid
off! At the annual meeting of the
Western and Mountain ITE Districts, the MSU Chapter was selected for the
Momentum Award, which recognizes the student chapter that has most improved
over the last year. The MSU attendees
also took second place in the Collegiate Traffic Bowl, a team competition that
tests the knowledge of students on a variety of transportation planning and
ITE is a national association for transportation professionals, offering technical resources, training, and professional development. To attract and prepare the next generation of professionals, ITE encourages student involvement through university ITE chapters, leadership summits, competitions, and awards. The student chapter at MSU currently has about 35 active members. WTI research engineer Dr.Ahmed Al-Kaisyserves as the chapter’s faculty advisor. They have been very busy over the last academic year, with activities that included attending a student leadership conference in Los Angeles, CA, leading activities for K-12 students at the annual MSU Engineer-a-Thon, hosting professional speakers and networking events, and conducting hands on technical activities like traffic data collection.
President Bryce Grame and four other members attended the District
Meeting held in early July. Although
virtual this year, the attendees found it very rewarding. “With
some virtual sessions having upwards of 200 attendees, the access to industry
knowledge was expanded exponentially by moving the conference online,” said
Bryce. “As a student, I had the privilege of learning about new industry
findings and best practices through technical sessions, participating in
student leadership workshops to better serve our ITE@MSU student chapter,
receiving feedback from professionals on my resume, networking with my peers
through online social events, and competing in the annual Student Traffic Bowl