On to the Next Adventure…

Group photo of WTI staff and guests at Steve Albert retirement party in July 2019

Marking the end of era, WTI’s two most senior leaders retired this month.  We bid a fond farewell to our Executive Director Steve Albert and our Assistant Director for Administration and Finance, Jeralyn Brodowy.

On July 17, Montana State University College of Engineering Dean Brett Gunnink hosted a retirement reception for Steve Albert, which was well attended by WTI staff, past and present.  Special guests included retired MSU Civil Engineering professors Joe Armijo, a WTI founder, and Ralph Zimmer.   Former WTI staff who surprised Steve for the occasion included Kate (Heidkamp) Laughery, Eli Cuelho, and Carol Diffendaffer.

Joe Armijo speaks at Steve Albert retirement party in July 2019Steve retires after leading WTI for 23 years, transforming a tiny organization with only two staff people and two engineers into a large, nationally and internationally recognized transportation institute, with a multi-million dollar research portfolio.  He will always be highly regarded not only for his leadership at WTI, but also for his contributions to the fields of rural transportation and advanced transportation technologies.

Kate Laughery at Steve Albert retirement party 2019WTI gathered for Jeralyn’s retirement party on July 3, honoring her 20 years of service to our organization.  After starting as Business Manager in 1999, she quickly advanced to the  position of Assistant Director. She has not only been instrumental in the long-term growth of WTI, she has also served as a mentor to other research centers around the country through her leadership in the Council of University Transportation Centers.

Both Steve and Jeralyn will be greatly missed at WTI, but we wish them all the best as they embark on the next chapters of their lives!

 

WTI staff and guests at Jeralyn Brodowy retirement party in July 2019

WTI staff and guests at Steve Albert retirement party in July 2019

New Transportation Fellow Arrives at National Wildlife Refuge

Group photos of attendees at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge attending 2019 Fellows orientationThe Public Lands Transportation Fellows program has welcomed its first fellow for 2019-2020! In early July, Naomi Firemen arrived at the Potomac River National Wildlife Refuge Complex for training in her new position.  The Complex encompasses three individual wildlife refuges in the Virginia/Washington D.C. area.  Most of Naomi’s work will focus on improving transportation options at the Occoquan Bay NWR, a 600-acre refuge that is home to many migratory species and is currently expanding its facilities for visitors.  She will also explore opportunities to enhance transportation between Occoquan Bay and the other two refuges within the complex.

The Public Lands Transportation Fellows (PLTF) program provides fellowships to outstanding masters and doctoral graduates in a transportation-related field. Fellows have the unique opportunity to work at a federal land unit to plan or implement a project addressing visitor transportation issues for approximately one year.

Photo Caption: (left to right) Carl Melberg, USFWS Region 5 transportation coordinator; Amanda Daisey, USFWS PRNWRC Project Leader; Nathan Beauchamp, USFWS Transportation Program Analyst; Naomi Fireman, PRNWRC PLTF; Jaime Sullivan, PLTF Manager; Laura Whorton, USFWS Branch Chief of Transportation and Data Management; and Phil Shapiro, STC.

Unique Fellowship Opportunities available in National Wildlife Refuges

Logo banner for the Public Lands Transportation Fellows Program managed by WTI

Do you know a graduate student or young professional who is looking for a unique opportunity to gain experience in resources management, public lands visitation, and transportation planning?

The Public Lands Transportation Fellows program is now accepting applications for its 2019 class. Fellows work with staff at a unit or region/field office to develop or implement a transportation project that will preserve valuable resources and enhance the visitor experience. For the upcoming year, the two Fellows will be stationed at Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge in Albuquerque, New Mexico and Potomac River National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Woodbridge, Virginia.

The Fellows position spans from July 8, 2019 to June 5, 2020. Compensation includes $33,000 for 10 months, benefits, relocation expenses, housing (differs for each position), and potential for Federal Non-Competitive Eligibility Status.

Please note that job offers will be made contingent on funding appropriations and applicant qualifications. Applicants to the Fellows program must be U.S. citizens, nationals, or lawful permanent resident aliens of the U.S.; be 30 years of age or under by the start date; and have at least a Bachelor’s degree; however, the preference is for recent or soon-to-be Master’s degree graduates.

This year’s application window is shorter than previous years’ and closes on Sunday, May 12th at 11:59 Pm Eastern. To find out more and to apply, visit: https://westerntransportationinstitute.org/professional-development/public-lands-transportation-fellows/transportation-fellows-application/

Please forward this to anyone who may be interested. If you have questions, please contact Jaime Sullivan at 774-571-3503 or jaime.sullivan2@montana.edu.

WTI has managed the Public Lands Transportation Fellows (PLTF) program since 2012.  It was modeled after the very successful Transportation Scholars program that served the National Park Service (NPS). To learn more about the program, previous scholars and their projects, visit the Public Lands Transportation Fellows webpage.

WTI Director Looks Forward to 2019, Launching New Projects and Hosting National Event

With the start of the new year, WTI Director Steve Albert sees a busy calendar ahead for himself and the organization as a whole – and that’s a good thing. “Over the last few years we’ve seen a lot of amazing advancements in the transportation field, but also a lot of uncertainty about the future – not to mention a lot more competition for research projects,” Albert said in a recent interview. “Recently, though, we’ve been awarded several nationally significant projects that I’m very excited about, so I’m looking forward to a busy and productive 2019 at WTI.”

For example, in fall 2018, the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) selected WTI and Intrans (at Iowa State University) to lead the development of a Research Roadmap on Rural Transportation Issues, which is scheduled to be completed and released in 2019. “Our team is focused on identifying the research issues that can make the most difference in improving rural transportation across the country including infrastructure, safety, mobility, freight movement, and workforce shortages,” said Albert; “it’s an amazing opportunity to help shape and prioritize the future of transportation research at the national level.”

WTI is also gearing up to lead the team that is launching a major Wildlife Vehicle Collision Reduction and Habitat Connectivity project. WTI’s Road Ecology scientists will partner with other leading researchers from the U.S. and Canada on a three year $700,000+ pooled fund study administered by the Nevada Department of Transportation that includes seven other states, from Alaska to Iowa, and one Canadian province. It will include a cost-benefit analysis of various mitigation measures, a series of research projects and the development of a manual. The project will identify and evaluate the most cost-effective strategies and tools that DOTs can use to reduce the number of collisions between animals and vehicles and those measures that require additional research. “Ten years ago, WTI’s Road Ecology team completed the first nation-wide study that looked at the cost of these collisions and the cost-effectiveness of potential solutions,” Albert explained; “new mitigation options have emerged since then, and state DOTs need concrete information on what works, what is promising but might need some more study, and what is economically feasible to implement.”
https://www.pooledfund.org/Details/Study/610

In addition to conducting new research, WTI will host the 12th Transportation Research Board (TRB) International Conference on Low Volume Roads this September in in Kalispell, Montana. According to Albert, “TRB sponsors this conference to highlight new technologies and new techniques in the design, construction, and maintenance of low-volume roads; researchers and practitioners come from all over to discuss practical solutions to common problems on these roads.”

Overall, the WTI Director sees opportunities ahead for all of WTI’s Centers and research programs. “We continue to find critical transportation needs in both our longstanding program areas as well as some emerging ones,” said Albert. “Our Mobility and Public Transportation program is doing innovative work right here in Bozeman, Montana as well as in small towns around the country related to public transportation options (see News section). The Center for Health and Safety Culture has also had tremendous success in growing its training efforts to introduce amazing, culture-based approaches to health and safety initiatives.”

Bozeman Commuter Project Launches Pilot Vanpool Program

Riders sought from Three Forks, Livingston and other nearby towns

The Western Transportation Institute (WTI) in partnership with the City of Bozeman and Montana State University is working to reduce the number of drive-alone trips and make more efficient use of current transportation systems. This project aims to connect more people to the places they want to go via bus, walking, biking and ridesharing/carpooling.

As part of that effort, the Bozeman Commuter Project is organizing a pilot vanpool program. Vanpools can save people money, reduce the wear and tear on personal vehicles, and reduce the stress of commuting. The pilot vanpools will be free to users. For each vanpool, project coordinators are looking for 4-9 people with similar destinations and schedules who are interested in trying their commute via vanpool. The specific route and schedule of the vanpool will be determined by the members. In case of necessities such as family illnesses, vanpool members will have access to a guaranteed ride home.  So far, there are 18 people interested from Three Forks, Manhattan, Churchill, Belgrade, and Livingston. A meeting will be scheduled in the next few weeks, to work on specific details, with the intent of starting the vanpools in January.

“Providing transportation options that are convenient, healthy and affordable — in addition to drive alone commuting — is important as Bozeman and the Gallatin Valley grow,” said Vanpool Coordinator Taylor Lonsdale. “By introducing area residents to the many benefits of vanpools, we hope this project will continue and grow, so more commuters can participate.”

For more information and to sign up for a vanpool contact Taylor Lonsdale at WTI. paul.lonsdale@montana.edu or (406) 994-7031.

Summer Postcards: Alternative Transportation Takes Many Forms Around the World

Even while on vacation, WTI staff members can’t help but notice new and interesting ways that people travel from place to place. Check out David Kack’s photos from Denmark, where the bicycle is a very well-established mode of daily commuter travel, and where boats provide taxi service. Lisa Hughes and Neil Hetherington shared photos and video from San Diego, Los Angeles and Barcelona, where electric scooters and dockless bikes are rapidly growing in popularity. Anyone else have transportation photos to share from summer travels?

Images of established alternate transportation modes in Denmark. Water taxis and bicycle commuting. Photos by David Kack
Images of established alternate transportation modes in Denmark. Water taxis and bicycle commuting. Photos by David Kack

Collection of images of the public using the Popular dockless electric scooters in use around Los Angeles.
Popular dockless electric scooters in use around Los Angeles.


Shared electric scooters provide an easy way to get around cities.

Enhanced alternates to traditional bike commuting with bike share, eBikes and other electronic conveyances take advantage of bike lane infrastructure. A selection of images showing bikes, Segways and eBikes in Barcelona.
Enhanced alternates to traditional bike commuting with bike share, eBikes and other electronic conveyances take advantage of existing bike lane infrastructure in Barcelona.

Summer Postcards: Researchers on the Road

Passengers utilize the Columbia Gorge Shuttle
Passengers utilize the Columbia Gorge Shuttle
WTI Research Engineer Natalie Villwock-Witte just returned from Cascade Locks, Oregon, where she participated in the mid-year meeting of Transportation Research Board (TRB) Committee on the Transportation Needs of National Parks and Public Lands (ADA 40). Committee members had the opportunity to try out the new Columbia Gorge Express shuttle service, and visit Multnomah Falls and the Bonneville Dam.


Graduate students participate in a road ecology field trip with Marcel.
Graduate students participate in a road ecology field trip with Marcel.
In Brazil, Research Scientist Marcel Huijser continues his research and academic exchange at the University of São Paulo, where he is serving as a guest professor. He shared this picture of a road ecology field trip with graduate students at the University’s Botucatu campus.

Caltrans Launches Aviation Website Developed in Partnership with WTI

Last week, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) announced that a new aviation portal is now available to provide crucial information for pilots, airport operators, first responders and others who need real-time weather conditions throughout California. The Aviation Weather Information (AWI) portal links dozens of commonly used aviation weather websites into one location. Users can quickly and easily find information about current wind speed, temperature, visibility, air pressure and weather conditions at dozens of locations on a single, mapped based website.

Caltrans created the website with the assistance of a team from WTI, through the “Integration of Aviation AWOS and RWIS” project. In the news release about the website launch, Caltrans stated that it recognized the value of the site during the prototype stage, when it was used to gather weather data during an earthquake in 2014, a dam incident in 2017, and mudslides in 2018.  Principal Investigator Doug Galarus, who has led the effort since its inception, added: “I am proud of the great job my team did on this project. Dan Richter, Leann Koon and numerous students worked on the Aviation project through the years to help get it to this point.”

Congratulations, Graduates!

WTI was well-represented at the Montana State University graduation ceremony on Saturday, May 5.  Congratulations to Amir Jafari, Ph.D., and Amir Jamali, Ph.D., who were awarded their doctorates in Engineering. Both students conducted transportation research at WTI during their graduate studies, under the mentorship of Dr. Ahmed Al-Kaisy and Dr. Yiyi Wang. Best of luck from everyone at WTI!

Amir Jamali, Yiyi Wang, Ahmed Al-Kaisy, and Amir Jafari

MSU News features WTI’s Proposal that brings $10.3 million for road and public transit improvements.

Semi Trucks and other vehicles travel along HWY 191 alongside the Gallatin River on the way to Big Sky.
Semi Trucks and other vehicles travel along HWY 191 alongside the Gallatin River on the way to Big Sky.
From MSU News– BOZEMAN – A proposal written by researchers at Montana State University’s Western Transportation Institute has resulted in a $10.3 million federal grant for improving safety and traffic flow on the road leading to the Big Sky community.

The funding comes from one of the most highly coveted and competitive sources of federal transportation dollars: the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program, known as TIGER. Read the full story

http://www.montana.edu/news/17541/wti-proposal-wins-big-sky-10-3-million-for-road-improvements