Earlier this month, WTI Road Ecology Program Manager, Rob Ament, traveled to Nairobi, Kenya for the first African meeting of the Transport Working Group (TWG). Formed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Connectivity Conservation Specialist Group (CCSG), the TWG provides guidance on strategies that avoid, minimize, mitigate or compensate for the impacts of surface transportation systems on wildlife connectivity. The TWG is mobilizing road ecologists and transport professional around the world to develop connectivity-minded infrastructure development guidelines for governments and development banks to adopt.
The meeting took place at the campus of the Africa Wildlife Foundation in Nairobi, Kenya. Members represented consultants, NGOs, government agencies, researchers and academia. The agenda and discussions covered the TWG’s scoping document, work plan, and communications support of TWG, as well as the development of guidance documents and transport mitigation resources. Rob Ament, who serves as co-chair of the group, will help develop a briefing paper for the TWG regarding the Multilateral Development Bank Team and how to engage them in transport projects in Africa as well as on other continents. Rob also gave a presentation about the TWG in Arusha, Tanzania, at another meeting hosted by the CCSG in east Africa.
TR News magazine, published by the National Academy of Sciences’ Transportation Research Board, recently dedicated an entire issue to successful efforts to move research into practice. In the article “Going, Seeing, Showing, and Doing: Low-Tech Technology Transfer Works,” the authors highlighted WTI’s efforts to spearhead the National Winter Maintenance Peer Exchange from 2007 – 2015. Specifically, they note that attendees have “overwhelmingly cited the sharing of best practices and innovations as the most helpful part of the event.” The article is included in the July/August issue of TR News, which was recently released online (see pages 38-43).
For more information about WTI’s Winter Maintenance projects and activities, click here.
In Bozeman, Montana, local media outlets are helping to bring attention to a temporary traffic calming project led by WTI’s Dani Hess and the City of Bozeman. At the corner of Tracy Avenue and Tamarack Street, volunteers from the neighborhood, and from Big Brothers Big Sisters, along with the City Streets Department helped paint colorful crosswalks and installed pedestrian medians made with plants and straw wattles. The goal is to slow traffic and call more attention to cyclists and pedestrians who share or cross the road, in an area that includes both the Fairgrounds and the local Senior Center.
The installation, which will be in place for one-week, is one component of the Transportation Demand Management partnership between WTI, the City of Bozeman, and Montana State University. This project was also made possible by a mobile Pop-up Project Trailer funded by a grant from the AARP Livable Communities initiative awarded to WTI and the City of Bozeman. Going forward, the trailer will be available for use by other neighborhoods and local groups who want to take the first step in working towards safer multimodal streets in Bozeman.
Dr. Nicholas Ward answers questions for abc2 TV during the Governor’s Conference on Highway Safety in Appleton, Wi. Specifically he discusses the importance of Safety Culture as a tool to reduce traffic related crashes and fatalities. The whole interview can be seen here.
At WTI’s annual Summer Transportation Camp (STC), student participants were treated to not one, but two special opportunities to meet and spend time with Montana Governor Steve Bullock. During a morning tour of the Montana Department of Transportation in Helena, the Governor greeted the group and answered questions on transportation and other issues. Later that afternoon, the campers boarded a boat tour of the Gates of the Mountain canyon, and to their surprise, the “celebrity guest” captain for the day was Governor Bullock!
Montana Governor Steve Bullock (center) with STC students at Gates of the Mountain
Each year, WTI hosts the Summer Transportation Camp, a two-week program for high school students to encourage pre-college interest in transportation careers and enhance their academic and professional development skills. During the camp, students live on the Montana State University campus, and participate in a comprehensive academic program, field trips, a career and college counseling component, as well as team-building and sports and recreation activities.
This year, 19 students from across Montana attended the camp. In addition to the exciting day in Helena with the Governor, other activities this year included a “CSI” themed class with a crash scene investigator from the National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB), a coding project with MSU Computer Science graduate students, a tour of the Gallatin Field airport, and the always popular team competition to build and test balsa wood bridges.
STC student teams test the strength of the balsa wood bridges they constructed
Marcel Huijserand Rob Amenttraveled to Jackson, Wyoming on July 19, 2017 to collect public feedback on a proposed wildlife plan for Teton County. WTI is leading the development of a Wildlife Crossings Master Plan for the county, which will propose strategies for reducing the impacts of roads on wildlife that live in or migrate through the area. At the meeting, Marcel (Principal Investigator) and Rob presented preliminary findings, such as the collision hotspots identified, as well as a number of potential solutions, such as overpasses, underpasses, sensors, and improved lighting. Members of the public who attended the forum had the opportunity to review maps, ask questions, and make suggestions regarding elements of the plan, which is scheduled for completion at the end of the year. The Plan is designed to provide planning guidance to the Teton County Board of County Commissioners.
Marcel Huijser presents a proposed Wildlife Crossings Master Plan at the Teton County Library in Jackson, Wyoming.
The meeting was well-attended by the public and local media. For a more in-depth account, read the feature articles by the Jackson Hole News before and after the event. Project information is also available here.
Rob Ament has just returned from a week long meeting in India hosted by the Science for Nature and People Partnership (SNAPP). India currently faces numerous wildlife protection challenges; for example, protected areas are often too small to support viable populations of wide-ranging species, such as elephants and tigers, especially if highways and other development severs habitat connectivity between protected areas. Rob was invited by the Landscape Connectivity in India Working Group to give a presentation and provide his expertise for the workshop, during which participants developed strategies to address the impact of transportation systems on ecological connectivity surrounding various protected areas in the region.
The workshop was held near Nagarhole National Park in the Western Ghats mountain range (a UNESCO World Heritage site) of southwest India. Rob shared these photos from his amazing wildlife viewing opportunity within the National Park.
Craig Shankwitz spoke to the Montana Traffic Educators Association conference in Great Falls, Montana last week, delivering a presentation on emerging vehicle technologies. In his remarks, he stated that the connected vehicle technologies are more likely to be widely deployed before autonomous (or driverless) vehicles. Connected vehicles communicate to other vehicles or to roadside infrastructure, which enables important updates and alerts about safety, traffic, or road conditions that can be sent directly to one’s car. Craig’s presentation was featured in a TV news story in Great Falls.
Road Ecology Program Manager Rob Ament just returned from a week in the West African nation of Gabon. The World Bank Group invited Rob as an expert speaker for a special meeting of its Global Wildlife Program, which provides more than $130 million in grants to reduce human-wildlife conflicts. Representatives from 19 countries in Asia and Africa that will be receiving funds participated in the meeting. During the meeting, Gabon received notification that its projects were approved and will receive $9 million in funding. Rob gave a presentation on wildlife connectivity and how it is affected by various forms of transportation. He also discussed several specific efforts in which he is involved, including connectivity conservation initiatives by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and long range transportation efforts by the U.S. National Park Service and USFWS National Wildlife Refuges.
Last week, WTI Director Steve Albert traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in the third annual Summit of University Transportation Centers for Safety. UTC Directors from across the country met to exchange ideas on how UTCs can better collaborate to address real world transportation problems and emerging safety issues. This year, the panels and group discussions focused on three topics: rebuilding infrastructure with technology for improved safety, how to safely deploy connected and autonomous vehicles, and key safety challenges for rural transportation. Steve facilitated the panel on rural transportation, and presented an update on WTI’s safety research, with a focus on our new research initiatives for connected and autonomous vehicles.