National Safety Council Selects Safety Center as Finalist for Green Cross Award

Logo for National Center for Rural Road Safety

Congratulations to the National Center for Rural Road Safety, which was recently named as one of three finalists in the country for the 2020 Green Cross for Safety Award – Safety Advocate!

Each year, the National Safety Council selects honorees for demonstrating leadership in keeping people safe, with awards in three categories: Safety Advocate, Safety Excellence, and Safety Innovation.  The Safety Center is a finalist for the Safety Advocate Award, which “recognizes those who have made a significant impact on safety by raising awareness and bringing about change.”

“We’re excited to be recognized as a finalist, especially in the company of other national safety leaders from public, private, and non-profit agencies,” said Jaime Sullivan, Director of the Rural Safety Center.  The full announcement is available in a news release on National Safety Council website. The winners will be announced in a virtual celebration on October 1.

Will Passenger Rail Return to Southern Montana? Join the Conversation on Sept. 17!

black and white image of train wheels

Passenger rail service through southern Montana ended 41 years ago, and now advocates across the state are working to bring it back. Interested in learning more? Plan to attend the virtual Montana Passenger Rail Summit on Thursday, September 17!

WTI is a sponsor of this event, which will bring together elected officials, business leaders, passenger rail experts and others from across Montana who are interested in establishing safe, reliable, and affordable passenger rail service through the region, and connectivity to other transportation services. More details and registration are online at www.montanapassengerrailsummit.org.  The summit is free to attend, and registered participants will receive a personalized Zoom link a few days before the event.

Save the Date: Rural Road Safety Awareness Week

Graphic with logo and dates for Rural Road Safety Awareness Week 2020

The National Center for Rural Road Safety is proud to announce the inaugural Rural Road Safety Awareness Week (RRSAW), which will take place the week of September 28th – October 2nd, 2020.

The goal of RRSAW is to dedicate a week to promoting rural road safety to the public, community leaders, and potential partners by telling the “rural story.” This event will shine a light on rural needs, challenges, and solutions, especially those that help all stakeholders make progress on the Rural Road to Zero fatalities and serious injuries.

RRSAW will be a social media driven campaign, so high levels of social media interaction will be the key to success for RRSAW.  The Center encourages individuals and agencies to use their own social media platforms to extend the reach of RRSAW’s stories and messages:

  • First, please friend the Center on Facebook (@ruralroadsafety) and follow it on LinkedIn (@national-center-for-rural-road-safety) to see daily posts during the week of RRSAW.
  • Next, please share or repost messages (or create original ones that highlight your own agency). Event organizers will be using hashtags #RuralRoadSafety and #RRSAW2020 for posts and encourage you to use the same ones. 

The Rural Safety Center has created daily themes for the week and will release targeted materials for each one:

  • Monday: Defining Rural
  • Tuesday: Rural Safety Champions
  • Wednesday: Rural Road Modes
  • Thursday: Proven Rural Safety Countermeasures
  • Friday: Rural Safety Culture

Through these topics, everyone will have a chance to share their experiences, answer fact-check questions, and learn about the topic of the day. Use the generic hashtags #RRSAW2020 and #RuralRoadSafety AND the specific hashtag of the day to makes sure you are included in the nation-wide conversation. The Rural Safety Center will be releasing a RRSAW Toolkit complete with social media messages and graphics at the end of August on the RRWAW webpage. Please feel free to share this with your colleagues and contact the Rural Safety Center with any questions you might have about the campaign.

WTI Co-hosts National Event on Rural Transportation Safety

vehicle on two-lane rural highway near barn with mountains in background

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 (MT).

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:

The webinar attracted a large, national audience of more than 250 attendees.  To view the presentations in full, download the recorded webinar from the NHTSA website.

Rural Road Safety Summit – Registration Now Open!

Logo for Rural Road to Zero Virtual Summit in September 2020

The National Center for Rural Road Safety is excited to announce that the Third National Summit on Rural Road Safety will take place September 29 – October 1, 2020. Registration is now open for this action-oriented event, which is designed to provide professionals with plans and strategies for meeting their region’s Rural Road to Zero goals. 

This year’s virtual Summit will feature knowledgeable speakers and interactive sessions, including:

  • Results oriented safety strategies for rural areas
  • Action plans for growing positive safety culture in rural communities
  • A safe system approach for rural areas

In addition, attendees can participate in training sessions for the new Road Safety Champion Program, or in a poster session with the theme “How to Make Rural Roads Safe for Everyone.”

The summits have become a national forum for engaging a wide variety of stakeholders and raising awareness on critical rural road safety issues.  In 2016, the first summit, Moving Rural America, invited stakeholders to articulate critical issues and identify collaborative safety initiatives.  The second summit, held in 2018, focused on Bridging the Gap, highlighting proven safety measures and other strategies that participants could implement in their regions.  Previous summits have attracted participants from across the country and presenters from FHWA, CDC, National Association of Counties (NACO), Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), and more.  Registration for the 3rd Summit is open until September 21, 2020. There are also numerous opportunities for sponsors and vendors to participate and support the event. 

Watch Our Road Ecologists in Action!

graphic of a hat and magnifying glass over an image of the globe with the text "where in the world is WTI?"

Conservation groups – including the National Wildlife Federation, Save L.A. Cougars, and ARC (Animal Road Crossings) – marked Wildlife Crossings Week (May 4 – 8) by hosting a series of webinars on current efforts around the world to enhance habitat connectivity.  Road Ecology Program Manager Rob Ament led a session on “Improving Ecological Connectivity: the IUCN’s Transport Working Group,” highlighting his collaborative work with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.  Rob’s full presentation is available to view on the event’s Facebook page.

Did you miss the Earth Optimism Summit hosted by the Smithsonian last month? It also showcased successful conservation actions during a multi-day event. WTI Research Scientist Marcel Huijser led a workshop entitled “Road Ecology – are we taking the right turns?” His presentation is now available to view at on the Summit website.

Look What’s Popping Up in Bozeman

Seven staff members from WTI and City of Bozeman at traffic calming installation in Bozeman, Montana

On Saturday, May 2, WTI and the City of Bozeman teamed up to assemble pop-up calming installations in a West Bozeman neighborhood on Yellowstone Avenue.  Staff worked together to complete the project in one day, while practicing social distancing guidelines and wearing masks, of course. Team WTI included Danae Giannetti, Andrea Hamre, David Kack and Matt Madsen, while Team Bozeman included two WTI alumni — Dani Hess and Taylor Lonsdale.  Can you spot our staff and partners behind their socially responsible masks?

The installation in West Bozeman is the most recent project in an ongoing collaboration by the City of Bozeman and WTI to test temporary, low cost strategies in areas where neighbors have expressed concerns about speeding vehicles. Several projects in 2019 used street art as a traffic calming strategy.

And… speaking of WTI alumni Dani Hess, did you know that the City of Bozeman recently selected her to serve as its news Neighborhoods Program Coordinator?  Her appointment was highlighted in a local news story by KHQ Channel 6.  Congrats, Dani – WTI looks forward to more opportunities to work with you on local projects!

Road Ecologist Helps Launch Wednesday Webinars

Marcel Huijser

The Society for Ecological Restoration has started a “Wednesday Webinar” series to promote information sharing and professional development in response to conference cancellations.  One of the first invited speakers was WTI Research Scientist Marcel Huijser, who led a webinar on March 25 on “Open Access: Where Road Ecology and Ecological Restoration Converge.” The presentation focused on new approaches designed to shift from providing safe crossing opportunities for large mammals to restoring habitat connectivity for a wide range of species groups.  The webinar is available on the ECR Webinar webpage.

The following day, Marcel also presented via webinar at the University of Montana, which has transitioned its courses to online delivery.  He gave a remote lecture on road ecology to the students of WILD 370, Wildlife Biology, a course taught by Professor Mark Hebblewhite, who leads the UM Ungulate Ecology Lab.

“Rural Matters” at Commute.com

On April 1, Education and Workforce Program Manager Susan Gallagher presented at CommuteCon2020, a virtual gathering of national experts exploring issues related to the “science of smart commuting,” such as telework, commuter behavior, and emerging travel modes.  Susan’s presentation, entitled “Rural Matters,” addressed how professional capacity building and workforce development initiatives are needed to support the development and implementation of transportation solutions and new technologies in rural areas.  Her presentation is available on the CommuteCon webpage.

Message from the Director: Our Research and Work Continues

Portrait of David Kack from 2020

Greetings from WTI! To staff, research partners, and friends of WTI who read our newsletter, I hope you are all staying safe and healthy.

During this extraordinary time, we are all understandably focused on the immediate and critical needs of ourselves, our families, and our communities. To the extent possible, however, WTI continues to conduct research, follow up on current projects, and assess future research opportunities. As Jason Carter, Vice-President of Research for Montana State University, said last week: “This event brings into sharp focus the importance of our research mission to push the boundaries of human knowledge in all directions. The research we conduct today has the potential to save lives tomorrow, and make for a more sustainable, prosperous, and equitable world.”

We are fortunate that many of our researchers can safely conduct their work from home and other remote locations as needed. The WTI headquarters offices are quieter than usual, but administrative, financial, and communications staff are available to provide support to WTI staff and all of our research partners.

Clearly, national and local conditions are changing rapidly, thus we will continue adapting how, where, and when we work. To our research partners, please keep in touch if you have current needs, or want to discuss evolving or emerging issues that may change where we focus our collaborative efforts in the future.

Communication remains more important than ever. While my “open door” approach is still in place, the door itself may have to be virtual for a few more weeks. Feel free to contact me at dkack@montana.edu or at 406-994-7526.

David Kack, Interim Executive Director