WTI explores alternative transportation options in Whitefish, Montana

Last week, the Whitefish Pilot reported on efforts by the town of Whitefish, Montana to address growing congestion in its downtown area.  WTI is conducting an alternative transportation study to evaluate transportation and transit issues that impact parking in the downtown core.  Principal Investigators David Kack and Laura Fay have conducted commuter surveys to determine the number of downtown workers who are driving solo, carpooling, and taking the bus.  The findings will be used to explore alternative transportation pilot projects and develop the downtown parking plan.  The Whitefish Pilot article is available on the newspaper’s website.

New Report: National Key Deer Refuge – Strategies for Reducing Wildlife Vehicle Collisions

WTI has released a new report investigating Key Deer mortality along a segment of Highway 1 within the National Key Deer Refuge in Florida. Road Ecologists Marcel Huijser and James Begley found that 75% of all reported mortalities in this area were related to collisions with vehicles.  The team also investigated and mapped how the locations of collision “hotspots” have changed since the installation of wildlife fencing, underpasses, and deer guards. The final report (“Exploration of opportunities to reduce Key Deer Mortality along US Highway 1 and other roads, National Key Deer Refuge, Florida, USA”) summarizes the pros and cons of eight different strategies aimed at reducing collisions with Key Deer on Highway 1.

The National Key Deer Refuge final report is now available on the WTI website.  This research effort is part of a technical support contract for National Wildlife Refuges, which encompasses projects at refuges across the country.

New Report: Wildlife Mitigation Measures for Refuges in Chesapeake Bay

Bridge and causeway through Chicoteague Bay, Chincoteague Island, Virginia, USAWTI Road Ecologists Marcel Huijser and James Begley have completed recommendations for reducing wildlife road mortalities on highways that serve two national wildlife refuges along the coast of Virginia.  “Exploration of Wildlife Mitigation Measures for the Roads through and around Fisherman Island and Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuges in Virginia,” now available on the WTI website, includes specific recommendations for enhancing barriers, culverts, fencing and other methods to reduce vehicle collisions with several species of concern, including the diamondback terrapin (turtle) and the Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel.

Rural Transit – Deep in the heart of Texas

 

Natalie Villwock-Witte (at right) speaks at a podium. A presentation screen and two other seated panelists are shown.
Natalie Villwock-Witte (at podium)

Natalie Villwock-Witte traveled to San Augustine, Texas in January to report on a rural transit pilot program to the Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG).  DETCOG and the Area Agency on Aging launched a pilot program in 2018 to provide monthly vouchers to seniors in five counties to pay for rides to medical appointments, shopping trips, and social events.  WTI, in partnership with the National Association of Development Organizations Research Foundation and the USDA, provided technical assistance for the program.  Natalie reported that more than 50 area residents aged 60 and older signed up and used the program during the pilot period.  “Thanks to the support of the Area Agency on Aging, the program will continue to provide rides to seniors,” said Natalie; “if DETCOG and other partners are able to secure additional funding sources, there may be opportunities to expand the program to serve other populations with transportation needs.”

DETCOG recently highlighted the project presentation on its website. Additional information about WTI’s other NADO technical assistance projects in rural communities is available on the WTI website. The pilot project final report is also available on the SURTCOM/WTI website.

Image of the front cover of a report called Deep East Texas Council of Governments Transportation Voucher Program Final Report

WTI Studies Small Town Public Transportation Options

WTI recently completed a public transportation feasibility study for the City of Lebanon, a community of approximately 15,000 people in southcentral Missouri. The City of Lebanon is interested in whether a public transportation system could help connect more residents to jobs, educational opportunities and local services.

Project Manager Natalie Villwock-Witte, working with Karalyn Clouser and David Kack, analyzed a wide range of issues related to launching and operating a public transportation system, including a needs assessment, service area analyses, asset acquisition, cost analyses, funding opportunities, marketing strategies, and sustainability. The team completed an extensive effort to identify, map, and analyze potential usage of different service routes for the City of Lebanon to consider.

Through our surveys and site visits, we had the opportunity to work with the community and its partner organizations to understand exactly who needs mobility services and where they need to go,” said Villwock-Witte, “by the end of the project, we were able to provide them with some viable options and strategies that should help them move forward with planning a public transportation system.

This project is sponsored by the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) Research Foundation, as part of a larger contract called Technical Assistance for Rural Transportation Systems: Connecting Rural Transportation with Economic Opportunity (funding provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture). This project, and two similar projects, were managed by the Small Urban, Rural and Tribal Center on Mobility (SURTCOM), the USDOT University Transportation Center led by WTI. More information about the project, including the final report, is available here.

Blanketing the Roadsides: Wool Erosion Control Blankets Nurture Revegetation

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.

Teton County Approves Wildlife Crossings Plan

Two deer crossing guard rail and road on Hwy 191 approaching Jackson Hole, WY.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.

National Center for Rural Road Safety announces Rural Intelligent Transportation Systems Toolkit

 Screen shot form the National Center for Rural Road Safety Website. Shows some of the categories in the Rural Intelligent Transportation Systems Toolkit.
Is your agency looking for innovative solutions to your most common transportation safety challenges? Are you interested in using technology, but not sure which one best fits the needs of your rural area? Or maybe you’ve considered Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) before, but are afraid they are too expensive or only applicable in an urban setting?
The National Center for Rural Road Safety’s (Safety Center) newly released Rural Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) Toolkit can answer these questions and more! Updated and expanded from its 1997 version, the new toolkit contains 42 fact sheets focused on the most common critical needs in rural areas today including: Crash Countermeasures; Traffic Management; Operations & Maintenance; Emergency Services; Surface Transportation & Weather; Rural Transit & Mobility; and Tourism & Travel Information.
Each fact sheet provides detailed information including:
  • A description of the solution,
  • It’s applicability in a rural area,
  • Key components of the system,
  • Useful tips,
  • Examples of implementation,
  • Considerations before implementing,
  • Cost information, and
  • Additional resources.
Explore the new Rural Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) Toolkit on the Safety Center’s website.

Deicer Research Highlighted by TRB

The most recent issue of the national Transportation Research Board Newsletter has featured an article on a WTI research report sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Transportation.  “Field Usage of Alternative Deicers for Snow and Ice Control” summarizes non-chloride based deicers available on the market, including acetate, formate, glycol, and succinate based deicing products. The report explores the deicers’ feasibility for use as alternatives to chloride based deicers, and identifies next steps to determine if a non-chloride based deicer is a viable option for implementation in winter maintenance operations by MnDOT and local snow and ice removal providers. TRB and MnDOT have posted a link to the report. You can also read about the project here.

 

MDT Highlights WTI Research in Fall Newsletter

Western Transportation Institute (WTI) research is prominently featured in Solutions, the research newsletter of the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT). Three projects that WTI researchers completed on behalf of MDT are highlighted in the current issue:

  • The lead story is an in-depth discussion of “Exploring Traffic Safety Citizenship,” research led by Jay Otto, Kari Finley, and Nic Ward of the Center for Health and Safety Culture.  Traffic safety citizenship is an approach to safety that aims to encourage everyone to behave in ways that support the safety of one another (such as reminding others to wear seat belts).  The goal of this project was to understand which aspects of culture help to predict engagement in these behaviors.
  • Identifying Disparities in Definitions of Heavy Trucks” summarized research by Yiyi Wang, Karalyn Clouser and graduate student Fahmid Hossain to clarify the myriad of state and federal regulations that affect truck drivers, trucking companies, and enforcement agencies. The team developed a useful handbook with charts and photographs to identify the types of vehicles and conditions that fall under specific regulatory guidelines.
  • For “Assessment of the Road Weather Information System (RWIS),” Levi Ewan and Ahmed Al-Kaisy conducted an in-depth review of MDT’s 73 RWIS stations to improve and guide future planning and operations efforts.  The findings addressed data and software needs, benefits and costs, and implementation guidelines.

Read the full MDT newsletter click here.