SAFETY CENTER WEBINAR: Roadkill Observation and Data System Project

ROADS project logo 2021 with image of deer crossing roadway

Two WTI Road Ecology Researchers will be the main presenters at a webinar on Tuesday, April 13, at 11 am Mountain Time.

The National Center for Rural Road Safety (Rural Safety Center) is hosting a FREE, 1.5-hour online webinar on “Road Observation and Data System Project: Streamlining Animal-Vehicle Collision Data Collection.” This webinar will feature an overview of a wildlife-vehicle collision (WVC) data collection system called ROaDS (Roadkill Observation and Data System), a user-friendly tool to collect information on vehicular crashes with large-bodied wildlife for both motorist safety and conservation purposes.

WTI Road Ecologists Rob Ament and Matthew Bell will be the presenters for this webinar, which will be of interest to transportation practitioners, Federal land management agency (FLMA) transportation managers and planners, and wildlife conservation personnel. For more information, visit the event registration page.

IN THE NEWS: TRB Highlights Interview with WTI Cold Climates Researcher

Laura Fay -WTI Research Scientist

The impact of extreme weather on transportation systems and infrastructure was the focus of a recent feature article by the National Academy of Sciences’ Transportation Research Board. In “Preparing for Winter Weather with Transportation Resources,” TRB interviewed WTI Research Scientist and Cold Climates Program Manager Laura Fay about the importance of prevention in the winterization process.  Fay, who serves on TRB’s Standing Committee on Winter Maintenance, discussed how good prevention for maintaining roads starts with road design and continues with the decisions made before, during, and after a storm hits.

The article also highlights several of Fay’s studies, including a recent Transportation Research Record journal article she co-authored on friction and snow pavement bonds, and an NCHRP synthesis project she led on strategies to mitigate the impacts of chloride roadway deicers.

STUDENT NEWS: Engineering a Future in Transportation

Outdoor portrait of student researcher Bryce Grame in 2021

Montana State University senior Bryce Grame has a long-term plan for a career in transportation. With a major in Civil Engineering and a minor in statistics, he is interested in a future that will allow him to work “at the intersection of traffic engineering and transportation planning,” on issues such as emerging technologies and micromobility.

In preparation, Bryce is working as research assistant at WTI, gaining professional, hands-on experience and also providing valuable support to several projects across the mobility and safety program areas. For the Highway Safety Behavioral Strategies project, he worked with Jamie Sullivan on the development of a rural road safety countermeasure toolkit.  He also served on the team led by Matt Madsen to install and evaluate the pilot “pop-up” calming and speed reduction treatments in Ennis, Montana. He is currently working with Rebecca Gleason and Andrea Hamre to evaluate the effectiveness of dynamic flashing beacons installed on rural scenic cycling routes that activate when cyclists pass over their sensors.  Outside of his coursework and WTI projects Bryce has found time to lead the student ITE chapter at MSU, serve as a Resident Advisor, and squeeze in favorite activities like running, hiking, CRU community, and spending time with family.

With his upcoming graduation in May (with Summa Cum Laude Honors), the next steps in Bryce’s plans are a summer internship as a transportation analysist, followed by starting a Transportation Engineering Ph.D. program at the University of Florida.  Based on his hard work and enthusiasm here at WTI, we see a bright future on the road ahead.

ON THE AIR: Road Ecologist Highlights Wildlife Crossing Structures Advancements

Head shot of Rob Ament

On February 25, Road Ecology Program Manager Rob Ament was a guest on Top of Mind with Julie Rose, a BYU Radio program. For a feature segment on wildlife crossings, Rob discussed how crossing structures are designed, how they make roads safer for both animals and motorists, and where the newest structures are being built, both in the U.S. and globally.  The full Wildlife Crossings interview is available to stream on the BYU Radio website.

In the News: Ennis Traffic Calming Project Featured in Local News

Traffic calming delineators installed along Main Street in Ennis, Montana

The Madisonian, a newspaper for Montana’s Madison Valley, reports on a completed WTI research study in a recent feature article.  “Traffic calming data released” summarizes the findings of a traffic calming project in Ennis, Montana, for which WTI and the Montana Department of Transportation collaborated on a “pop-up” installation of curb extensions and other strategies to reduce speeds on the town’s Main Street, which is also a state highway.  For the analysis, the WTI research team, led by Matt Madsen, collected data on speeds, pedestrian counts, and the number of drivers yielding to pedestrians before and after the installation. The final report is available on the WTI website project page.

In the News: Traffic and Transit Magazine Showcases Rural Research Roadmap Project

An NCHRP project led by WTI is the focus of a current feature article in Traffic and Transit, a national transportation publication.  “Mapping the Future of Rural Transportation Research” highlights the development of the Research Roadmap for Rural Transportation Issues (NCHRP 20-122), which will provide a detailed, long-term agenda for research aimed at improving rural transportation throughout the U.S., including the creation of a series of research needs statements on specific topics. The project is led by Principal Investigator Jaime Sullivan, in collaboration with Iowa State University.

graphic listing 15 rural transportation research categories

To date, the project team has produced 15 topical research portfolios; 26 research needs statements; and 13 research problem statements, which are more fully developed project proposals ready to submit for funding consideration.  Sullivan provided an update on the project at the Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting, during the Rural Transportation Issues Coordination Council meeting, which she chairs. The new Council will serve as the home for ongoing activities related to the Research Roadmap project.

IN THE NEWS: WTI Road Ecologist Offers Insights Into Utah Project

Head shot of Rob Ament

In 2018, the Utah Department of Transportation completed the state’s largest wildlife crossing, which traverses six lanes of traffic on Interstate 80.  The crossing structure made the news again last week, when research footage captured deer, moose, elk, bears, bobcats and a variety of smaller mammals using the bridge.  In news coverage by Smithsonian Magazine, “Animals are Using Utah’s Largest Wildlife Overpass Earlier Than Expected,” WTI Road Ecologist Rob Ament is quoted regarding the high percentage of collision reductions that typically occur after the installation of crossing structures.  Rob’s quote is also included in a similar article by Nature World News.

NEW REPORT: Innovative Strategies to Reduce the Costs of Effective Wildlife Overpasses

car on a rural highway approaching a wildlife overpass in mountainous region

The U.S. Forest Service has released a new report authored by wildlife crossing experts from WTI, ARC Solutions, and other partner research organizations, which compiles key guidance information that may lead to the installation of more wildlife crossing structures.

Wildlife crossing structures are one of the most effective means of reducing animal-vehicle collisions on highways, while facilitating essential animal movement across the landscape. Yet the widespread implementation of such structures, especially wildlife overpasses, has been hindered by cost concerns. In 2014, WTI hosted a workshop in partnership with ARC Solutions and prominent wildlife crossing experts from Canada and the United States to determine whether there are design parameters and construction techniques that could be added, changed, or adjusted to reduce costs, while maintaining or improving the effectiveness of wildlife overpasses.

Concepts identified during the workshop were developed into specific strategies.  This document presents 32 potential cost savings considerations, which were consolidated into three categories:

  • planning
  • design and construction
  • procurement, delivery method, and cost accounting considerations

The full report is available for download from the WTI website or the USFS website.

Citation: McGuire, Terry M.; Clevenger, Anthony P.; Ament, Robert; Callahan, Renee; Jacobson, Sandra, eds. 2020. Innovative strategies to reduce the costs of effective wildlife overpasses. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-267. Albany, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station.

NEW REPORT: What is the Impact of a Local Gas Tax in Montana?

Map of Montana highlighting 7counties studied in fuel tax research: Missoula, Gallatin, Madison, Cascade, Hill, Fergus, and Garfield

As one source of funding for transportation projects, the federal government and all states place a tax on fuel purchases. However, at the local and regional level, authorization and use of fuel taxes vary widely.  In Montana, for example, state law has authorized a local option gas tax since 1979, but it has not been utilized.  That changed in June 2020 when voters in Missoula County approved a historic local option gas tax, marking the first time any county in the state has done so.

The success of the referendum in Missoula County may generate increased interest in this funding source by other counties.  In addition, there are ongoing discussions at the state and national level about the viability of fuel taxes as a sustainable funding resource in response to recent reductions in fuel consumption and in the context of the upcoming reauthorization of federal transportation legislation.  In light of all these factors, WTI recently completed a study to consider the revenues that could be raised for roads, highways, streets, and bridges throughout Montana by imposing the local option gas tax.

An Evaluation of the Montana Local Option Motor Fuel Excise Tax” summarizes the recent history of federal and state fuel taxes, with a focus on the State of Montana and Missoula County. The subsequent analysis assesses fuel tax revenues and expenditures for roads, highways, streets, and bridges for seven Montana counties (Cascade, Fergus, Gallatin, Garfield, Hill, Madison, and Missoula).  Several findings provide insights related to the contribution of fuel taxes to transportation expenditures; for example, neither state gas nor diesel taxes have kept up with inflation, and fuel tax revenues cover a relatively small share (7%-10% on average) of the roadway, highway, street, and bridge expenditures across the seven Montana counties in the study area. Moreover, the 2 cent/gallon local option tax is estimated to increase an average motorist’s costs by a relatively modest $8 – $27 per year. The full report, authored by Principal Investigator Andrea Hamre, is available on the project webpage of the WTI website.