Online and On the Radio: Road Ecologists Interviewed on Wildlife Crossings

The business website Quartz (www.qz.com) has published a feature article on the international use of wildlife crossing structures.  “Wildlife overpasses that protect animals are spreading globally” discusses WTI Road Ecologist Tony Clevenger’s findings on the types of crossings preferred by different species of animals, based on his research on the Trans-Canada Highway.  It also mentions Road Ecology Program Manager Rob Ament’s efforts to help countries like Bhutan to start using wildlife crossings to protect species like Asian elephants.

Interested in hearing Tony Clevenger speak on wildlife overpasses in more detail?  Check out his radio interview from last week with Marcus Smith on BYU radio, entitled “Highway overpasses paved with grass, rocks and trees save lives.”

NEW PUBLICATION: Idaho Barn Owl Study Explores High Rates of Road Mortality

Ibis, an international journal of avian science, has published an article based on a WTI Road Ecology project in Idaho.  “Spatial, road geometric and biotic factors associated with Barn Owl mortality along an interstate highway” studied the high rates of collisions between Barn Owls and vehicles on Interstate 84 in Southern Idaho.  It stems from a WTI project on potential mitigation options for reducing vehicle collisions with barn owls, which was a collaborative research effort among WTI, Boise State University, Murdock Charitable Trust, Federal Highway Administration, Idaho Transportation Department and Idaho EPSCoR.  Angela Kociolek served as the Principal Investigator.

Citation: Arnold, E. M., Hanser, S. E., Regan, T. , Thompson, J. , Lowe, M. , Kociolek, A. and Belthoff, J. R. (2019), Spatial, road geometric and biotic factors associated with Barn Owl mortality along an interstate highway. Ibis, 161: 147-161. doi:10.1111/ibi.12593

Transportation Voucher Program wins National Award

Image of the front cover of a report called Deep East Texas Council of Governments Transportation Voucher Program Final ReportThe Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG) Transportation Voucher Program has been selected for a 2019 Excellence in Regional Transportation Award from the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO).  DETCOG and the Area Agency on Aging launched the 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 to help create and launch the program.  The project was a team effort by Principal Investigator David Kack, who spearheaded the partnership with NADO; Project Manager Natalie Villwock-Witte, who worked closely with Laura Fay to develop the program framework, conducted outreach to potential program participants, and analyzed the use of the program; and Neil Hetherington, who created numerous original training and promotion materials. “It’s rewarding to develop an effective public transportation program for a rural area where there are so few travel options,” Natalie noted; “it’s even more gratifying when you find out that it’s making a real difference in the lives of residents who may use the program to go buy fresh, healthy food or to connect with friends and family.”

NADO is a Washington, DC-based association that promotes programs and policies to strengthen local governments, communities, and economies through regional cooperation, program delivery, and comprehensive strategies.  The Excellence in Regional Transportation Awards showcase organizations for noteworthy projects and practices in rural and small metropolitan transportation planning, program delivery, and special initiatives.  Winners will receive their awards at the 2019 National Regional Transportation Conference in June.

The DETCOG project page on the WTI website includes more information on the project and a link to the final report.

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.