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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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
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
during the workshop were developed into specific strategies. This document presents 32 potential cost
savings considerations, which were consolidated into three categories:
design and construction
procurement, delivery method, and cost accounting considerations
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.
In 2015, WTI’s Small Urban and Rural Livability Center and West Region Transportation Workforce Center embarked on a collaborative project with partners from the Russian University of Transport (RUT), the Russian Federation’s largest university focused on transportation science and engineering. The project assessed and shared education and training resources to foster accessible transit services in small urban and rural areas.
Since that time, the international exchange of information between RUT and MSU has continued. On November 18, RUT hosted an international conference under the auspices of UNESCO and co-organized together with the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO and the Russian Academy of Sciences, titled “The Role of Transport Science and Education in Achieving Social, Environmental and Technological Sustainability of Societies.” RUT invited WTI to identify speakers for the conference on topics related to mobility, accessibility, sustainability and safety.
Andrea Hamre, Research Associate at the Western Transportation Institute, presented “Poverty, Race, and Transport Justice in Rural and Small Urban Communities.” Former WTI graduate research fellow and current Wildlife Biologist for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, Whisper Means, presented “Relationships Across a Highway: Roadkill, Politics and Landscape Connectivity on the Flathead Indian Reservation.” Judy Shanley, Assistant Vice President at Easterseals and Director of the National Center for Mobility Management, presented “Developing a Transportation Workforce that Values the Inclusion of Individuals with Disabilities in Service and Operations.”
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.