NEW STAFF: Matt Madsen joins WTI’s Mobility Research Program

outdoor portrait of Matt MadsenMeet our newest Matt.   The Western Transportation Institute welcomes Technical Research Associate,  Matt Madsen, bringing our Matt total to four (he joins Matt Blank, Mat Bell, and Matt Ulberg).  Madsen joins the Mobility and Public Transportation program area and will take on projects previously coordinated by Dani Hess, including the pop-up neighborhood traffic calming program and bike/pedestrian technical assistance projects.

Originally from Wisconsin, Matt first came to Bozeman in 2000 to work and play before starting college back in Wisconsin.  He knew he would someday return to Montana.

After receiving his undergraduate degree in social work at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and his masters from the Colorado School of Public Health, Matt managed a healthy families program in Colorado.  His community engagement activities ranged from adult and early childhood education to leadership programs. His active transportation experience includes implementation of Safe Routes to School and local Bike to Work programs, both of which will serve him well in his new role with WTI’s Mobility program.  In 2018, Matt returned again to Montana and became Bozeman’s first affordable housing manager.  His job helped define what affordable housing means in this growing city and what role Bozeman officials should play in achieving that goal.

In addition to his work at WTI, Matt serves as a consultant providing community health education and leadership trainings throughout the region.  Matt is an avid backcountry skier, biker and trail runner.  When not at work, he is pursuing these hobbies that first lured him to Montana’s playgrounds.

Transportation Fellows Benefit from Networking and Learning Opportunities at TRB Forums

Transportation Fellows Vince Ziols, Naomi Fireman, and Nathan Begay in field with mountain view near Kalispell, Montana.Recently, WTI co-hosted the Transportation Research Board (TRB) International Conference on Low Volume Roads, held in Kalispell, Montana earlier this fall.  Attendees who stayed a few extra days could opt to take part in another Transportation Research Board (TRB) event – the mid-year meeting of the TRB Committee on Transportation Needs of National Parks and Public Lands (ADA40), which has synergistic interests in topics related to providing access and safe travel in rural, remote, or unique locations.

Happy scheduling coincidence?  On the contrary, the two planning committees coordinated the dates of their forums to encourage attendance and allow participants to add value to their trips.  After learning about state-of-the practice management tools for low volume roads at the international conference, members of the National Parks committee held their own business meeting where they addressed emerging issues, such as the impacts and implications of visitors using E-bikes on public lands. Attendees also visited Glacier National Park where they learned about the management challenges of increasing visitation from Park Superintendent Jeff Mow and about transportation impacts on wildlife from Senior Wildlife Biologist John Waller.

The Public Lands Transportation Fellows attended both events and maximized the professional development opportunities.  Current fellows Vince Ziols, Naomi Fireman, and Nathan Begay are each assigned to a federal land unit where they work for one to two years on special transportation projects.  The TRB forums allow them to expand their knowledge on other emerging transportation issues.  Moreover, the Fellows had opportunities (not often available to young professionals) to collaborate and network with national transportation experts and leaders.

“At the Low Volume Roads conference, we were exposed to a productive mix of on-the-ground research and innovative thinking,” recalled the Fellows. “We met all sorts of people working on everything from safety signage to turning rail cars into pedestrian bridges to researching how autonomous vehicles could be used on public lands. We were inspired by everyone’s passion and dedication to public service. At the different field trips and events, we played ‘networking bingo’ and were able to converse with transportation professionals in a variety of fields.”

In addition, the discussion about E-bikes at the ADA 40 Committee meeting led to the development of a lectern session on this topic for the TRB Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. in January 2020. Fellow Naomi Firemen is conducting research on this issue at the Potomac River National Wildlife Refuge Complex. She was added to the January agenda and will have the chance to make a presentation to a national audience.  All three Fellows will also be showcasing posters about their research at the TRB Annual Meeting, which they are looking forward to: “We are excited for this year’s TRB conference to reconnect with the ADA40 committee, expand our networks, and learn about even more current and innovative transportation research topics.”

Meet the Fellows!

Portrait of Transportation Fellow Nathan Begay on outdoor balcony overlooking parklandsThe newest Fellow participating in the Public Lands Transportation Fellows program is Nathan Begay, who started working at the Valle de Oro Urban Wildlife Refuge in Albuquerque, New Mexico in September.  Nathan graduated from the University of New Mexico with a Masters in Community and Regional Planning with an emphasis in Physical Planning and Design. Much of Nathan’s emphasis of study had been on placemaking, sustainable design, and community engagement. In addition to graduate school, much of his work experience has been dedicated to working on public lands, including work with the National Park Service at Canyon de Chelly National Monument and Salinas National Monument and working on trail crews with the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps in parts of northern Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming.

At the Valle de Oro Refuge, Nathan is excited to work within the complex and rich culture of the South Valley. In addition to working within this unique cultural landscape, he is looking forward to giving back to the neighborhoods surrounding Valle de Oro. Nathan is promoting greater connection within the refuge through better trail and public transportation connectivity, creating beneficial relationships with the surrounding community, and finding innovative ways to foster multi-modal transportation in the South Valley. Nathan is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. He is a member of the Towering House Clan (Kinyaa’áanii), born for the Red Running into Water Clan (Táchii’nii) from Iyanbito, New Mexico.

Contact Information: nathan.begay@montana.edu

WTI Welcomes New Researchers

This summer, WTI welcomed two new researchers who will provide multi-disciplinary expertise and support across several program areas.

Matthew Bell presents at a wildlife crossings workshopMatthew Bell is a new Research Associate, but his connection to WTI dates back to 2012 when he worked on a Road Ecology project with one of Marcel Huijser’s grad students in Missoula, Montana.  In 2017, while pursuing grad studies at MSU, he began research with Rob Ament to design wildlife crossing structures from fiber-reinforced polymers.  He also conducted his thesis research on modeling the risk of wildlife-vehicle collisions on Montana roads, under the guidance of Dr. Yiyi Wang.  Now at WTI full-time, Matt will continue with research on designing crossing structures from fiber-reinforced polymers.  He will also assist with projects to test the use of wool products for erosion control and to evaluate friction performance measurement as a winter maintenance strategy.

Raised in Florida and California, Matt has lived in Montana for nine years.  He earned his B.S. in Wildlife Biology from the University of Montana in Missoula and his M.S. in Civil Engineering at Montana State University (MSU) in Bozeman.  Outside of WTI, he loves backpacking and trail running, with his energetic dog Pi usually leading the way.

headshot of Danae Giannetti in 2019Danae Giannetti has joined WTI as a Research Engineer, focusing on projects for the Small Urban, Rural, and Tribal Center on Mobility (SURTCOM).  Initially, she will assist with a new transit feasibility study in rural Arkansas, the pop-up neighborhood traffic calming program in Bozeman, and bike/pedestrian technical assistance projects.  For the last three years, she served as a Civil Engineering Specialist at the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) MSU Design Unit where she designed roadway projects and mentored MSU undergraduate students on the road design process.  (If she looks familiar, the MDT/MSU Design Unit office is in the WTI building!)

Danae came to Montana nine years ago from northeast Florida to study at MSU Bozeman.  She earned her B.S. in Civil Engineering and is a licensed Professional Engineer.  When not at work, she loves to travel, garden and hang out with her husband and two dogs.  An avid biker, she is active in the Pedal Project for local mountain biking and serves on the Bozeman Area Bicycle Advisory Board.

New Vistas and Opportunities Ahead

Group photo of David Kack, Danae Giannetti, Dani Hess and Rebecca Gleason with award plaque in 2019Mobility Project Assistant Dani Hess has announced that she will be leaving WTI at the beginning of October.  Dani first joined WTI in 2016 as a student assistant and was promoted to the professional staff in 2018, working primarily on commuter and bike/ped projects for the Small Urban, Rural and Tribal Center on Mobility.  She has been a tireless champion of the Bozeman Commuter Project and made tremendous progress on implementing and expanding the “pop-up” traffic calming projects on local roads.  This summer, Rebecca Gleason and Taylor Lonsdale acknowledged her hard work and accomplishments by nominating her for the Young Professional of the Year Award from the Association for Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals, which she received a few weeks ago at the association’s annual conference!

In October, Dani will embark on a monthlong bikepacking adventure, traveling by mountain bike from Utah to Mexico. Long-term, she plans to return to Bozeman to pursue new work opportunities. After October 2, Dani Hess can be reached at hessds@gmail.com

Montana LTAP Director Elected to National Post

Head shot of LTAP Director Matt UlbergCongratulations, Matt Ulberg!  The Director of the Montana Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP) was elected Vice President of the National Local Technical and Tribal Assistance Program Association (NLTAPA) at the Annual NLTAPA Meeting August 14th in Stowe, Vermont. As the National Association’s Vice-President, Matt also serves as the co-chair of the NLTAPA Partnership Work Group. In 2021, he will serve a term as President of the organization.

LTAPs and Tribal Technical Assistance Programs (TTAPs) provide training and resources to county and tribal transportation agencies on topics such as workzone safety, equipment and vehicle use, and incident management. NLTAPA serves as the national organization supporting 52 LTAP and TTAP partner programs around the United States and Puerto Rico, maintaining a broad focus not only on the needs of the LTAP/TTAP program, but also on the perspective of the NLTAPA partners including the Federal Highway Administration, (FHWA), National Association of County Engineers (NACE), American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), American Public Works Association (APWA), and National Transportation Training Directors (NTTD). The Association’s main objectives are to build awareness about LTAP in the transportation community, assist FHWA with developing strategies for the Program, and build the capacity of each Center to best meet the needs of its customers.

“NLTAPA and our partners are doing important work to increase the knowledge and improve the skills of our current transportation workers, and also to plan for the critical skills that will be needed by the next generation,” said Ulberg. “I’m excited to contribute to national initiatives, as well as enhance resources that I can bring back to our programs in Montana.”

Montana LTAP is an integral part of the network of centers at the Western Transportation Institute (WTI) at MSU-Bozeman.

WTI Researchers Contribute Chapter to Mobility Workforce Book

Book Cover image showing child on scooter and book titleA newly published book on training the next generation of transportation workers at all levels includes a chapter written by two WTI staff members.  Empowering the New Mobility Workforce: Educating, Training, and Inspiring Future Transportation Professionals identifies strategies that education, industry, and government leaders can use to facilitate learning and skill development related to emerging transportation technologies and challenges. Susan Gallagher, WTI’s Education Workforce Program Manager, and former WTI Director, Steve Albert wrote a chapter on “Cultivating a rural lens: successful approaches to developing regional transportation corridors through professional capacity building,” which focuses on the unique workforce challenges faced by transportation agencies at the rural and regional level and describes relevant examples of incorporating professional capacity building into transportation projects.

The book addresses one of the most critical issues in transportation – the growing workforce shortage. Transportation industries project a need to hire more than 4 million employees over the next decade.  Empowering the New Mobility Workforce has been endorsed by national transportation leaders, including former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta. It is available on the Elsevier Publishing website or on Amazon.com.

Citation: Reeb, Tyler (Ed.). (2019). Empowering the New Mobility Workforce: Educating, Training, and Inspiring Future Transportation Professionals. Amsterdam: Elsevier Publishing.

On to the Next Adventure…

Group photo of WTI staff and guests at Steve Albert retirement party in July 2019

Marking the end of era, WTI’s two most senior leaders retired this month.  We bid a fond farewell to our Executive Director Steve Albert and our Assistant Director for Administration and Finance, Jeralyn Brodowy.

On July 17, Montana State University College of Engineering Dean Brett Gunnink hosted a retirement reception for Steve Albert, which was well attended by WTI staff, past and present.  Special guests included retired MSU Civil Engineering professors Joe Armijo, a WTI founder, and Ralph Zimmer.   Former WTI staff who surprised Steve for the occasion included Kate (Heidkamp) Laughery, Eli Cuelho, and Carol Diffendaffer.

Joe Armijo speaks at Steve Albert retirement party in July 2019Steve retires after leading WTI for 23 years, transforming a tiny organization with only two staff people and two engineers into a large, nationally and internationally recognized transportation institute, with a multi-million dollar research portfolio.  He will always be highly regarded not only for his leadership at WTI, but also for his contributions to the fields of rural transportation and advanced transportation technologies.

Kate Laughery at Steve Albert retirement party 2019WTI gathered for Jeralyn’s retirement party on July 3, honoring her 20 years of service to our organization.  After starting as Business Manager in 1999, she quickly advanced to the  position of Assistant Director. She has not only been instrumental in the long-term growth of WTI, she has also served as a mentor to other research centers around the country through her leadership in the Council of University Transportation Centers.

Both Steve and Jeralyn will be greatly missed at WTI, but we wish them all the best as they embark on the next chapters of their lives!

 

WTI staff and guests at Jeralyn Brodowy retirement party in July 2019

WTI staff and guests at Steve Albert retirement party in July 2019

MSU College of Engineering Honors WTI’s Finance Director

Congratulations to Jeralyn Brodowy, WTI’s Director of Administration and Finance, who was selected by the MSU Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering (NACOE) for the 2019 Professional Employee Award for Excellence. A 20-year veteran of WTI, Jeralyn has been instrumental in the long-term growth of WTI’s research portfolio, facilities, and staff.  The award honored her administrative leadership within WTI, her mentorship of staff, and her service to the university at large and to national organizations like the Council of University Transportation Centers. Many WTI staff members attended the Awards Luncheon on April 30 to cheer her on as she received the award from NACOE Dean, Brett Gunnink.

Photo of Jeralyn Brodowy at center receiving MSU College of Engineering Professional Staff Award, with WTI staff members and Dean Brett Gunnink at far right
Engineering awards ceremony Tuesday, April 20, 2019 in Inspiration Hall. MSU photo by Marshall Swearingen.

Big Sky Considers Options to Address Growing Congestion

Explore Big Sky recently published a feature article on regional traffic congestion and described some of the current efforts to alleviate growing traffic on the major roads in the region.  David Kack was interviewed for the article, in which he discusses the forthcoming TIGER Grant improvements, the Skyline bus system, and other initiatives to expand alternatives to solo commuting.