STUDENT NEWS: Welcome, Sam Coulter!

Portrait of Sam Coulter at ice hockey rink 2021

Meet WTI’s Undergraduate Research Assistant Sam Coulter. A Senior at MSU, Sam will be helping Andrea Hamre with the Commercial Package Delivery through Public Transportation Systems in Rural States project. His participation is through a GPHY 498 Internship for the GIS/Planning program within the Department of Earth Sciences, under the academic advisement of Land Resources & Environmental Sciences Instructor, Nicholas Fox. Sam was born and raised in Gillette, Wyoming. He will be graduating this Spring with a Bachelor of Science in GIS/Planning. Sam’s favorite classes have been GIS and Planning classes, where he has enjoyed creating projects from real life situations. In this project with WTI, Sam is excited to learn more about transportation, especially rural public transportation and ways to help increase its efficiency and effectiveness. When not pursuing his studies and internship from home, Sam is at the ice arena playing and coaching hockey. He also enjoys hunting and skiing.

TRB Annual Meeting Zooms Into Week Three

The NAS Transportation Research Board continued its revamped Annual Meeting last week, holding virtual technical committee meetings on a wide range of research topics. In this “snapshot” of what the forums look like this year, can you spot some familiar WTI faces at a Transportation Needs of National Parks and Public Lands Committee event last week?

screenshot of 15 people attending a virtual committee meeting at the TRB Annual Meeting 2021

As a reminder, if you are attending the 2021 Annual Meeting, look for WTI researchers at the following events this week:

  • January 21 – Moving Research to Practice – Ahmed Al-Kaisy will present on research to create a new method for screening low-volume roads. (Workshop #1016)
  • January 22 – Rob Ament and Natalie Villwock-Witte will facilitate a workshop on National Standards for Wildlife Vehicle Data Collection (Workshop #1041)
  • January 22 – Ahmed Al-Kaisy will participate in a panel discussion on new safety developments on low-volume roads (Workshop #1044)

In Memoriam: Dr. Bill Jameson

Portrait of Bill Jameson with his two dogs

We are saddened to share that former WTI staff member Dr. Bill Jameson passed away on January 2.  Bill joined WTI in 2003 as a Senior Research Scientist, two years after his “retirement” from a distinguished engineering career that encompassed military, private sector, public sector, education, and research and development experience.  At WTI, he specialized in the development of telecommunications systems for transportation applications and was instrumental to the development of the Systems Engineering, Development and Integration Program.  He is fondly remembered as a wise educator, generous mentor, and good friend to all.

For more personal memories, we are pleased to share this tribute by another WTI alumni, Doug Galarus:

Former WTI staff member Dr. Bill Jameson died on January 2nd. Those of you who knew and worked with Bill will surely be sad to hear this. Those who did not know Bill should know a bit more about him.

I met Bill shortly after moving to Bozeman to work for WTI in 2003. Bill was chairing a session at a communications conference at MSU. Coincidently, I had been assigned to a project that involved significant data communication challenges. Several WTI staff members and I attended the conference and crossed paths with Bill. Subsequently Bill became a member of and helped what became the “Systems Group” at WTI with projects such as “Redding Responder” and “TMC-TMS Communications.”  Bill had previously worked with law enforcement on radio communications and other projects, and he brought a wealth of knowledge and a long list of contacts who could help us on these projects. Bill had also been faculty in the MSU Electrical Engineering Department.

I will never forget the time when Bill insisted that he and I travel to his family cabin in the mountains near Red Lodge to test a satellite communication system. Bill said that if there was any place where communication would be a challenge, it was there, and he was right. After carefully setting up the system and a camera to document our experiment, I turned around to find a cow moose looking me in the face! That was not exactly the challenge I expected.

Bill accompanied me on a later project trip to California where we toured facilities and roadways in Caltrans Districts 1 and 2 in Northern California to truly appreciate the communication challenges faced there. We toured the Redwoods and confirmed that communication was a huge challenge in the presence of “large conifers,” as Bill called them. We drove long, winding roads, including late at night as our flight to California had been delayed six hours in Seattle and we had a meeting scheduled the first thing the next morning. We went with District 2 staff to the top of Bass Mountain north of Redding to see the mountain top antennas that provided service to roadside cameras, signs, and weather sensors in the winding Sacramento Canyon. To call the path we followed a road would be an overstatement given the huge boulders we bounced over and around. We suspected that the vultures flying circles above us at the top of the mountain were there for a reason – they didn’t expect us to survive the trip! Despite the rough ride, Bill quickly became friends with Caltrans staff, and they always asked how he was doing. He never forgot that bouncy ride when talking to or about them.

When Bill’s involvement with projects at WTI ended, he continued to maintain a presence, and we were happy to provide him with an office. After various moves and consolidations in space we were no longer able to do that, and it was a sad day to see Bill leave with his belongs. He continued to stop by and say hi and bring donuts or other goodies to staff. While working at WTI and afterwards, Bill was a friend and mentor to staff and students.

Bill combined his wisdom with humor. Whenever someone would attribute something to “Murphy’s Law”, Bill would calmly reply, “I knew Murphy.” And he did!!! Another one of my favorite Bill sayings was eventually printed and given to me as something I should frame. Given the often-cluttered state of my desk, Bill would remark, “If a cluttered desk is sign of a cluttered mind, then what is an empty desk a sign of?” Bill’s desk mirrored mine, if not worse. Bill’s mind was full of great ideas and thoughts and was not cluttered. He had a big heart, and he will be missed.Bill loved his dogs, and his WTI staff photo showed Bill with two of his dogs. Baxter, his basset hound and Missy, his most recent rescue dog at that time looked right at home on the walls of WTI, along with Bill grinning from ear-to-ear. That same photo was used for his official obituary and is truly a good one to remember him by.

2021 30th Annual UTC Outstanding Student of the Year Awards

Headshot of Ali Rahim-Talegani

Congratulations to Ali Rahim-Taleqani of North Dakota State University (NDSU). Ali has been recognized as a 2020 Outstanding Student of the Year by the University Transportation Centers for his contributions to the Small Urban, Rural and Tribal Center on Mobility led by the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University.  Ali has over 10 years of experience in international freight forwarding, logistics, and domestic transport.  He received his PhD in Transportation and Logistics from NDSU in May 2020.

During his doctoral studies, he worked on several projects relating to micro-mobility using simulation, optimization, and machine learning.  Now a master’s degree student in Computer Science, Ali is conducting research with the Small Urban and Rural Center on Mobility (SURCOM) at NDSU’s Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute.  He is currently developing a web application that will help rural and small urban transit agencies identify and project their state of good repair.

In addition to receiving his PhD in 2020, Ali published his third journal article, “Maximum Closeness Centrality K-Clubs: A Study of Dock-Less Bike Sharing in the Journal of Advanced Transportation.

TRB Annual Meeting Kicks off Four Weeks of Virtual Events

Each January, the National Academy of Sciences’ Transportation Research Board holds its Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., a week-long forum that brings together thousands of transportation researchers and leaders from around the world.  Due to COVID, this year’s committee meetings, workshops, and other events will all be hosted virtually, but will be spread over four weeks to facilitate broad participation.

WTI staff members continue their long tradition of leadership in TRB committees and other activities.  During the first week of the Annual Meeting, which kicked off on January 6, highlights included:

  • On January 7, Jaime Sullivan was introduced as the Chair of the newly formed Rural Transportation Issues Coordination Council at the Council’s kick-off event
  • Also on January 7, Natalie Villwock-Witte presided over the Transportation Needs of National Parks and Public Lands Committee, for which she serves as Chair
  • Matt Ulberg participated in the Low Volume Roads Committee on January 7
  • Andrea Hamre serves as the Paper Review Coordinator of the Public Transportation Marketing and Fare Policy Committee, which met on January 8
screen shot of Andrea Hamre presenting at TRB virtual meeting
Andrea Hamre presenting at TRB committee meeting

Committee meetings will continue this week, followed by presentations, workshops and poster sessions during the last two weeks.  If you are attending the Annual Meeting, look for WTI researchers at the following events:

  • January 21 – Moving Research to Practice – Ahmed Al-Kaisy will present on research to create a new method for screening low-volume roads. (Workshop #1016)
  • January 22 – Rob Ament and Natalie Villwock-Witte will facilitate a workshop on National Standards for Wildlife Vehicle Data Collection (Workshop #1041)
  • January 22 – Ahmed Al-Kaisy will participate in a panel discussion on new safety developments on low-volume roads (Workshop #1044)
  • January 25 – Laura Fay will present her research on Deicing Alternatives at a lecturn session on Winter Maintenance (#1093)
  • January 26 – Advances in Travel Behavior Research – Andrea Hamre will present a poster on the Chittendon County, Vermont project (Poster Session #1203)
  • January 26 – Laura Fay will preside over a Lectern Session on Low Volume Road Improvements under the Great American Outdoors Act (#1241)
  • January 27 – Jaime Sullivan will facilitate a Lectern Session on Hot Topics in Rural Transportation (#1280)
  • January 28 – Hot Topics in Ecology – Mat Bell will present a poster on the FRP wildlife crossing project (Poster Session #1363)

More updates to follow throughout the month!

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.

STUDENT NEWS: Gaining Research and Testing Experience in the Cold Climates Lab

Staff photo, Lura Johnson

The Cold Climate Operations and Systems program has new student support in the Lab!

WTI is pleased to welcome Lura Johnson as an undergraduate lab technician, who will assist with various road deicing tests and materials.  Working closely with Program Manager Laura Fay and Mat Bell, she is currently supporting the Ice Melting Capacity Test and the Roadway Friction Modeling project.

Lura is currently pursuing a B.S. in Environmental Engineering here at MSU and also participates in the Honors College. Originally from Keene Valley in upstate New York, she has a strong interest in the protection of public and private lands, like the Adirondack Park near her hometown.  Her long-term goal is to pursue a career in resource preservation with an emphasis on pollution control.  When she’s not studying or working in our labs, she enjoys making art, backcountry and nordic skiing, trail running, backpacking, and swimming.

Milestones in Service: Faculty and Staff Honored at Virtual Ceremony

On November 5, Montana State University hosted the 7th annual Milestones in Service celebration with a virtual awards ceremony to honor faculty and staff for their dedication and years of service to MSU. Awards are provided in 5-year increments based on cumulative years of service. This year’s ceremony recognized a number of faculty and staff who work closely with WTI or are part of our WTI “alumni” family.

Portrait of Ahmed Al-Kaisy

Dr. Ahmed Al-Kaisy received an award for 15 years of service as a Transportation Professor in the Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering (NACOE).  Over that same 15-year period, Ahmed has also served as a WTI Researcher and Program Manager for Safety and Operations Research.

outdoor portrait of Kari Finley

Dr. Kari Finley was recognized for 5 years of service as a Senior Research Scientist at the Center for Health and Safety Culture.  She has led and collaborated on numerous projects related to traffic safety culture, substance misuse, and child development.

Two MSU employees who started their MSU careers at WTI were also honored. Jenni West, who managed the Transit in Parks Technical Assistance Center (TRIPTAC) for WTI for many years, received a 10-year award.  She now serves as the Associate Director of the Montana Manufacturing Extension Center (MMEC) in the MSU College of Engineering (NACOE).  Dr. Laura Stanley was also recognized with a 10-year service award. She formerly served as a WTI researcher in our human factors safety program and led many projects in the Driving Simulation Laboratory.  She now serves as an Associate Professor of Computer Science in the MSU Gianforte School of Computing.

Finally, we congratulate several long-time NACOE employees who have provided invaluable support to WTI.  Dr. Ernest Visser has served as the IT Manager for the NACOE Dean’s Office for 20 years, and during that time he helped create, maintain, and troubleshoot many of WTI’s key IT systems.  Dr. Joel Cahoon, Civil Engineering (25 years), has been a frequent collaborator on fish passage and hydraulics projects. Kathy Osen, NACOE’s Director of Administration and Finance received her milestone award for an impressive 35 years of service to MSU. She has offered administrative guidance and assistance to WTI for many years. The Milestones in Service ceremony was hosted by Dr. Waded Cruzado, who received her own award for 10 years of service as the President of MSU. The recorded ceremony is available to view on the MSU website.

ARC Solutions Presents Former WTI Director with a Lifetime Road Ecology Leadership Award

Steve Albert receives lifetime achievement award at ARC event 2020
Steve Albert

On October 20, ARC Solutions presented former WTI Director Steve Albert with a Lifetime Road Ecology Leadership Award in recognition of his enduring legacy in making our nation’s roads safer for both people and wildlife.A not-for-profit network working to promote leading-edge solutions to improve human safety, wildlife mobility and landscape connectivity, ARC celebrated Steve’s leadership, his encouragement, and his creativity, first as a co-founder of the ARC International Wildlife Crossing Infrastructure Design Competition and then as an original member of the ARC Steering Committee. Executive Director Renee Callahan highlighted a variety of successes supported and inspired by Steve during his decade-plus tenure with ARC, including:

“Winning 4 Wildlife” – Aimed at introducing middle school students to the concepts of safe passage and the need for creative wildlife-friendly solutions to make our highways safer, this curriculum was co-developed by three Montana teachers as part of WTI’s Innovative Transportation Systems Research Engagement for Teachersprogram in 2018.

WVC Reduction and Habitat Connectivity Pooled Fund Study – ARC partnered with the State of Nevada to launch a pooled fund study on WVC Reduction and Habitat Connectivity. Study members, including Alaska, Arizona, California, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation and Parks Canada, have since committed $1.275 million in research funds to identify cost-effective solutions to integrate highway safety and human mobility with wildlife conservation and habitat connectivity. WTI Road Ecologist Marcel Huijser is leading a team of researchers conducting the research task to identify and evaluate cost-effective strategies.

Fiber-Reinforced Polymer Crossing Structure – In one of the research projects under the Pooled Fund Study, WTI is teaming with ARC Solutions, Ryerson University and the California Department of Transportation to explore design-based opportunities to build North America’s first fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) wildlife crossing in Siskiyou County, CA. A highly-versatile materialthat is durable, modular, and virtually maintenance free, FRP is widely used in Europe for bike-ped infrastructure and promises to be a game-changer in the construction of the next-generation of wildlife infrastructure in the U.S.

Renee Calahan makes presentation at ARC event 2020
Renee Callahan, ARC Solutions Executive Director

During the ceremony, ARC presented Steve with a keepsake card and commemorative print by renowned wildlife photographer Joe Riis depicting mule deer crossing a roadway within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Family, friends, and colleagues joined in the festivities by sharing personal and professional tributes illustrating Steve’s exceptional leadership within the field of road ecology. ARC is fiscally sponsored by the Center for Large Landscape Conservation in Bozeman, MT. To learn more about ARC’s work, please visit arc-solutions.org. To learn more about WTI’s research in this area, visit the WTI Road Ecology webpage.

Distinctly Montana Explores the Future of Transportation with Ahmed Al-Kaisy

Portrait of Ahmed Al-Kaisy

In its Fall 2020 issue, Distinctly Montana continued its series of articles on “Montana in 30 Years.” To explore the topic of transportation, the magazine interviewed MSU Engineering Professor and WTI Safety and Operations Researcher Ahmed Al-Kaisy. Dr. Al-Kaisy discusses a wide range of transportation issues, ranging from current challenges such as highway funding and clean energy development, to the prospects for implementing emerging technologies like autonomous vehicles and even flying cars!  Read the full article on the magazine website.