12th TRB International Conference on Low Volume Roads comes to Kalispell, Montana

Kalispell, Montana proved to be an ideal venue for the 12th TRB International Conference on Low Volume Roads, held in late September.  Sponsored by the Transportation Research Board and co-sponsored by the Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, the conference welcomed 250 participants from 22 countries who experienced low volume roads in northwest Montana firsthand.   The conference provided 27 sessions covering 104 presentations, six hands-on workshops, and a field tour highlighting demonstrations of a variety of low volume road management tools.

The Western Transportation Institute (WTI) at Montana State University served as the local host and worked on site details for two years in preparation for this enormous event. WTI researchers Laura Fay, Natalie Villwock-Witte, Jaime Sullivan, Ahmed Al-Kaisy,  and Matt Ulberg, Director of Montana Local Technical Assistance Program presented at the conference.

Conference organizer, David Jones, University of California, Davis, was excited that the conference took place in a rural setting where the knowledge shared is most needed.  “Since 1975, this conference has been held every four years and provides a forum for the exchange of information and innovative ideas on all aspects of low volume roads,” said Jones.  “This year’s conference continues that long tradition.  Kalispell, with Glacier National Park nearby, is a beautiful area of the country and our local hosts excelled in providing a great venue with plenty of opportunities for activities.”

Colin Brooks and Rick Dobson of Michigan Technological University demonstrate an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) during a field tour at the 2019 Low Volume Roads conference.

Colin Brooks and Rick Dobson of Michigan Technological University demonstrate an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) during the LVR field tour.

Wildlife Vehicle Collision Data Collection System: Second phase of development complete

Project logo with graphic image of deer leaping across highway and title Federal ROaDSThe WTI Road Ecology program, in partnership with the MSU Gianforte School of Computing, has completed a second phase of research on a system to simplify how wildlife vehicle collision (WVC) data is collected and shared among federal agencies.

The research program is sponsored by the National Center for Rural Road Safety, the National Park Service (NPS) and US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) – the federal agencies want to develop and coordinate the use of a WVC Data Collection System with other federal land management agencies, state and local agencies, and other organizations. During Phase 1, Road Ecology researchers Rob Ament, Matthew Bell, and Kelley Hall, collaborating with MSU Computer Science professor Mike Wittie, developed a pilot WVC system called ROaDS – Roadkill Observation and Data System.  It collects WVC roadkill observations and is available to all Department of Interior (DOI) agencies and bureaus.

During Phase 2, the research team developed recommendations for preliminary national standards for WVC data collection systems, which will promote collection and sharing of consistent data among agencies and partners. The team also made recommendations to modify the ROaDS survey (used for data collection) so it is shorter, easier to use, and more efficient. As part of the development process, team members determined that ROaDS can provide a valuable research function – it captures the observer’s route, how long it took to complete the route and each individual observation made while on that route. Phase 2 also included outreach activities, in which team members began to engage other agencies and organizations to jointly develop national standards for WVC data collection systems via meetings, presentations, and workshops at national conferences that will be continued in Phase 3.

The Federal Lands Wildlife-Vehicle Collision Data Coordination Project Phase 2 report is available on the WTI website.  A new poster, which displays highlights from Phases 1 and 2 and proposed activities for Phase 3, is also available at the WVC Data Coordination Project Phase 2 webpage.

Bonus Safety Center Webinar in July!

Logo for National Center for Rural Road SafetyThe National Center for Rural Road Safety will host a second webinar this month!  This free webinar on “Safe Systems for Rural Areas” will be offered on Wednesday, July 31 at 11 a.m. (Mountain Time).

This webinar will introduce principles of Safe Systems and provide context for the Safe Systems approach in relation to other traffic safety initiatives (such as Vision Zero) and paradigms. Through various examples and case studies, presenters will highlight processes, practices, and components of Safe Systems applications in rural settings and describe the state of research and practice in advancing systems approaches in rural areas. To learn more and to register, check out the webinar announcement.

Rural Planning Webinar This Week!

Logo for National Center for Rural Road SafetyThe National Center for Rural Road Safety will host a free webinar on “Rural Multimodal Planning” on Thursday June 20 at 11 a.m. (Mountain Time).

This webinar will explore why and how rural communities and small towns should apply more multimodal planning. It will describe current demographic and economic trends that are increasing demands for walking, bicycling and public transit in rural communities; then it will present specific policies and programs that can help create more diverse and efficient transport systems. This presentation is based on research described in the report, “Rural Multimodal Planning” (www.vtpi.org/rmp), and related documents. To learn more and to register, check out the webinar announcement.

On the Road to Safety – Engaging Partners at National Events

Jaime Sullivan in hard hat and safety vest at NACE 2019 MeetingImproving safety on rural roadways is a multi-faceted challenge – to make progress, it helps to collaborate with many partners.  WTI’s Jaime Sullivan, who is also the Manager of the National Center for Rural Road Safety, has been on the road in recent weeks meeting with key safety partners at national meetings and conferences.

At the April annual meeting of the National Association of County Engineers (NACE), Jaime exhibited the Safety Center booth to promote the Center’s resources, trainings, and initiatives. Montana LTAP Director Matt Ulberg was also in attendance.  NACE, LTAP, the Safety Center, and the West Region Transportation Workforce Center have all been collaborating on the development of a Local Road Safety Certificate that will provide engineers and transportation professionals with specific training on assessing safety challenges and implementing countermeasures.

Photo of nametag and meeting agenda for AASHTO Safety Committee Annual Meeting 2019Jaime then traveled to the Safety Committee meeting of the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO), where she presented an update on the Local Road Safety Certificate program.  She was also invited to give a presentation on the safety components of the NCHRP Rural Research Road Map project, which is identifying and prioritizing the most critical issues facing rural transportation.  “The AASHTO meeting, which was led by Montana DOT Director Mike Tooley, was a great opportunity to get input and recommendations from transportation leaders and practitioners who see the challenges and consequences of safety issues on a daily basis,” said Jaime; “this firsthand input really improves and invigorates our research and training efforts at the Center.”

New Webinar Announced for May – Marketing Safety

Logo for National Center for Rural Road SafetyThe National Center for Rural Road Safety will host a free webinar on “Marketing Safety” on Thursday April 25 at 11 a.m. (Mountain Time).

This webinar will provide practical methods of effective communication with stakeholders, leadership, and the public, including five techniques for better communication and marketing, how to write engaging “teaser” messages, and how to use a communications brief to plan outreach activities.  This training is directed towards a very broad safety audience, such as law enforcement, planners, engineers, first responders, elected officials, public health, tourism agencies, and safety culture experts. To learn more and to register, check out the Marketing Safety webinar announcement.

February 28 Webinar will present highlights of National Safety Summit

Logo for National Center for Rural Road SafetyThe National Center for Rural Road Safety (Safety Center) is hosting a FREE, 1.5-hour online webinar on February 28, entitled “Bridging the Gap: Recap of Safety Summit #2”.  This webinar will provide a recap of the 2nd National Summit on Rural Road Safety: Bridging the Gap. If you were not able to join us in Savannah, GA in December 2018, then this webinar is for you! Come hear an overview of the most important takeaways from this action-oriented event with interactive sessions to assist attendees on their Road to Zero. More details and registration information are available here.

Coming up Soon! December Summit will Focus on Rural Road Safety

Banner image promoting National Summit on Rural Road Safety, December 4-6, 2018. Photo depicts first responders assisting at a traffic accident

Following a highly successful inaugural forum in 2016, the National Center for Rural Road Safety and the National Association of County Engineers will host the 2nd National Summit on Rural Road Safety from December 4-6, in Savannah, Georgia.  At the first summit, more than 100 attendees from around the country collaborated on defining the future for “Moving Rural America” by articulating the key transportation safety issues facing rural areas, culminating in a call to action of “On the Road to Zero, We Cannot Ignore Rural.”

For the second summit, participants will continue to move the rural conversation forward and focus more intently on safety solutions and “Bridging the Gap.”  Some of the key questions they will tackle include how to create a unified voice for rural areas, and how to implement safety solutions with rural constraints.

“After the first summit, participants were encouraged by the progress we made to develop an initial action plan and they wanted to keep the momentum going,” said Safety Center Manager Jaime Sullivan. “At the upcoming summit, we’re looking forward to taking the next step of how to select and implement safety solutions that will make a real difference on rural roads.”

If you’re interested in attending, early bird registration closes on November 12!  The agenda and registration information are available here.