MSU Undergrads Assisting with Safety Center Research

Portrait of student Andy Merkel in 2020Welcome to Andy Merkel and Maddy Pernat, who are new undergraduate research assistants at WTI.  By supporting projects conducted by the National Center for Rural Road Safety, they will have the opportunity to develop not only new research skills, but other valuable professional development skills related to communications and outreach.  For example, Andy is helping with  social media planning, developing marketing materials for Rural Road Safety Awareness Week, and contributing to training modules for the Road Safety Champion Program, a new safety training program for public health, law enforcement, and transportation practitioners.  Maddy is helping with summaries of TRB workshops, providing support to the Fellows program, and will soon begin background research for the new project with the Montana Department of Transportation to stream traffic safety videos at motor vehicle licensing and registration offices.

Andy is originally from Hamilton, Montana, and is now a junior at Montana State University pursuing a degree in Mechanical Engineering with an emphasis in transportation. When he isn’t working, he enjoys mountain biking, mentoring youth, kayaking, aerial photography, Montana State Chorale, and volunteering at his church.

Outdoor portrait of student Maddy Pernat with winter landscape 2020Maddy grew up outside of Minneapolis, Minneapolis, but chose Montana State University to pursue her education, in part to be closer to the mountains. She is a third-year Civil Engineering student with an emphasis on transportation engineering. Outside of school, Maddy can be found racing her mountain bike, backpacking, rock climbing, playing her guitar, or learning how to play her banjo.

WEBINAR – Local Road Safety Plans

Logo for National Center for Rural Road SafetyDid you attend the webinar by the National Center for Rural Road Safety (Rural Safety Center) in December about Local Road Safety Plans?  Don’t miss Part 2!

The Rural Safety Center and the NLTAPA Safety Working Group are co-hosting a FREE, 1.5-hour online webinar entitled LRSP Part 2: A Roadmap to Getting Home Safely. This webinar will be held Thursday, January 23, 2020 from 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM Mountain/1:00 PM to 2:30 PM Eastern. This webinar will feature information on how to begin a Local Road Safety Plan and provide case studies from the county, state, and FHWA Division Office perspective. Webinar and registration information is available on the Center website. If you missed Part 1 of this webinar, you can find it on the Archived Trainings webpage.

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.