Rural Transit Project Kicks Off in Arkansas

Rebecca Gleason and Danae Giannetti (far left) introduce new research project to Frontier Metropolitan Planning Organization in Fort Smith, Arkansas.WTI Mobility researchers Rebecca Gleason and Danae Giannetti traveled to Fort Smith, Arkansas last week to help launch a rural transit hub feasibility study. They gave an overview presentation to the Frontier Metropolitan Planning Organization, which is partnering with WTI on the project along with Western Arkansas Planning and Development District.  The goal of the project, which is sponsored by a grant from the National Association of Development Organizations, is to investigate whether it is feasible to create a “smart” transit hub to connect rural communities in western Arkansas with larger metropolitan areas.  The meeting was covered by local news outlets, including the Arkansas Democrat Gazette: “Frontier MPO in Fort Smith talks rural transit.”

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 PROJECTS: Connecting Rural Transportation with Economic Opportunity

The National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) Research Foundation will partner with the Small Urban, Rural and Tribal Center on Mobility (SURTCOM) to assist rural communities with passenger transportation projects that enhance economic development initiatives. This collaboration will encompass projects in two locations:

  • Natalie Villwock-Witte will lead a project to develop a rural transit hub in eastern Georgia.
  • Rebecca Gleason will lead a feasibility study for a “smart” transit hub in western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma.

WTI and SURTCOM previously partnered with the NADO Research Foundation on rural technical assistance projects in Lebanon, Missouri; east Texas, and southwest Colorado.

Additional information is available on the webpage for each project:

Technical Assistance for Rural Transportation Systems: Connecting Rural Transportation with Economic Opportunity (Georgia)

Technical Assistance for Rural Transportation Systems: Connecting Rural Transportation with Economic Opportunity (Arkansas)