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 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

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)

 

WTI wins AARP Community Challenge Grant for Bozeman Street Project

Volunteers paint traffic calming murals along residential street.Congratulations are due to WTI and the City of Bozeman, recently selected for a Community Challenge grant awarded by the American Association for Retired People (AARP). WTI partnered with the City to submit a proposal for a traffic calming project, which will include pedestrian crossings, curb extensions, and traffic circles.  It will build on ongoing efforts of the partnership and neighborhood groups to test and evaluate temporary calming projects for effectiveness and public acceptance.

The AARP Community Challenge project awarded nearly $1.6 million to “quick-action” projects across the country, focusing on community projects that make immediate improvements or help jumpstart long-term progress.  Bozeman was one of only 159 projects to be selected from a highly competitive pool of more than 1600 applications.  In 2017, the City of Bozeman, WTI and their  other partners received an AARP Community Challenger grant for the Mobile Pop-up Project Trailer.

“We’re very excited to have continued support from the Livable Communities initiative at AARP,” said WTI Project Assistant Dani Hess, who led the award submission effort. “It’s great to see these short-term projects move towards longer term improvements with support from the City of Bozeman and the neighborhood groups who took initiative to make their streets friendlier for all.”

Developing Scenic Bikeways in Rural Areas: New Resource Available

Cyclist travels along a curve on a mountainous highwayCould a scenic bikeway attract more bicycle tourists to the parks, historic sites and other attractions in your area? Is your agency responsible for operating and maintaining a rural road where a bikeway is proposed? A new resource is now available that can help agencies that oversee rural roads develop safe routes that enhance bicycle travel networks.

Designating Scenic Bikeways: A Framework for Rural Road Owners is a U.S. Federal Highway Administration toolkit developed by WTI, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Association of Oregon Counties. This toolkit is intended not only to help Oregon agencies navigate the scenic bikeways designation process, but to assist other land management agencies, road owners, and bicycle proponent groups to work together to develop bikeways.

Resources in this guide will help project partners to:

  • Identify and discuss key factors for making decisions about bikeway designations,
  • Address common concerns such as safety, liability, funding and maintenance,
  • Communicate effectively with bicycle groups, road owners and the public, and
  • Follow a clear process for developing bikeway designation programs.

“As bicycle travel and tourism continue to grow in popularity across the country, more communities are working to attract bicycle tourists to spend money in their area,” said Principal Investigator Rebecca Gleason; “At the same time, agencies that oversee these rural roads are concerned about the safety of people biking on roads that may have active logging and that lack maintenance funds. We hope this new resource will help balance the opportunities presented by scenic bikeways with the concerns of the agencies responsible for operating and maintaining these rural roads.”

Designating Scenic Bikeways: A Framework for Rural Road Owners is available on the project page of the WTI website.

A Calming Presence – Street Art Aims to Slow Neighborhood Traffic

Volunteer poses with fish mural painted on Bozeman street as part of traffic calming projectTwo intersections in downtown Bozeman have unusual new inhabitants – brightly colored trout that swim and leap through a water mural painted right on the street.

Neighbors, volunteers, and educators helped create the installation, which is intended as a traffic calming measure to slow down cars traveling through this residential neighborhood.  It is the most recent project in an ongoing collaboration by the City of Bozeman and WTI to test temporary, low cost strategies in areas where neighbors express concerns about speeding vehicles.  In this case, the installations are located on South Church Street at the Olive Street and Bogert Place intersections, near popular pedestrian destinations including the library, Bogert Park, and Peets Hill.  “This is an area that will benefit a lot from these little design features,” WTI project assistant Dani Hess said. “It creates a visual narrowing that makes it a little harder to just cruise through here.”

WTI and the City of Bozeman have implemented other types of temporary calming projects.  Recently, they worked with the Lindley Park neighborhood group to install traffic circles on Cypress Street, which are intended to slow down vehicles driving by Lindley Park during events. Local businesses donated plants for both projects – Cashman’s, Vissers, Gallatin Valley Greenhouses at Bogert, and Greenspace LandGroup of student shows off painted traffic circle project in Bozeman Montana 2019scaping at Lindley.

Earlier in 2019, partners installed pop-up traffic circles near the Fairgrounds, and in the Cooper Park and Valley Unit neighborhoods.  Last year, WTI also worked with the City of Helena on a similar project. These projects have recorded reductions in traffic speeds ranging from 2% to 14%.

The educators who joined in on the painting projects have been in Bozeman participating in the Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program.  High school and community college STEM teachers spend six we

eks learning about transportation research and technology, and then translate it into curriculum to take back to their classrooms.

The fish mural project received great local media attention including an article in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, and a feature story on NBC Montana News.

If you’ve seen the recent installations in person, organizers would love to hear your feedback!  Take a few minutes to fill out the Bogert Park project survey and/or the Cypress/Lindley Park survey.

Volunteers pose with with painted street mural traffic calming project in Bozeman Montana 2019

New Transportation Fellow Arrives at National Wildlife Refuge

Group photos of attendees at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge attending 2019 Fellows orientationThe Public Lands Transportation Fellows program has welcomed its first fellow for 2019-2020! In early July, Naomi Firemen arrived at the Potomac River National Wildlife Refuge Complex for training in her new position.  The Complex encompasses three individual wildlife refuges in the Virginia/Washington D.C. area.  Most of Naomi’s work will focus on improving transportation options at the Occoquan Bay NWR, a 600-acre refuge that is home to many migratory species and is currently expanding its facilities for visitors.  She will also explore opportunities to enhance transportation between Occoquan Bay and the other two refuges within the complex.

The Public Lands Transportation Fellows (PLTF) program provides fellowships to outstanding masters and doctoral graduates in a transportation-related field. Fellows have the unique opportunity to work at a federal land unit to plan or implement a project addressing visitor transportation issues for approximately one year.

Photo Caption: (left to right) Carl Melberg, USFWS Region 5 transportation coordinator; Amanda Daisey, USFWS PRNWRC Project Leader; Nathan Beauchamp, USFWS Transportation Program Analyst; Naomi Fireman, PRNWRC PLTF; Jaime Sullivan, PLTF Manager; Laura Whorton, USFWS Branch Chief of Transportation and Data Management; and Phil Shapiro, STC.