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.

TRB Committee Elects WTI Researcher as New Chair

Congratulations to WTI’s Natalie Villwock-Witte! She was selected as the new chair of a National Academy of Sciences Transportation Research Board (TRB) Committee — ADA 40, Transportation Needs of National Parks & Public Lands. She will serve a three-year term starting in April, succeeding outgoing chair and longtime friend of WTI, Steve Suder.

WTI has a long history with this committee and its research.  Retired WTI Executive Director Steve Albert was a founding member and held several leadership positions through the years.  A number of other WTI staff have served on the committee and been active in its activities, including two national conferences on the transportation needs of national parks and public lands.

Postcards from TRB

Group photo of ten WTI staff members at TRB Annual MeetingFourteen WTI researchers, affiliated faculty, fellows, and staff have returned from a busy and productive week at the Transportation Research Board (TRB) Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. The premier transportation research event of the year, the meeting is attended by more than 13,000 transportation leaders, practitioners, and researchers from around the world.  The U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, addressed attendees at the Chair’s luncheon, speaking on initiatives to deploy innovative technologies such as V2X, or “vehicle to everything” communication.

WTI staff played key roles across numerous topics and forums – presenting research at panels and in poster sessions, participating in committees, and leading workshops. One of the highlights was the well-attended workshop on “Rural Transportation for Everyone: Policy and Practice in 2020,” led by Jaime Sullivan.

 

Naomi Fireman at podium giving presentation on e-bikes
Fellow Naomi Fireman presents e-bike research at a panel on bicycle safety

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.

Transportation Fellows Benefit from Networking and Learning Opportunities at TRB Forums

Transportation Fellows Vince Ziols, Naomi Fireman, and Nathan Begay in field with mountain view near Kalispell, Montana.Recently, WTI co-hosted the Transportation Research Board (TRB) International Conference on Low Volume Roads, held in Kalispell, Montana earlier this fall.  Attendees who stayed a few extra days could opt to take part in another Transportation Research Board (TRB) event – the mid-year meeting of the TRB Committee on Transportation Needs of National Parks and Public Lands (ADA40), which has synergistic interests in topics related to providing access and safe travel in rural, remote, or unique locations.

Happy scheduling coincidence?  On the contrary, the two planning committees coordinated the dates of their forums to encourage attendance and allow participants to add value to their trips.  After learning about state-of-the practice management tools for low volume roads at the international conference, members of the National Parks committee held their own business meeting where they addressed emerging issues, such as the impacts and implications of visitors using E-bikes on public lands. Attendees also visited Glacier National Park where they learned about the management challenges of increasing visitation from Park Superintendent Jeff Mow and about transportation impacts on wildlife from Senior Wildlife Biologist John Waller.

The Public Lands Transportation Fellows attended both events and maximized the professional development opportunities.  Current fellows Vince Ziols, Naomi Fireman, and Nathan Begay are each assigned to a federal land unit where they work for one to two years on special transportation projects.  The TRB forums allow them to expand their knowledge on other emerging transportation issues.  Moreover, the Fellows had opportunities (not often available to young professionals) to collaborate and network with national transportation experts and leaders.

“At the Low Volume Roads conference, we were exposed to a productive mix of on-the-ground research and innovative thinking,” recalled the Fellows. “We met all sorts of people working on everything from safety signage to turning rail cars into pedestrian bridges to researching how autonomous vehicles could be used on public lands. We were inspired by everyone’s passion and dedication to public service. At the different field trips and events, we played ‘networking bingo’ and were able to converse with transportation professionals in a variety of fields.”

In addition, the discussion about E-bikes at the ADA 40 Committee meeting led to the development of a lectern session on this topic for the TRB Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. in January 2020. Fellow Naomi Firemen is conducting research on this issue at the Potomac River National Wildlife Refuge Complex. She was added to the January agenda and will have the chance to make a presentation to a national audience.  All three Fellows will also be showcasing posters about their research at the TRB Annual Meeting, which they are looking forward to: “We are excited for this year’s TRB conference to reconnect with the ADA40 committee, expand our networks, and learn about even more current and innovative transportation research topics.”

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.

Transportation Research Board Promotes New CHSC Publications

Cover image of Proactive Traffic Safety report with title and photo of children walking on a sidewalkTwo new traffic safety culture publications, drafted by Center for Health and Safety Culture (CHSC) researchers for the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT), have been featured in the last two national newsletters of the National Academies of Sciences Transportation Research Board (TRB).

Kari Finley, Jay Otto, Nic Ward and Jamie Arpin authored “Proactive Traffic Safety: Empowering Behaviors to Reach Our Shared Vision of Zero Deaths and Serious Injuries,” a primer that defines proactive traffic safety and offers strategies and examples of how agencies can integrate it into their own safety programs and initiatives. This resource includes specific tips and communication tools for working with stakeholders and conducting public education events.

 

Cover image of Traffic Safety Culture Primer report with title and image of a downtown streetFinley, Otto, and Ward also developed the “Traffic Safety Culture Primer,” which introduces the concept of traffic safety culture and how it influences road user behavior. It provides examples of how growing a positive traffic safety culture can be used to enhance safe behaviors around issues such as impaired driving and seat belt use within an organization or at the community level.

CHSC created both primers as part of the Traffic Safety Culture Pooled Fund program, for which MDT serves as the lead agency.  The primers and additional resources are available on the Proactive Traffic Safety webpage and the Traffic Safety Culture Primer webpage of the MDT website.

Montana LTAP Director Elected to National Post

Head shot of LTAP Director Matt UlbergCongratulations, Matt Ulberg!  The Director of the Montana Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP) was elected Vice President of the National Local Technical and Tribal Assistance Program Association (NLTAPA) at the Annual NLTAPA Meeting August 14th in Stowe, Vermont. As the National Association’s Vice-President, Matt also serves as the co-chair of the NLTAPA Partnership Work Group. In 2021, he will serve a term as President of the organization.

LTAPs and Tribal Technical Assistance Programs (TTAPs) provide training and resources to county and tribal transportation agencies on topics such as workzone safety, equipment and vehicle use, and incident management. NLTAPA serves as the national organization supporting 52 LTAP and TTAP partner programs around the United States and Puerto Rico, maintaining a broad focus not only on the needs of the LTAP/TTAP program, but also on the perspective of the NLTAPA partners including the Federal Highway Administration, (FHWA), National Association of County Engineers (NACE), American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), American Public Works Association (APWA), and National Transportation Training Directors (NTTD). The Association’s main objectives are to build awareness about LTAP in the transportation community, assist FHWA with developing strategies for the Program, and build the capacity of each Center to best meet the needs of its customers.

“NLTAPA and our partners are doing important work to increase the knowledge and improve the skills of our current transportation workers, and also to plan for the critical skills that will be needed by the next generation,” said Ulberg. “I’m excited to contribute to national initiatives, as well as enhance resources that I can bring back to our programs in Montana.”

Montana LTAP is an integral part of the network of centers at the Western Transportation Institute (WTI) at MSU-Bozeman.

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