News

WTI Schedule for the 2023 TRB Annual Meeting

Many of WTI’s employees will attend the 2023 Transportation Research Board (TRB) Annual Meeting (January 8-12, Washington, D.C.) to participate in an international collaboration and ideas exchange. They will also share their own research and expertise in poster sessions, lectures, and council meetings.

“Expected to attract thousands of transportation professionals from around the world, the meeting program covers all transportation modes, with sessions and workshops addressing topics of interest to policy makers, administrators, practitioners, researchers, and representatives of government, industry, and academic institutions. Workshops take place on the first and last day of the meeting.” (TRB Annual Meeting Homepage)

If you are attending TRB, we’d love to see you! Join us at any of the events listed on the schedule below.

Sunday, January 8th

9:00 AM – 12:00 PM Laura Fay, presiding Low-Volume Roads Sustainable Pavement Design and Rehabilitation Methods (AKD30, AKP30) Workshop 1019 Convention Center, 202A

Monday, January 9th

8:00 AM – 9:45 AM Sajid Raza Statewide GNSS-RTN Systems: Survey of Practice Poster Session 2040, Board Number A203, Presentation Number TRBAM-23-00227 Convention Center, Hall A
8:00 AM – 9:45 AM Laura Fay, presiding Low-Volume Roads Conference Planning Meeting (AKD30) Marriott Marquis, Cherry Blossom (Mezz)
1:30 PM – 3:15 PM Patrick McMahon Blazing Trails in the 21st Century: Using E-Bikes to Map Trail Conditions in National Parks and Beyond Poster Session 3094, Board Number B712, Presentation Number P23-20670 Convention Center, Hall A
1:30 PM – 3:15 PM Charles Gould Laboratories on the Lakes: National Parks in Michigan: Drive, Walk, Ride, and Sail into a Multimodal Future Poster Session 3094, Board Number B713, Presentation Number P23-20672 Convention Center, Hall A
3:45 PM – 5:30 PM Laura Fay

Karalyn Clouser

Brooms, Blades, and Ice Breakers: Alternative Mechanical Snow Removal Innovations Lectern Session 2188, Presentation Number P23-20151 Convention Center, 102B
6:00 PM – 7:30 PM Natalie Villwock-Witte

Karalyn Clouser

Laura Fay

Effectiveness of Highway Safety Public Education at Montana Motor Vehicle Division and Vehicle Registration Stations by Streaming a Variety of Safety Content Poster Session 2227, Board Number A110, Presentation Number TRBAM-23-01300 Convention Center, Hall A

Tuesday, January 10th

10:15 AM – 12:00 PM Jamie Sullivan, presiding Impact of Climate Change on Rural Areas Lectern Session 2057, Introduction & Concluding Remarks Convention Center, 115B
10:15 AM – 12:00 PM Patrick McMahon, presenting Towards a proactive climate adaptation model: Long-term access and resilience planning at North Cascades National Park Lectern Session 2057, Presentation #4 – 15 min Convention Center, 115B
10:15 AM – 12:00 PM Ahmed Al-Kaisy Identification of Potential Improvements to the Highway Capacity Manual Methodology for Rural Bicyclists and Bicyclist Classification Poster Session 3148, Board Number B626, Presentation Number TRBAM-23-02602 Convention Center, Hall A
1:30 PM – 3:15 PM Ahmed Al-Kaisy Capacity at All-Way Stop Control Intersections: A Case Study Poster Session 3147, Board Number B617, Presentation Number TRBAM-23-00822 Convention Center, Hall A
1:30 PM – 3:15 PM Sajid Raza

Ahmed Al-Kaisy

Influence Area at Signalized and Stop-Control Intersections: Operational Analysis Poster Session 3148, Board Number B627, Presentation Number TRBAM-23-01414 Convention Center, Hall A
1:30 PM – 5:30 PM Natalie Villwock-Witte, presiding Transportation Needs of National Parks and Public Lands Committee (AEP20) Marriott Marquis, Liberty Salon K (M4)
6:00 PM – 7:30 PM David Kack, presiding/moderating Performance Assessment of Rural On-Demand Transit Service Lectern Session 3209 Convention Center, 147A

Wednesday, January 11th

8:00 AM – 12:00 PM Laura Fay, presiding Low-Volume Roads Committee Meeting (AKD30) Marriott Marquis, Tulip (Mezz)
10:15 AM – 12:00 PM Jamie Sullivan, presiding Rural Issues Coordinating Council (A0040C) Marriott Marquis, Liberty Salon N (M4)

IN THE NEWS: WTI Road Ecology Program Manager: Montreal Presentation Featured in International News Service

WTI’s Road Ecology Program Manager, Rob Ament, participated in a half-day event, held on the side of the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Global Biodiversity Framework meetings in Montreal, Canada on December 15, 2022. Hosted by the Infrastructure and Nature Coalition at the Nature Positive Pavilion, Rob led off the session devoted to “Nature Positive Infrastructure: Mainstreaming Biodiversity to Safeguard People and the Planet.”

He focused on Asia’s Linear Infrastructure safeGuarding Nature (ALIGN) Project, funded by USAID and implemented by the World Wildlife Fund and the Center for Large Landscape Conservation (CLLC). Rob serves as a Senior Conservationist for CLLC and has been instrumental in bringing more international attention to the issue of safeguarding nature during the development of infrastructure, such as roads and railways.

Highlights from Ament’s talk at the event were featured in an article by Sahana Ghosh, “Helping wildlife navigate road and railway infrastructure,” published online by Mongabay, an international news service.

WTI Part of $2.25M Tribal Transport Effort

As part of a consortium that was recently awarded up to $2.25 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation, WTI will provide transportation outreach and technical assistance to tribes across the Upper Great Plains and Intermountain West through the Tribal Technical Assistance Program (TTAP). Led by the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute at North Dakota State University, the program will work with 29 tribes within the Bureau of Indian Affair’s Rocky Mountain and Great Plains Regions to build tribal capacity in program management, grow the tribal workforce, cultivate and coordinate partnerships, facilitate technology transfer and the implementation of innovations, and share results of similar initiatives across the country.

“WTI looks forward to sharing with tribes in our region, building their capacity to administer and manage their own transportation programs and systems,” said WTI Executive Director David Kack. “WTI has a long history of solving rural road challenges and collaborating with tribes, as well as partnering with the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute.”

Program funds will be shared through NDSU with MSU, South Dakota State University and the University of Wyoming, which all host and manage existing Federal Highway Administration-funded Local Technical Assistance Programs (LTAPs), that provide transportation outreach to local units of government. The collaborating universities have considerable experience with rural roads, rural road safety, and other transportation issues faced by tribes, Kack noted. The collective resources and outreach experience will be invaluable to the efforts of the Northern TTAP.

The Northern TTAP will also work closely with state departments of transportation in the region to tap expertise within those departments and to help them better integrate tribal transportation networks into their own statewide and regional networks.

To learn more about TTAP visit: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/clas/ttap/

WTI Employees Take the Lead in Transportation as TRB Chairs

This January, three WTI researchers will have the honor and responsibility of presiding over committees they chair at the 2023 Transportation Research Board (TRB) Annual Meeting (January 8-12th) in Washington, D.C. TRB is one of seven programs housed in the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, and facilitates research, the exchange of ideas, and guidance on all modes of transportation. As Chairs, Natalie Villwock-Witte, Laura Fay, and Jamie Sullivan will lead the Standing Committee on Transportation Needs in National Parks and Public Lands, the Standing Committee on Low-Volume Roads, and the Rural Transportation Issues Coordinating Council, respectively. The 2023 TRB theme will be Rejuvenation Out of Disruption: Envisioning a Transportation System for a Dynamic Future.

 

Jamie Sullivan, P.E., a Senior Research Engineer at WTI, has extensive experience in applied rural safety and operations research for Departments of Transportation and public lands management agencies. Her work focuses on advanced transportation technologies, including Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) design, implementation, and evaluation. Jamie is currently the Director of the National Center for Rural Road Safety (Safety Center) and Manager of the Public Lands Transportation Fellows program. She has employed her leadership skills as Chair of the TRB Rural Transportation Issues Coordinating Council, A0040C, since its inception in April 2020. It is “the hub of rural transportation issues, conversation, and research in the transportation community,” said Jamie, “and its mission is to promote rural transportation research needs and opportunities across all modes and disciplines within the entire TRB committee structure.” 

A0040C is one of four councils established to lead the TRB Technical Activities committees. “As a new council, I am excited for us to provide more support to committees and information on what we do and how we can work together,” noted Jamie, adding that the Council is currently organizing a group of rural-state representatives to help committees review and develop their rural research problem statements. A0040C will also host a session on the impacts of climate change on rural transportation at the upcoming Annual Meeting and publish a Rural Issue of TR News in Fall 2023.

 

 

Natalie Villwock-Witte, Ph.D., P.E., is an Assistant Research Professor/Research Engineer for WTI and has multi-disciplinary research experience. Her work has covered diverse topics from the development of transportation voucher programs to surveys of millennial’s transportation preferences. Natalie has also developed transportation safety solutions for the National Park Service and other federal agencies, which has prepared her to chair the Committee on Transportation Needs of National Parks and Public Lands – AEP20. The Committee considers transportation of all forms on public lands, including national parks, federally managed lands such as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) holdings, and state parks.  

Natalie has a decade of experience with the Committee on Transportation Needs of National Parks and Public Lands, where she started as a Young Member in 2012 before transitioning to Member in 2016. She took over as Chair in April of 2020 and has accepted the role for another three years. Under Natalie’s leadership, AEP20 was recognized with a TRB Blue Ribbon Award: Moving Research Ideas into Transportation Practice for utilizing new funding and re-engaging state representatives through the NCHRP program. 

Because public land stakeholders are so numerous and diverse, AEP20 has become a vital platform for ideas exchange and identification of research issues and directions between industry leaders in land management, tourism, university systems, consulting, and beyond. “I often find that listening to presentations provides me with a multitude of ideas for additional research avenues, some of which may tie into on-going research and some which may be entirely new,” noted Villwock-Witte, who expressed excitement for the new year. “The Committee recently completed a draft of our Triennial Strategic Plan, and we look forward to discussing its implementation. Our committee has also taken on the task of developing content for TR News and we’ve seen an incredible transition as our long-time members mentor and encourage participation by the next generation of transportation researchers.”

 

 

scenic portrait of laura fay with snow covered mountains and lake in backgroundLaura Fay, M.S. is a WTI Research Scientist who specializes in the intersection of transportation and cold climates. With over a decade of research experience, her work has explored a range of topics, including deicer impacts on pavements and Road Weather Information System (RWIS) development, and guided the implementation of new and innovative winter maintenance practices. Laura serves as the Program Manager for WTI’s Cold Climate Operations and Systems research group and chairs the TRB Standing Committee on Low-Volume Roads – AKD30. The committee focuses on new technology and practices that best support low-volume road users and owners, such as construction, operation, and maintenance techniques and administration strategies.

“The TRB Annual Meeting is an opportunity to meet face to face with committee members, colleagues, and friends to learn from others and share ideas,” said Laura, who has a long history with the Low-Volume Roads Committee. She served as a member for three consecutive years and was awarded the TRB Blue Ribbon Award for Implementation for her work as a key organizer of the 2019 Low Volume Roads Conference in Kalispell, MT. Laura was appointed Chair in 2021 but, due to Covid-19, was unable to attend the meeting in person last year. “That would have been my first annual meeting as committee chair,” she noted. “I feel like I missed out on the experience so I’m excited to be there in person and see all the hard work of the committee in action. I expect a lot of activity and excitement after the disruption of the last couple of years!”

PLT Fellow to Present NPS Transportation Research

Charlie Gould (B.A., History), a Public Lands Transportation Research Fellow (PLTF), will give his final presentation on innovative and emerging mobility technologies in National Parks on December 13th at 11:00 A.M. EST. The PLTF program assigns recent college graduates to a Federal Land Management Agency (FLMA) unit or field office with a known transportation issue. The fellow works with staff to research and implement solutions while gaining career and public service experience. Participants may have the option to transition to a permanent position within their unit at the end of their fellowship.

As a PLTF, Charlie partnered with staff at Yellowstone National Park, Wright Brothers National Monument, and Acadia National Park to conduct autonomous vehicle research, pilot shuttle demonstrations, and investigate emerging technology solutions. His B.A. in History provided him with valuable experience in writing, research, and cartography, which he used to inform his work.  Charlie will continue his research as an Advanced Fellow through September 2024.

To join Charlie’s live presentation, please visit: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8645481247449260629

To learn more about the PLTF program, please visit: https://westerntransportationinstitute.org/professional-development/public-lands-transportation-fellows/

 

UTCs – TCUs Exchange Ideas at Albuquerque Summit

The Small Urban, Rural and Tribal Center on Mobility (SURTCOM) hosted a University Transportation Center (UTC) -Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCU) Summit in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  The October 21st event, sponsored by a CUTC New Initiatives grant, brought together representatives from UTCs and TCUs nationwide to discuss strategies for advancing partnerships that will help connect Native American students to transportation careers and higher education.  Arlando Teller, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Tribal Affairs at the U.S. Department of Transportation, opened with a welcome and overview of the UTC program as well as additional US DOT grant opportunities. Patrick Nemons, Director of the Office of Safety Programs with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, provided attendees with resources and strategies for obtaining federal grants, focusing on the important role minority-serving institutions play in advancing the nation’s transportation programs.

Representatives from UTCs provided attendees with an overview of their research themes and outreach and education efforts, highlighting any existing UTC-TCU partnerships.  The majority of the Summit was spent on roundtable discussions with TCU attendees exploring themes related to research, training, and workforce development needs, linkages between two-year and four-year institutions, and education and outreach efforts to attract diverse students to transportation careers. The workshop wrapped up with a discussion on strategies and guiding principles for establishing mutually beneficial TCU/UTC partnerships.

PROJECT NEWS: WTI Researchers Demystify the Salt Phase Diagram

Road salt, most often sodium chloride (NaCl) melts ice and is a crucial tool for winter maintenance crews around the world. However, the constant application of road salt is resulting in long-term environmental and economic impacts. To slow the negative effects of sodium chloride deicers by optimizing salt use, researchers from WTI and Washington State University completed Understanding the Salt Phase Diagram, a project sponsored by Clear Roads, a Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) pooled fund. Led by Laura Fay, WTI’s Cold Climate Operations and Systems Program Manager, the team completed a literature review and laboratory investigation of the NaCl phase diagram, a graphical representation of the physical states (liquids or solid salt/ice) of salt brine depending on concentration and temperature. They distilled the information into training materials to help winter maintenance practitioners better understand the salt phase diagram and to support efficient and effective roadway deicing.

To provide visual aids for the training materials, the researchers needed to demonstrate the behavior of salt solutions in a laboratory setting. They collected video and photographic evidence of ice formation in salt brine at a range of concentrations and temperatures, verifying the familiar process of lowering ice’s freezing point with the addition of salt. They also clarified the effects of high salt concentrations on ice formation.

By synthesizing their laboratory data, the researchers created an updated NaCl phase diagram, fact sheet, and accompanying video. WTI’s Visual Communications Manager, Neil Hetherington, ensured that the phase diagram was associated with easily recognizable design elements (e.g., green = good = ice prevention). Fay noted, “Neil [Hetherington] took subject matter that was science and engineering heavy and converted it into useful, digestible information that is easily transferable. He also took time to collect quality photographs which effectively conveyed the information.”

The research has been well received. Fay has presented the training materials and findings to multiple organizations. “These materials serve as powerful education tools,” noted Fay, “and they are being used across the country.”

The full report is available on the project webpage of the WTI website.  The video may be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzrvOoJGH_w

PROJECT News: Scan of Communities with Fewer than 10,000 People finds Biking/Walking to be “Wheelie” Popular

Walking and bicycling have become increasingly popular transportation modes as people consider the positive impacts of active living. While there are examples of large, urban areas driving the implementation of infrastructure to support these modes within their jurisdictions, communities with populations smaller than 10,000 people may have limited infrastructure and know-how. Since 84% of communities in the United States are home to 10,000 people or fewer, these geographically distributed communities can have big impacts on transportation trends.

To investigate multimodal transportation options in these small towns, WTI researchers Natalie Villwock-Witte and Karalyn Clouser conducted Case Studies of Communities of Less than 10,000 People with Bicycle & Pedestrian Infrastructure. Funded by five state departments of transportation and the Small Urban, Rural and Tribal Center on Mobility (SURTCOM), the project examined 15 communities across five states (Florida,  Kentucky, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Vermont).

Researchers traveled to each community to conduct on-site research on existing infrastructure and interact with community members. They collected geo-located photographs and data on active transportation infrastructure and condensed this information into infrastructure maps, conducted interviews, and provided on-site survey distribution. “For rural areas, in-person contact is key,” noted Villwock-Witte. “Local buy-in had a dramatic impact on data collection.”

The resulting case studies for each community highlight examples of active transportation infrastructure and outline characteristics that lead to a successful bike/walk culture. Also, the final report synthesizing all the case studies can provide guidance for other small communities. “These case studies,” said Villwock-Witte, “show that [bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure] does exist and describe how small communities across the U.S. have put it in place. The selected case studies are not the exception to the rule.”  As existing infrastructure, such as state highways through small towns, is reimagined, communities will look to their peers for inspiration noted Villwock-Witte. “I see lots of opportunities to build on this work in the near future and for many years to come.”

The case studies and final report are available on the project page of the WTI website

WTI Researchers to Teach MSU Course on the Intersection of Transportation & Health

Transportation systems that prioritize motor vehicles have been linked to poor air quality and negative health outcomes such as asthma, may endanger walkers and cyclists, and disproportionately shift the negative effects onto minority and low-income communities. As a new generation of transportation engineers, planners, and policymakers join the workforce, it is important that they understand and have the skills to address the relationship between transportation and public health.

WTI researchers Rebecca Gleason and Matthew Madsen have partnered with the MSU College of Engineering to teach ECIV 491: Sustainable Transportation and Community Health. The 3-credit spring semester course is for students with Junior standing or above who are studying engineering, community health, planning, or a policy discipline. “Cities and towns are not built within silos by only engineers,” said Madsen. “For them to be sustainable and healthy, they need to be planned and developed by many different professionals. This class will give engineers and students in other disciplines the chance to learn from each other.”

Sustainable Transportation and Community Health is designed to provide students with a broad perspective on transportation design by exploring the evolution of both the U.S. and Dutch transportation systems, their divergence, and the design standards that support active infrastructure. “The Netherlands used to be much more car-dependent,” Gleason noted, “but due to a concerted effort starting in the 1970s they have become a model for a more people-focused transportation network. However, the U.S. fully embraced the private automobile, especially after World War II, and while there are some places around the country that are more bicycle, pedestrian, and transit-friendly, they are now the exception.”

The course will also introduce students to the policies and tools used to incorporate health into transportation planning, as well as provide hands-on experience to plan, implement, and evaluate a quick-build traffic-calming project. “The course goal,” remarked Madsen, “is to demonstrate the need for a balanced transportation system that incorporates health and focuses on equity in relation to all users, especially the more vulnerable ones.”

Registration for ECIV 491: Sustainable Transportation and Community Health is now open for spring 2023. The class will be held Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:2am5 to10:40am. For more course information please contact Rebecca Gleason or Matthew Madsen.

 

WTI Employees Recognized for Years of Service

Every October, Montana State University hosts the Milestones in Service Award banquet to recognize employees who reached five-year employment increments during the previous fiscal year. This year’s event included seven WTI employees celebrating significant work milestones. Of special note are David Kack, WTI’s Executive Director and Director of the Small Urban, Rural and Tribal Center on Mobility (SURTCOM), and Neil Hetherington, WTI’s Visual Communications Manager, for whom 2022 marks 20 years as MSU employees.  Thank you all for your years of hard work and expertise!

20 Years

Neil Hetherington, Visual Communications Manager (WTI)

David Kack, MS, Executive Director (WTI) & Director (SURTCOM)

15 Years

Laura Fay, MS, Senior Research Scientist (WTI) & Program Manager (Cold Climate Operations & Systems)

Rebecca Gleason, MS, PE, Research Engineer II (SURTCOM)

5 Years

Luca Allaria, IT Support Specialist (WTI)

Shawna Page, Field Training Professional (Local Technical Assistance Program; LTAP)

Matthew Ulberg, PE, Director (LTAP)