TRANSCEND Research Facility

Transcend test track with text indicating At our nationally recognized transportation research facility in Montana, four miles of continuous track bridge greater distances, allowing innovations to make the jump from the laboratory to the real world. And while our real world features extreme weather and conditions, it also features a few perks the real world doesn’t like instant weather, a highly innovative, Cover of TRANSCEND brochure featuring various images of research projects and an aerial view of the test tracks.multidisciplinary research team and the diagnostics to ensure every test is accurate and valuable.
We’re proud to partner with researchers, engineers, academics, and inventors to go, well, wherever the open road can take us.

Transcend Brochure

Does your project need an open road? Located in Central Montana at the former Lewistown airport, Transcend’s research center offers four miles of real-world paved test surface, a highly innovative, multidisciplinary research staff, and a comprehensive communications, power, and data networking infrastructure. In short, we’re the only laboratory of our kind: diverse, isolated, and ready to test, develop, and research virtually any innovation that relies on the open road.

To date, we’ve tested de-icing equipment and techniques, evaluated animal detection systems, and confirmed the durability of fly-ash concrete. But with plenty of room, long stretches of road, and zero interruptions, we welcome you to use our facility for whatever you can dream up.
Collage showing various views of snowmaking machines


  • Safety and Operations
  • Infrastructure Maintenance and Materials
  • Human Factors
  • Winter Maintenance and Effects
  • Road Ecology


  • Systems Engineering, Development and Integration
  • Specialized Driver Training
  • Sensor Design
  • Recycled Materials Utilization


  • Vehicle Infrastructure Integration
  • Intelligent Transportation Systems
  • Product Testing
  • Winter Driving Conditions
  • Infrastructure Corrosion

For more information contact Eli Cuelho

We envision that the Transcend facility will be one of the premier field research facilities in the nation. The geographic location, infrastructure, and relative proximity to laboratory and educational institutions lend this facility a unique blend of resources with which to perform research that will benefit maintenance and operations issues in transportation.

WSDOT is happy and fortunate to already be involved in ongoing research projects at this facility, and looks foward to a long and fruitful relationship with Transcend and its many partners.

— Chris Christopher, Washington State DOT


Customize the Transcend Facility to Suit Your Needs

With 230 acres of land containing 4 miles of former runways and taxiways at the Lewistown Airport, Transcend’s research facility offers virtually limitless possibilities. From 4,500 feet of water line drawing from a 15 feet deep, 1.3 million gallon reservoir, we can pump 1000 gallons per minute at 500 psi – creating a blinding snowstorm or torrential downpour on the roadway. A heated shop building is available for instrumenting vehicles, conducting experiments, or maintaining equipment. A remote research office is connected to a robust communication system. We have a weather station to transmit data to the main Western Transportation Institute (WTI) research office in Bozeman. There is ample pavement space and open ground to customize research areas to fit the needs of each unique project. The test area is isolated from public roads, enabling researchers to work safely while still on a full-scale road bed.

Transcend can easily accommodate a project that needs an entirely new road bed constructed and instrumented — we have the space and the people power. Whereas field testing has typically been conducted on sections of highway where natural events and traffic are difficult to control and results can be clouded by a variety of variables, many of these factors can be controlled at Transcend so that researchers may better understand what technologies, methodologies, or ideas will work best. Transcend is an ideal location for creating custom, large-scale, product or equipment-testing environments. If a foot of snow is needed to test the capabilities of a snow removal system but the skies are blue, as long as the temperature is cold you won’t have to wait long for a snow storm at Transcend!

Alternate Materials:
Over 350 million tons of construction material is used each year in the United States

Transcend offers a great place to investigate full scale production and field performance of new materials for transportation infrastructure construction. Over 350 million tons of construction materials are used on our nation’s transportation infrastructure each year, which offers a considerable opportunity to reduce infrastructure related costs, energy consumption and environmental impacts through the research and development of new construction materials. While initial work on these materials may be done in the laboratory, it can be big step to move out of this relatively small and manageable environment into the big, bad world. Transcend can provide a place to experiment with scaled up production and placement procedures, as well as a look at corresponding field performance, before mainstreaming a new material.

An excellent example of an innovative new transportation construction material and Transcend’s role in its development is a new concrete WTI has been investigating for the past decade. This concrete contains no Portland cement (the binder used in conventional concrete); rather, the only binder used is fly ash, a by-product of burning coal to generate electricity. Each year over 71 million tons of fly ash are produced in the United States, of which 59 percent are disposed of in landfills. WTI’s ground-breaking research on this and other alternative construction products will reduce the need for, and energy consumed in mining and processing virgin materials for road and other construction projects.

In our research on 100 percent fly ash concrete, we have found it to consistently offer the strength, serviceability, and durability of traditional Portland cement concrete. We further have taken this new concrete out of the laboratory and into the field, batching and placing it using conventional construction equipment in a major demonstration project at Transcend. All of the concrete used in the low and high pressure pump houses, shop buildings, and sidewalks at Transcend is 100 percent fly ash concrete. The concrete was batched by a local ready mix company, and placed and finished by a local concrete contractor. Some of the foundation walls and floor slabs were instrumented with strain and temperature sensors, to monitor the curing and shrinkage behavior of the material.

As a natural extension of this work, we also have been investigating the use of pulverized glass as the aggregate in 100 percent fly ash concrete. We have done considerable laboratory work on this material, as well as a few demonstration projects around the state. We are looking forward to the opportunity to further investigate the production, placement, and performance of this new and remarkably green concrete in future projects at Transcend.

Animal Detection Systems:
Helping Save Lives and Save Money

Between one and two million collisions between cars and large animals occur annually in the United States costing over $8 Billion. As a result, there is an increased focus on this issue on a state level, and state departments of transportation (DOTs) are exploring innovative new mitigation technologies, including animal detection and warning systems (ADS). These systems have been shown to reduce collisions by as much as 80% in countries such as Switzerland.

As part of its state-of-the-practice Road Ecology program and the encouraging findings of preliminary ADS testing, WTI has developed a Roadside Animal Detection System test-bed (RADS) at the Transcend research facility in Lewistown, Montana. The test-bed allows researchers to evaluate and compare the reliability of numerous systems at the same site under similar circumstances. “It’s the first facility in the U.S. that has the capability and space to do side-by-side evaluations of the reliability of animal detection systems,” said Principal Investigator Dr. Marcel Huijser. For state DOTs, the WTI facility represents an invaluable opportunity to test systems prior to deployment. Transcend can help DOTs to select the system that meets their needs and that performs well given the environmental conditions at the road section concerned, increasing the probability of a successful deployment that protects humans and animals from collisions.

Through initial research conducted in partnership with the Montana Department of Transportation and FHWA, WTI and Dr. Marcel Huijser investigated the reliability of nine different animal detection systems from five different manufacturers (Xtralis, ICx Radar systems [formerly STS], Calonder Energie, Camrix and Goodson [Trailmaster]). Researchers installed the nine ADS to detect horses and llamas that roamed in an enclosure and recorded the date and time of each detection for each system. The animal movements were also recorded by six infrared cameras with a date and time stamp. “By analyzing the images and the detection data, we were able to evaluate the system for a variety of reliability parameters,” said Dr. Marcel Huijser; “of particular interest, five of the nine systems detected all or nearly all animal movements (>91%) with no or few false positives.”

Researchers also investigated the effect of environmental conditions such as temperature, precipitation and wind on the reliability performance of the individual systems. The results suggested that the choice for certain detection technologies may depend on the site conditions at the road section selected for the potential deployment of an animal detection system.

For more information contact Marcel Huijser

Snow Making Capabilities:
Turn 24,000 gallons of water into a big pile of snow.

Transcend snow-making equipment makes 8,000 cubic feet of snow per hour using 24,000 gallons of water. As long as the temperature is below 25 degrees and the humidity is low, three, multi-positional, mobile snow guns create an impressive pile of snow in short order. The snowmaking machines at Transcend create a unique winter testing environment, allowing us to control study variables, including snow, rain, and ice.

Lewistown, Montana provides a very diverse climate – hot, cold and wet seasons – to complement the snowmaking ability. When the temperature is warmer, the snow guns can create a torrential downpour and when the temperature is just right, the guns can be used to create an icy nightmarish roadway to test deicers and other winter maintenance techniques.

We partner with researchers, engineers, academics, inventors and anyone else who can see the value of the open road. Through our collaborations, we’ve helped to make roads safer, better, and more durable. We owe it to our partners to see where else our path can take us.

Partnerships are the only way to effectively conduct relevant and successful research efforts in today’s competitive, collaborative and global research marketplace. Transcend and the research conducted there allows for partnerships to develop and grow in an off the transportation grid facility. These partnerships in turn create a dynamic environment for sharing ideas and leveraging funding.

— Steve Albert, WTI Director
Collection of Transcend Partner Logos. USDOT FHWA, Idaho Transportation Department, Oregon Department of Transportation, Washington State DOT, Lewistown Chamber of Commerts, Montana Office of Public Instruction, Montana Department of Transportation, Pacific Northwest Snowfighters


The Transcend research facility dates back to 2003 when former Fergus County Commissioner Vern Peterson first proposed the idea of using the decommissioned runways and taxiways in new ways. “Vern had the vision to turn the airport, which was physically underutilized, into a regional asset,” said Western Transportation Institute (WTI) Director Steve Albert. “He and Port Authority member Don Bost have shown unwavering commitment to turn the concept of a research center into reality.” In 2006, U.S. Senator Max Baucus was instrumental in securing federal funding for Transcend, which provides $1 million a year for four years toward the growth and development of the research facility.

Transcend is now a highly flexible, nationally recognized transportation research laboratory to conduct research projects that require a large-scale and controlled testing environment. This facility can be used to provide straightforward definitive answers through customizable real-world transportation conditions, a passionate and multidisciplinary research team, as well as comprehensive data collection tools. Ultimately, Transcend is an open road to discover innovative solutions through advanced research, development and testing.

WTI was designated by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration as one of the 10 National University Transportation Centers. As a department in the College of Engineering at Montana State University–Bozeman, WTI excels at partnering with faculty, other universities, transportation agencies and private sector partners to continually advance rural transportation research and education. The talented, multidisciplinary staff at WTI conducts research in eight research areas using 7 laboratories, which includes Transcend for large-scale field testing.

The research at Transcend is coordinated by Eli Cuelho, the Infrastructure Maintenance and Materials Program Manager at WTI. Mr. Cuelho is a registered professional engineer with a master’s degree in civil engineering and more than 12 years of experience focusing on a variety of geotechnical, structural and instrumentation projects.

Lewistown, Montana
In response to the widespread defeats of World War II and after the invasions of Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Congress appropriated increased funding for defense operation throughout the country, a large percentage going towards the development of airports. Historical image of propellor airplane at Lewistown AirportAs part of the appropriation, the Great Falls Air Base in Great Falls, Montana was born in 1942. In conjunction with this air base, the Lewistown Satellite Airfield was also constructed for bombsite storage and training purposes. The Army Air Corps operated the airfield for one year between 1942 and 1943 until it was deactivated. In 1947, the City of Lewistown and Fergus County obtained control of the Airfield and it has served as the community municipal airport ever since. Over time, the municipal airport operations sought to better utilize the decommissioned runways and taxiways. As a result, the Montana Office of Public Instruction began leasing portions of the unused runways for driver training in the 1970’s. Additionally, the Lewistown Drag Racing Club holds 4 races per year on another section of the unused runaway system. And now, the Transcend research facility is utilizing the remainder.