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Transportation Research Applications and Instrumentation Laboratory (TRAIL)

Project #: 426886
Start Date: 10/01/2002
End Date: 03/31/2008

The establishment of the Transportation Research, Applications and Instrumentation Laboratory (TRAIL) would involve the fusion of many aspects of current research being done at the Western Transportation Institute. The laboratory would provide a test bed for the various types of research currently being conducted by the Western Transportation Institute. Input from our multi-disciplinary staff of researchers poses exciting possibilities for creating and testing new applications and uses of technology. The Western Transportation Institute’s goal is to open a facility at which research and development can be conducted, and tested, for the purpose of providing road users with a safe traveling environment. Phase I The first phase of this project will be to develop the requirements and determine the potential partnerships for a local component of the transportation laboratory including instrumentation, communication, and a data processing and management center. In working with the MSU Senior Design Capstone class, WTI will direct a multi-disciplinary group of students to conduct outreach and analysis to determine appropriate requirements for the laboratory.Phase II The goal of phase two is to establish a “smart travel corridor” for 19th Street in Bozeman that promotes a safe and efficient traveling environment for its users. The diverse nature and increasing traffic volumes of 19th Street qualifies it as an appropriate candidate for the initial phase of this project. Traffic volumes on 19th Street have currently exceeded projected expectations and continue to increase. High traffic volume promotes safety and delay concerns. Given the increased development along the 19th Street corridor, we expect an even greater increase in traffic volume, congestion, and incidents over time. Deployment of traffic, weather, and road condition sensors will allow WTI to obtain real-time and summary data describing travel conditions. These data will be communicated to the TRAIL data management center for processing and archiving. Methods of communicating real-time travel conditions to motorists will be explored. Phase III The goal of phase three will be to implement new systems and technologies as funding and time permit. Data may be collected from sensors in the Bozeman area, across Montana, and from existing data streams in other WTI partner states. Locations will be evaluated and determined as the project progresses. The Transportation Research, Applications and Instrumentation Laboratory located at Montana State University would serve three purposes:• Research: TRAIL will support the evaluation of new software and technology. It would provide a simulated environment for human factors testing. Data collected by the laboratory would be used for the development of incident response plans, signal timing schemes, and special events traffic coordination. Data could be used as a reference point for future expansion and development plans along the roadway. The transportation research, applications and instrumentation laboratory would be a test bed for a variety of new human factors, weather, pavement, animal detection, and traffic technologies.• Education: A transportation research, applications and instrumentation laboratory located in the university setting would enable students to receive hands-on training using current data collection software and weather, animal detection, traffic, pavement, and human factors technologies prior to entering the work force. It would provide a small classroom environment for teaching and provide ample opportunity for thesis and graduate student research studies. • Technology Transfer: The Western Transportation Institute’s laboratory at Montana State University would collect real-time data that would, in turn, be used to benefit small urban and rural communities. A laboratory such as the one we are opening assists communities with future growth plans by collecting and sharing data that can be used by various agencies to determine community needs and provide solutions to ongoing problems. State of MontanaMontana Department of TransportationCity of BozemanGallatin CountyFederal Highway AdministrationCalifornia Department of TransportationOregon Department of TransportationSwiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche ResearchNational Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Prevention, and Institute of Low Temperature Science Hokkaido University


The Western Transportation Institute’s Transportation Research, Applications and Instrumentation Laboratory (TRAIL) will demonstrate and evaluate various data acquisition, control systems, information delivery, and management systems in a small urban and rural environment. Systems will be deployed that relate to weather and winter mobility, highway infrastructure design and maintenance, wildlife and ecology, commercial vehicle operations, emergency medical services and public transportation. TRAIL will be developed and deployed in multiple phases with Phases 1 and 2 being deployed locally at Montana State University-Bozeman. Subsequent phases will involve collaborations with department of transportation in California and Oregon and international partnerships with Switzerland (Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research) and Japan (National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Prevention, and Institute of Low Temperature Science Hokkaido University).


  • Suzanne Lassacher
    Suzanne Lassacher


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