In a recent article, High Country News provides an update on the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority, a Montana coalition that is working to revive a passenger rail line that would span 600 miles across the state. “Montana Counties Band Together to Reinvigorate Passenger Rail” summarizes efforts to secure local, state and federal support, as well as funding, to restore Amtrak service that would connect residents to some of the larger cities in the state, including Missoula, Bozeman, and Billings. WTI Director David Kack was interviewed for the article, discussing how rail service can provide valuable mobility options for people in rural towns who can no longer drive or who lack access to a vehicle.
WTI is launching a new project to provide technical assistance to a small county in southern Ohio. Led by Principal Investigator Andrea Hamre, the research team will work with the Buckeye Hills Regional Council in Meigs County, helping to coordinate mobility, economic resilience, and substance use disorder workshops. In addition, the project will support the initiation of a mobility management program.
This project is part of an ongoing collaboration with the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO). Since 2017, WTI has conducted five technical assistance projects in rural regions around the country to enhance access to transportation. The Ohio study is one of four new NADO projects launching in 2021.
Project Page: Supporting Mobility Options in Meigs County, Ohio
In 2015, WTI’s Small Urban and Rural Livability Center and West Region Transportation Workforce Center embarked on a collaborative project with partners from the Russian University of Transport (RUT), the Russian Federation’s largest university focused on transportation science and engineering. The project assessed and shared education and training resources to foster accessible transit services in small urban and rural areas.
Since that time, the international exchange of information between RUT and MSU has continued. On November 18, RUT hosted an international conference under the auspices of UNESCO and co-organized together with the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO and the Russian Academy of Sciences, titled “The Role of Transport Science and Education in Achieving Social, Environmental and Technological Sustainability of Societies.” RUT invited WTI to identify speakers for the conference on topics related to mobility, accessibility, sustainability and safety.
Andrea Hamre, Research Associate at the Western Transportation Institute, presented “Poverty, Race, and Transport Justice in Rural and Small Urban Communities.” Former WTI graduate research fellow and current Wildlife Biologist for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, Whisper Means, presented “Relationships Across a Highway: Roadkill, Politics and Landscape Connectivity on the Flathead Indian Reservation.” Judy Shanley, Assistant Vice President at Easterseals and Director of the National Center for Mobility Management, presented “Developing a Transportation Workforce that Values the Inclusion of Individuals with Disabilities in Service and Operations.”
This summer, WTI welcomed two new researchers who will provide multi-disciplinary expertise and support across several program areas.
Matthew 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.
Danae 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.
It’s on folks! The Bozeman Commuter Challenge kicked off on June 1 and runs through June 30. Log your bike, walk, bus, or carpool trips all month long! Are you signed up at bozemancommute.org? Head there to register, and check out how it works by reading the Commuter Challenge fact sheet.
For the first week, check out the daily activities for Bike Week. Lots of local businesses will be offering free coffee, snacks or other surprises during morning or evening commute hours.
WTI is a partner with the Bozeman Commuter Project for this event, so let’s do our part!
Congratulations to the City of Bozeman, one of only three communities across the nation selected to receive State of the Art Transportation Trainings from Transportation for America (T4America). WTI’s Rebecca Gleason served on the team that developed the successful grant application, led by Cathy Costakis of the Montana Nutrition and Physical Activity Program along with Randy Carpenter of Future West, Jim Madden of Mountain Time Arts, with support from Bozeman Mayor Cyndy Andrus. Through this program, Bozeman will receive technical training workshops from T4America on how to partner with local arts leaders and organizations to develop “out of the box” transportation solutions and broaden public support for current or future projects. Bozeman hopes to engage its vibrant arts community into transportation planning efforts across the Gallatin Valley, and in particular, into initiatives to create a first-class regional transit system as the region grows. “We are excited to be selected for this unique program, which is great fit for Bozeman given how rapidly our population is growing,” said Rebecca.
The full announcement and more information is available on the T4America website.