In late April, the Big Sky (MT) Chamber of Commerce hosted a meeting focused on upcoming infrastructure projects in the region. WTI Director David Kack presented an update on the $10 million federal TIGER Grant, which will fund safety and mobility improvements along U.S. Highway 64/Lone Mountain Trail. WTI partnered with Gallatin County, Sanderson Stewart, and other regional stakeholders on the proposal that secured the grant. In his remarks, Kack emphasized the importance of this partnership in helping a rural region win a major federal award. Construction is anticipated to begin this summer on individual projects, to include new turn lanes, vehicle pull-out areas, wildlife crossing signs, a pedestrian tunnel, and recreational paths. More highlights from the meeting were covered in an article by Explore Big Sky.
An NCHRP project led by WTI is the focus of a current feature article in Traffic and Transit, a national transportation publication. “Mapping the Future of Rural Transportation Research” highlights the development of the Research Roadmap for Rural Transportation Issues (NCHRP 20-122), which will provide a detailed, long-term agenda for research aimed at improving rural transportation throughout the U.S., including the creation of a series of research needs statements on specific topics. The project is led by Principal Investigator Jaime Sullivan, in collaboration with Iowa State University.
To date, the project team has produced 15 topical research portfolios; 26 research needs statements; and 13 research problem statements, which are more fully developed project proposals ready to submit for funding consideration. Sullivan provided an update on the project at the Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting, during the Rural Transportation Issues Coordination Council meeting, which she chairs. The new Council will serve as the home for ongoing activities related to the Research Roadmap project.
Congratulations to the National Center for Rural Road Safety, which was recently named as one of three finalists in the country for the 2020 Green Cross for Safety Award – Safety Advocate!
Each year, the National Safety Council selects honorees for demonstrating leadership in keeping people safe, with awards in three categories: Safety Advocate, Safety Excellence, and Safety Innovation. The Safety Center is a finalist for the Safety Advocate Award, which “recognizes those who have made a significant impact on safety by raising awareness and bringing about change.”
“We’re excited to be recognized as a finalist, especially in the company of other national safety leaders from public, private, and non-profit agencies,” said Jaime Sullivan, Director of the Rural Safety Center. The full announcement is available in a news release on National Safety Council website. The winners will be announced in a virtual celebration on October 1.
The National Center for Rural Road Safety is proud to announce the inaugural Rural Road Safety Awareness Week (RRSAW), which will take place the week of September 28th – October 2nd, 2020.
The goal of RRSAW is to dedicate a week to promoting rural road safety to the public, community leaders, and potential partners by telling the “rural story.” This event will shine a light on rural needs, challenges, and solutions, especially those that help all stakeholders make progress on the Rural Road to Zero fatalities and serious injuries.
RRSAW will be a social media driven campaign, so high levels of social media interaction will be the key to success for RRSAW. The Center encourages individuals and agencies to use their own social media platforms to extend the reach of RRSAW’s stories and messages:
- First, please friend the Center on Facebook (@ruralroadsafety) and follow it on LinkedIn (@national-center-for-rural-road-safety) to see daily posts during the week of RRSAW.
- Next, please share or repost messages (or create original ones that highlight your own agency). Event organizers will be using hashtags #RuralRoadSafety and #RRSAW2020 for posts and encourage you to use the same ones.
The Rural Safety Center has created daily themes for the week and will release targeted materials for each one:
- Monday: Defining Rural
- Tuesday: Rural Safety Champions
- Wednesday: Rural Road Modes
- Thursday: Proven Rural Safety Countermeasures
- Friday: Rural Safety Culture
Through these topics, everyone will have a chance to share their experiences, answer fact-check questions, and learn about the topic of the day. Use the generic hashtags #RRSAW2020 and #RuralRoadSafety AND the specific hashtag of the day to makes sure you are included in the nation-wide conversation. The Rural Safety Center will be releasing a RRSAW Toolkit complete with social media messages and graphics at the end of August on the RRWAW webpage. Please feel free to share this with your colleagues and contact the Rural Safety Center with any questions you might have about the campaign.
On Wednesday, August 12, the Western Transportation Institute (WTI), Montana State University (MSU), and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) co-hosted a national forum to raise awareness on “The Importance of Focusing on Transportation Safety in Rural America.”
NHTSA officials had originally planned August field tours to western states and public lands to view rural safety conditions and engage with state and local stakeholders on initiatives to enhance rural transportation safety. WTI was slated to host one of the public meetings on the MSU campus. Due to current travel restrictions, the entire field visit was transformed into a virtual forum.
Jason Carter, MSU Vice President of Research, Economic Development and Graduate Education, served as the webinar host, providing the welcome address and introducing remarks by NHTSA Deputy Administrator James Owens, USDOT Secretary Elaine Chao, U.S. Senator Steve Daines (MT), and U.S. Representative Greg Gianforte (MT).
In a panel discussion moderated by WTI Director David Kack, presenters provided an overview of critical rural transportation issues that impact the safety and effectiveness of the entire national transportation network, as well as current initiatives to enhance travel through rural areas:
- Raj Subramanian, Director of the Office of Traffic Records and Analysis at NHTSA, gave an overview of key safety risk data, including a rural/urban comparison of traffic fatalities.
- Natalie Villwock-Witte, WTI Research Engineer, presented on the FHWA National Center for Rural Road Safety (managed by WTI), focusing on its programs to provide safety training to local and rural road owners, and its outreach efforts such as the 3rd National Summit on Rural Road Safety and Rural Road Safety Awareness Week.
- Nic Ward, Director of the Center for Health and Safety Culture at MSU, discussed the importance of addressing driver behavior to improve safety and gave an overview of how traffic safety culture approaches can be effectively used for issues such as seat belt usage, speeding, and impaired driving.
- Loren Smith, USDOT Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, introduced the federal ROUTES Initiative, which addresses transportation infrastructure disparities between rural and urban areas. He included an overview of the new ROUTES Applicant Toolkit, which is designed to help rural agencies access federal grants and resources.
The webinar attracted a large, national audience of more than 250 attendees. To view the presentations in full, download the recorded webinar from the NHTSA website.
The National Center for Rural Road Safety is excited to announce that the Third National Summit on Rural Road Safety will take place September 29 – October 1, 2020. Registration is now open for this action-oriented event, which is designed to provide professionals with plans and strategies for meeting their region’s Rural Road to Zero goals.
This year’s virtual Summit will feature knowledgeable speakers and interactive sessions, including:
- Results oriented safety strategies for rural areas
- Action plans for growing positive safety culture in rural communities
- A safe system approach for rural areas
The summits have become a national forum for engaging a wide variety of stakeholders and raising awareness on critical rural road safety issues. In 2016, the first summit, Moving Rural America, invited stakeholders to articulate critical issues and identify collaborative safety initiatives. The second summit, held in 2018, focused on Bridging the Gap, highlighting proven safety measures and other strategies that participants could implement in their regions. Previous summits have attracted participants from across the country and presenters from FHWA, CDC, National Association of Counties (NACO), Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), and more. Registration for the 3rd Summit is open until September 21, 2020. There are also numerous opportunities for sponsors and vendors to participate and support the event.
The National Center for Rural Road Safety is co-sponsoring a webinar with FHWA and NLTAPA on the Every Day Counts round five (EDC-5) initiative, “Focus on Reducing Rural Roadway Departures (FoRRRwD): Funding and Data to Identify Projects.” This free webinar will be presented on April 16, 2020, at 1 pm (Eastern time). Presenters from three states will share their guidance and experiences. More information is available on the FHWA registration webpage.
On April 22, 2020, at 1 pm (Mountain Time), CHSC will present “Together for Life Utah: Reducing Disparities Between Urban and Rural Seat Belt Use Rates.” In 2013, the Highway Safety Office of the Utah Department of Public Safety engaged CHSC in a multi-year pilot project to reduce the significant disparities in seat belt use rates between Utah’s urban areas and rural areas. In this webinar, learn how the Together for Life Project successfully promoted seat belt use in seven rural counties by bolstering family rules, workplace rules, and bystander engagement. To register, visit the CHSC Webinar page.
Welcome 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.
Maddy 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.