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Highway Administration Selects MSU’s Western Transportation Institute to Lead New Centers

Highway Administration Selects MSU’s Western Transportation Institute to Lead New Centers

BOZEMAN – The Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University has been awarded two grants from the Federal Highway Administration to establish and lead two new transportation centers. The two major federal grants will establish new centers for training, education, research and workforce development.

The Western Transportation Institute is a leader in cutting edge transportation research,” said Sen. Jon Tester. “I am pleased WTI won these awards to make our roads safer and train the next generation of transportation workers.”

Now in its 20th year, WTI is part of the MSU College of Engineering and is the nation’s largest federally sanctioned university transportation center focused on rural transportation issues.

We are pleased that the Western Transportation Institute will take a nationally prominent role in saving lives in rural America, as well as training the current and future transportation workforce,” said Steve Albert, WTI executive director.

The Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University has been awarded two grants from the Federal Highway Administration to establish and lead two new transportation centers. The two major federal grants will establish new centers for training, education, research and workforce development. WTI photo by Neil Hetherington.

The Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University has been awarded two grants from the Federal Highway Administration to establish and lead two new transportation centers. The two major federal grants will establish new centers for training, education, research and workforce development. WTI photo by Neil Hetherington.

With $4.8 million over four years in federal funding and support from partner organizations, WTI will lead and house the new Rural Safety Center for Excellence. The center will offer training, technical support and information to transportation practitioners around the country, with the ultimate goal of helping them reduce serious injuries and fatalities on the roads that they manage.

Partners include Institute for Transportation (InTrans) at Iowa State University, the Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation at Rutgers University, Cambridge Systematics, Inc., the IDT Group, and the Four Corners Tribal Technical Assistance Center. The center will also work closely with the local technical assistance programs in Louisiana, Montana, Iowa and New Jersey.

We have built a solid public-private partnership that has developed and delivered innovative transportation training to a broad range of agencies, including local, state and tribal,” said Keith Knapp, director of the Iowa Local Technical Assistance Program at InTrans. “We will also have the geographic coverage across the U.S. as team members to efficiently address safety training and technical assistance needs on a regional basis.

The center’s programs will be targeted at transportation practitioners in rural road agencies, which manage 80 percent of the surface road network in the U.S.; drivers on these roads face a disproportionate share of safety risks, including 55 percent of roadway fatalities, high rates of crashes in which vehicles go off the road, as well as emergency response times that are 50 percent longer than those in urban/suburban areas.

WTI understands that a safer, reliable transportation network is good for families and businesses in Montana and across rural America,” Tester said. “I am proud to support the work they do.

Nicholas Ward, the MSU professor of mechanical engineering and WTI-affiliated research scientist who leads the Center for Health and Safety Culture and will serve as principal scientist for the Center for Excellence grant, said the new center will be critical to understanding the unique needs of rural road agencies by providing necessary information and workforce development in a manner that is relevant and accessible to these communities.

The higher risk of fatal and serious crashes in rural areas dictates the need to conduct state-of-the-art research about those risk factors that are unique to the rural environment, including driver behavior and local cultures, and then ensuring this information is integrated into road agency practices through workforce development and outreach,” Ward said.

A second grant from Federal Highway Administration and partner organization support will give a $1.2 million budget over four years to the new Regional Surface Transportation Workforce Center. Working in partnership with the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute at North Dakota State University, WTI will be enhancing access to education, outreach and training programs in a 10-state western region, with the ultimate goal of growing the transportation workforce.

The center will enhance transportation workforce development activities with K-12 outreach, programs at technical schools, community colleges and universities, as well as with and continuing education for practitioners.

Traffic safety leadership in Montana being recognized in such a way will help us improve the safety of all our citizens,” said Mike Tooley, director of the Montana Department of Transportation.

The Regional Surface Transportation Workforce Center, which will include eight western states from Nebraska and the Dakotas west to Oregon and Washington, will address workforce development challenges – an aging workforce, fewer new entrants into the transportation field and changing employee expectations, Albert said.

In North Dakota alone, 30 percent of their department of transportation workforce will be eligible for retirement in the next five years,” Albert said.

WTI, founded in 1994 by the Montana Department of Transportation, the California Department of Transportation and MSU’s College of Engineering, is the largest university transportation center focused on rural issues in the country, with a staff that includes 70 professional researchers, staff and affiliated faculty and an annual research budget of approximately $10 million. WTI is currently the largest research center on the MSU campus. In addition to these two new centers, WTI houses several other specialized centers, including:

The Small Urban and Rural Livability Center, WTI’s newest University Transportation Center, which leads initiatives to expand public transportation, bicycle/pedestrian facilities, and other modes that promote “livability” in small towns and rural areas.
The Center for Health and Safety Culture, which pursues innovative approaches to enhance health and safety by transforming cultural attitudes at the community level on critical issues such as impaired driving and seatbelt use.
The Federal Lands Transportation Institute, which provides assistance and information to public land managers who are implementing alternative transportation projects on national parks, recreation areas, and other federal land units.
The Montana Local Technical Assistance Program, which provides safety, leadership and new skills training to local transportation workers throughout the state.
The Road Dust Institute, which collects and disseminates information and guidance on cost-effective and environmentally sustainable management of unpaved roads.
Over the last 20 years, we have built up a strong foundation of training and technical assistance experience, as well as a wealth of information on our pioneering rural safety research,” said Albert, who will also serve as director for the Center for Excellence. “We are excited to create a ‘one-stop-shop’ center that will make this information easily accessible to (state transportation departments) and transportation professionals around the country, as well as a center that will help develop our region’s transportation workforce.”

Contact: Steve Albert, WTI executive director, (406) 994-6114, stevea@coe.montana.edu

InTrans is a Partner in New National Center for Rural Road Safety

InTrans is a Partner in New National Center for Rural Road Safety

December 12, 2014

The Institute for Transportation at Iowa State University, together with several partner organizations, announces the development of a new National Center for Rural Road Safety.

Funded by a four-year, $4.8 million grant from the Federal Highway Administration and partner support, the center will offer training, technical support, and information to transportation practitioners around the country. The ultimate goal is to help them reduce serious injuries and fatalities on the roads they manage.

The center’s programs will target transportation practitioners in rural road agencies, which manage 80 percent of the surface road network in the U.S. Drivers on these roads face a disproportionate share of safety risks, including 55 percent of roadway fatalities, high rates of crashes in which vehicles go off the road, as well as emergency response times that are 50 percent longer than those in urban/suburban areas.

The center will work closely with local technical assistance programs in Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, and New Jersey.

“We have built a solid public-private partnership that has developed and delivered innovative transportation training to a broad range of agencies, including local, state and tribal,” said Keith Knapp, director of the Iowa Local Technical Assistance Program at the Institute for Transportation. “We will also have the geographic coverage across the U.S. as team members to efficiently address safety training and technical assistance needs on a regional basis.”

The National Center for Rural Road Safety will be housed and led by the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University. Other partners include the Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation at Rutgers University, Cambridge Systematics, Inc., the IDT Group, and the Four Corners Tribal Technical Assistance Center.

For more information, contact Keith Knapp, 515-294-8817, kknapp@iastate.edu.

Source: Intrans Enroute

National Center Launches Rural Road Safety Website and Announces First Training

National Center Launches Rural Road Safety Website and Announces First Training 

Date: September 16, 2015

The National Center for Rural Road Safety (Safety Center) launched its website this week, which offers a variety of resources for transportation professionals working to make travel safer on our nation’s rural roads. (http://ruralsafetycenter.org/). Visitors can also use the website to sign up for the Safety Center’s first training or join the distribution list for newsletters and updates.

“We’re excited to make safety-related trainings, guidance documents and other instructive materials available to transportation agencies across the country,” said Director Steve Albert, “we think it will be especially useful for transportation professionals in agencies with limited resources for personnel training or conference travel.”

The website is designed to put the latest information on critical road safety issues all in one easily accessible place. For practitioners who need to get up to speed on a particular issue, the Rural Road Safety Topics section provides an introduction and background information on topics ranging from distracted driving to engineering innovations to incident management strategies.

In the Training and Education section, website users can find updates on upcoming in-person trainings created by the Safety Center or offered by other organizations. Distance training opportunities, such as webinars, will also be highlighted. Registration is also open for the Safety Center’s first online training, which will provide an overview of what the Center has to offer (http://ruralsafetycenter.org/training-education/safety-center-trainings/).

The Center will continue to add to the resources on the website in the coming weeks. “We’re working closely with transportation agencies to find out what types of resources they will be looking for on the website,” said Jaime Eidswick, Safety Center Manager; “in the process, we’re also finding out about the great work they are doing themselves, which gives us the chance to showcase it in our Noteworthy Practices section. The website gives all of us in the transportation community a chance to share and learn from each other, so that we can put safety advancements to work on our roads more quickly.”

Website visitors are encouraged to return on a regular basis to see added resources and new features. For example, the website will be adding a resource library with a search function that will allow users to filter resources by subject categories, format type, or date.

Users can also learn about website updates, upcoming events and other news by joining the Safety Center’s distribution list. If you are interested in following the Safety Center and receiving updates from us, please join our distribution list at http://ruralsafetycenter.org/about-our-center/contact-us/ and follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ruralroadsafety?fref=ts

For more information, go to the website (http://ruralsafetycenter.org/), or contact the Safety Center Manager at info@ruralsafetycenter.org

The National Center for Rural Road Safety (Safety Center) opened in December 2014. Funded by the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Office of Safety, this Center of Excellence is focused on enhancing safety on rural road by supporting local, state, and tribal road owners and their stakeholders.

National Center for Rural Road Safety Reports on Progress and Accomplishments

National Center for Rural Road Safety Reports on Progress and Accomplishments

Date: March 23, 2016

After a year in operation, the National Center for Rural Road Safety (Safety Center) announces that it has launched its core services and expanded access to critical road safety resources and training.

Sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Safety Center serves local, state and tribal road agencies that operate and manage rural roads. The Safety Center’s philosophy is to empower these agencies with the most effective safety tools and strategies that are currently available, so they can improve safety, reduce injuries, and save lives.  

“To accomplish this vision, our short-term goals were to create a useful center, connect with potential users, and to begin to communicate effective methods and strategies for improving safety,” said Steve Albert, Safety Center Director; “we’re proud to say that we achieved all three of these goals.”

Albert points to a number of specific accomplishments that help to illustrate how the Safety Center is making a difference:

  • A Digital Gateway – The Safety Center website is a centralized, easy to access resource that contains issue briefs, updates on noteworthy practices by other agencies, a repository of training resources and guidance documents, and a calendar of upcoming training and related events. Less than a year old, the website has had more than 13,000 views by nearly 3000 visitors.
  • Successful Monthly Webinars – The Safety Center has hosted four popular webinar trainings, presented by national experts on subjects including systemic safety, organizational culture, and rural signage. On average, more than 100 attendees from around the country have participated in each training, and 119 attendees have received Continuing Education Units or Completion Certificates. The webinars are archived on the Safety Center website, so they are easily accessible to users on an ongoing basis.
  • Original Videos – In order to offer customized, multimedia training options, the Safety Center is developing original training videos.   In January, it released its first training video, “Introduction to Road Safety Culture” which has already been viewed almost 150 times on the website. A second training video on road safety audits on tribal lands is currently under development.
  • National Summit – The Safety Center spearheaded the development of the Moving Rural America Summit, a National working Summit on Transportation in Rural America that will be held in September 2016 in Denver, CO. The summit will bring together stakeholders from around the country, and allow the Center and its partners to make a meaningful contribution to national transportation policy and initiatives. Registration for this summit is now open.
  • Technical Expertise and Assistance – The Safety Center’s team members offer valuable expertise and assistance on a broad range of safety issues. Over the last year, they have been invited to represent the Safety Center at nationally prominent safety and rural transportation forums sponsored by NHTSA, NADO, and the National Operations Center of Excellence.
  • FHWA “Extension” — As an FHWA sponsored program, another overarching goal for the Safety Center has been to support the development of FHWA rural safety resources and extend the reach of their services. Already, the Safety Center has broadened the marketing efforts for FHWA’s existing toolkits and trainings, and it is currently in the process of updating and expanding FHWA’s Rural Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) Toolbox and the Road Safety 365 training for local government. These efforts, combined with outreach and training activities, make it possible for FHWA safety resources and assistance to reach more road agencies than ever before.

With a solid foundation of programs in place, the Safety Center is well-positioned to continue and expand on its successful initiatives. For more information about current and upcoming programs and activities, visit the website at http://www.ruralsafetycenter.org/

The National Center for Rural Road Safety is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. It is managed by a team of transportation experts at the following entities: the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University; the Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation at Rutgers University; the Institute for Transportation at Iowa State University; Cambridge Systematics; IDT Group; and Bubar and Hall Consulting, LLC; in cooperation with the Local Technical Assistance Programs (LTAPs) of Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, and New Jersey.

Public Roads Article: 'A Sidekick for Rural Safety'

A Sidekick for Rural Safety

Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-16-004
Issue No: Vol. 79 No. 6 
Date: May/June 2016

To read this article, click here.

National Working Summit tackles an 'Epidemic on Wheels'

National Working Summit tackles an “Epidemic on Wheels”

Date: September 27, 2016

The National Center for Rural Road Safety (Safety Center), led by the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University Bozeman, hosted the National Working Summit on Transportation in Rural America last week, drawing 120 enthusiastic participants from around the country who worked together for three days on identifying issues and strategies to reduce injuries and fatalities on rural roads and highways.

There are more than 4 million miles of roads in the U.S., and more than 70% of them are in rural areas.  Efforts to improve rural road safety not only protect rural residents, they protect every individual, family, and truck driver that uses rural roads and highways to move across the country. With only 19% of people living in rural areas, 54% of fatal crashes occur on rural roads, killing more than 18,000 people a year.  Dr. David Sleet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called the problem “an epidemic on wheels.” 

Held in Denver, Colorado from September 7 – 9, the Summit encouraged collaboration among a broad range of agencies with an interest in enhancing safety on rural roads: departments of transportation, first responders, law enforcement, commerce/freight organizations, economic development/tourism agencies, public health agencies, local/county governments, and tribal agencies. 

20160908-rsc-1157edit-crop2016 National Working Summit on Transportation in Rural America Attendees

Using an innovative discussion format, participants first worked in peer groups to identify key issues and gaps for a particular interest area (such as “commerce and freight” or “emergency response”).  Later, they participated in integrated multi-disciplinary group discussions to formulate concepts and priorities from a multi-discipline perspective on broader topics such as livability and Towards Zero Deaths initiatives. “Our working theme was ‘3 days, 10 discussion topics, 1 white paper’”, said Steve Albert, Safety Center Director; “we wanted to benefit from the expertise of everyone who attended and define a clear roadmap of how best to make rural roads safer in the future.” 

Participants were also inspired to action by the summit keynote speakers, who included Mark Glaser, author of 58 Feet – The Second that Changed Our Lives.  Glaser has worked to raise awareness of traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries following a serious motorcycle accident in 2010 on a rural mountain road in Colorado.  The closing keynote speaker was Commissioner Jill Ryan, of Eagle County (Colorado) who has used her public health background to develop motor vehicle crash prevention programs in Colorado.

Actions proposed during the summit included:

  • Encourage state and local departments of transportation/public works to incorporate “Toward zero death” goals and initiatives into their strategic plans
  • Encourage public health organization involvement in the development of roadway safety plans
  • Document and disseminate successful safety solutions from other countries
  • Provide summit speakers to present on and share comprehensive agency safety plans with state and local agencies.

Presentations from the summit are now available. The complete findings and recommendations from the summit will be compiled into a white paper later this fall, which will guide future action.  The white paper will be presented in a Safety Center webinar on Thursday, November 10th at 1 pm Eastern. In addition, many participants recommended holding a second summit in the future. “Thanks to everyone’s hard work we have a lot of great ideas and solid recommendations to build on,” said Hillary Isebrands, FHWA Safety Engineer and FHWA Program Manager for the Safety Center; “most importantly, we rallied an enthusiastic group of experts who are committed to continuing this work to make rural roads safer.”

20160908-rsc-1147-edit-1693Safety Center Team Members in Attendance at the 2016 Summit

The National Working Summit on Transportation in Rural America was hosted by the National Center for Rural Road Safety, and sponsored by the Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation at Rutgers University and the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO).  Many organizations provided meeting facilitation and organization assistance via a steering committee, including:

  • National Center for Rural Road Safety ,
  • FHWA,
  • National Association of County Engineers (NACE),
  • National Association of Development Organizations (NADO),
  • National Association of Counties (NACo),
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA),
  • Transportation Safety Advancement Group (TSAG),
  • ITS America, and
  • Meetings Northwest.

The National Center for Rural Road Safety is supported by the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration under Cooperative Agreement No. DTFH6114H00021. It is managed by a team of transportation experts at the following entities: the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University; the Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation at Rutgers University; the Institute for Transportation at Iowa State University; Cambridge Systematics; IDT Group; and Bubar and Hall Consulting, LLC; in cooperation with the Local Technical Assistance Programs (LTAPs) of Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, and New Jersey.