Montana State University

MSU’s Western Transportation Institute lands $7.5 million Department of Transportation grant

December 8, 2016 -- MSU News Service

The Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University has been awarded $7.5 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation to research ways to improve the mobility of people and goods in small urban, rural and tribal areas.

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Tel: (406) 994-4571

BOZEMAN – The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded $7.5 million to Montana State University’s Western Transportation Institute to lead research to improve the mobility of people and goods in small urban, rural and tribal areas.

The award was made after a highly competitive selection process in which the WTI was selected as a Tier 1 University Transportation Center. To earn the Tier 1 designation, the WTI submitted a winning proposal focused on improving the mobility of people and goods and highlighted its demonstrated leadership and experience in education, workforce development and technology transfer. WTI’s proposed research activities included developing effective transit networks for small cities and the use of technology by rural and tribal transit systems.

The DOT received a record-high 212 applications for the 2016 UTC grant program, in which $300.3 million in funding was granted to 32 new centers.

MSU’s WTI will lead the Small Urban, Rural and Tribal Center on Mobility, a consortium that includes the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute at North Dakota State University and the Northwest Tribal Technical Assistance Program at Eastern Washington University.

Based at WTI headquarters at MSU, SURTCOM will receive approximately $7.5 million over five years to address issues such as enhancing access to public transportation services, implementing innovative multi-modal solutions, exploring alternative transportion such as ridesharing, adapting “smart city” innovations to small communities, and increasing active transportation modes, such as walking and cycling.

David Kack, manager of WTI’s Mobility and Public Transportation Program, will serve as director of the newly created SURTCOM. He said the center is eager to address the transportation challenges faced in these underserved areas.

“These areas are often overlooked, as many people focus on potential mega-regions and large urbanized areas,” Kack said. “We look forward to providing leadership in addressing mobility issues in small urban, rural and tribal areas.”

Kack is also director of WTI’s Small Urban and Rural Livability Center, which was created in 2013 with a $4.2 million DOT grant to enhance livability in small urban and rural communities. 

The Western Transportation Institute is a department in the MSU College of Engineering. It has a long and successful history with the UTC program, winning $32.5 million in federal funding over 16 years. In 1998, the WTI received an eight-year grant and was designated as a national UTC specializing in rural transportation issues. In 2006, this center was re-authorized, receiving another five years of funding.

 Steve Albert, WTI executive director, said it is an honor to once again be designated as a University Transportation Center.

“This is an exciting and pivotal era in transportation and Montana State University is committed to contributing resources and innovative research,” he said. “Faculty and students enhance our capability to develop state-of-the-practice transportation solutions, and WTI enhances MSU’s opportunities to provide a learning environment bolstered by research and practical experience. We look forward to continuing these programs through the new centers, and showing once again that ‘rural matters.’”

DOT invests in the future of transportation through its University Transportation Centers program, which awards and administers grants to consortia of colleges and universities across the U.S. The program advances state-of-the-art transportation research and technology and develops the next generation of transportation professionals. The congressionally-mandated program was created in 1987 to help address the nation’s ever-growing need for the safe, efficient and environmentally sound movement of people and goods.

Each UTC is a consortium of two- and four-year colleges and universities that come together to form a center of transportation excellence on a specific research topic. Together, the consortia advance U.S. technology and expertise in the many disciplines comprising transportation through education, solutions-oriented research and technology transfer, and the exploration and sharing of cutting-edge ideas and approaches.

Contact: David Kack (406) 994-7526,

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