Montana State University

WTI director named to national transportation advisory panel

August 6, 2007 -- MSU News Service


Steve Albert, director of Montana State University's Western Transportation Institute.   High-Res Available

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Steve Albert, director of Montana State University's Western Transportation Institute, will join leading public and private transportation officials on a new national transportation advisory committee.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters recently selected Albert to serve on the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Advisory Committee. Intelligent transportation systems are technologies - computers, sensors and communication devices - that transportation agencies can use to improve safety, ease congestion, or send out traveler information.

The Western Transportation Institute specializes in ITS research that benefits rural areas.

"Urban areas have long recognized the value of technologies such as roadside closed-circuit television to monitor and manage traffic," Albert said. "WTI looks at how advanced technologies might be used in more remote areas, such as alerting drivers to severe weather conditions or wildlife near the road."

As a member of the committee, Albert will review and make recommendations regarding the U.S. Department of Transportation's strategic plan, as well as ITS research under consideration for funding. He will serve on a 19-member panel of national experts that includes representatives from the New York City Department of Transportation, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, General Motors, and Sprint/Nextel.

"I'm very pleased and excited the U.S. DOT has created this high-level panel to give serious attention to the future of America's transportation system, and the potential of emerging technologies," Albert said. "I look forward to representing the rural perspective in these discussions, so that people and goods can travel safely and efficiently to every corner of the country."

Albert speaks frequently on the importance of improving the entire national transportation system.

"Sixty percent of crash fatalities occur on rural roads, and drivers are four times more likely to die on a non-interstate roadway than on an interstate," Albert said. "Safety is literally a life-and-death issue as people travel through less populated areas."

At a recent hearing of the National Surface Transportation Policy & Revenue Study Commission Albert presented examples of how upgrading rural roads benefits everyone.

"When a business owner's deliveries are three days late because of a snowstorm in Minnesota, he will start to see the value in road sensors that can forecast weather conditions," he said. "Or a family driving from their home in the suburbs to Mt. Rushmore, whose car breaks down on a two-lane highway with no cellular coverage, will gain a whole new appreciation for upgrading rural communication systems."

The Western Transportation Institute (WTI) is the nation's largest transportation institute focusing on rural transportation issues and is designated as a U.S. Department of Transportation University Transportation Center. The Institute was established in 1994 by the Montana and California Departments of Transportation, in cooperation with Montana State University, and is located in the College of Engineering. Albert has been director since 1996, and is a nationally recognized leader on ITS issues. On two occasions, the U.S. Senate has invited him to provide testimony on the U.S. DOT ITS program.

For information about the Western Transportation Institute, go to www.coe.montana.edu/wti

Contact: Steve Albert at (406) 994-6114 or stevea@coe.montana.edu