Montana State University

WTI to create national transportation assistance center for public lands

July 22, 2009 -- By Michael Becker, MSU News Service

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BOZEMAN -- The Federal Transit Administration has awarded a $1.5 million competitive grant to the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University to help with projects such as trails and shuttle systems on public lands across the country.

WTI will use the grant to develop the National Technical Assistance Center for Alternative Transportation in Public Lands. Managers at the country's national parks, forests and recreation sites will work with the center to start or expand transportation projects, including trails, shuttles, information systems and traffic management improvements.

"This center will make it possible for federal land managers and others to develop better transportation alternatives within our National Parks and public lands," said FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff. "These solutions will make it easier for our citizens to enjoy our national treasures while protecting our environment."

Under a cooperative agreement with the FTA, the team at WTI will receive $1.5 million for the first year to start the technical assistance center. There will be an option to extend the funding for an additional three years for an estimated total of $4.5 million.

About 30 percent of the United States, roughly 650 million acres, is federally owned public lands. Federal land managers oversee about 400 national parks, more than 3,000 national recreation areas and hundreds of other sites. Hundreds of millions of people visit these sites each year.

Federal land managers are responsible for preserving some of the country's most iconic natural and historic sites, but also with making those sites accessible to a growing number of visitors, said WTI Director Steve Albert.

Alternative transportation systems, like the ones the new WTI center will provide, will offer land managers environmentally sensitive solutions to problems like traffic congestion, parking and pollution. Land managers are interested in those solutions, but they often lack the transportation training, Albert said.

"They often need some help getting started," he said. "We want to give them a 'one-stop shop' of information, training and technical support."

Some of the services the WTI center will offer include person-to-person technical liaisons, a help-desk Web site, an online system to help public land managers find grants, training workshops and a mentoring program.

The WTI team brings together public and private partners with extensive experience on transportation and public lands issues that will be involved with the technical assistance center. Those partners include Shapiro Transportation Consulting; the Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida; David Evans and Associates; the University of Vermont Transportation Research Center and Park Studies Laboratory; the University of Maine Parks, Recreation and Tourism; and Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc.

The Western Transportation Institute has conducted nationally recognized transportation research and education programs at MSU since 1994. It was founded by the Montana and California departments of transportation and the MSU College of Engineering.

WTI specializes in developing solutions to the transportation challenges facing rural America. Its researchers have conducted projects in 30 states. WTI has twice been designated a United States Department of Transportation University Transportation Center.

Related Stories

"WTI installs one of the country's largest driving simulators," Nov. 10, 2008 -- http://www.montana.edu/cpa/news/nwview.php?article=6491

"Federal focus on rural road safety brings high-level visitors to WTI," Oct. 21, 2008 -- http://www.montana.edu/cpa/news/nwview.php?article=6391

"WTI director named to national transportation advisory panel," Aug. 6, 2007 -- http://www.montana.edu/cpa/news/nwview.php?article=5026

Contact: Steve Albert, Director, Western Transportation Institute, at 406-994-6114 or stevea@coe.montana.edu