General Engineering Department Awarded Grant to Develop Traffic Data Collection Strategy for the State of Montana


Montana Tech General Engineering assistant professor, Dr. Yan Qi in collaboration with Montana State University, has been awarded a Montana Department of Transportation grant in the amount of $204,779. The project, “Montana Weigh-in-Motion (WIM) and Automatic Traffic Recorder (ATR) Strategy” will begin in May 2013 and span 18 months. The goal of the project is to achieve the most cost-effective manner for traffic data collection in Montana to meet current and future data-user needs.
“Traffic data collection provides the underpinning for all transportation-engineering activities such as pavement design, infrastructure planning, weight enforcement, and traffic monitoring,” explained Dr. Qi. “The state of Montana is sparsely populated with an extensive highway network, it is a challenging task to develop a traffic data collection system covering all the geographic and temporal variations across the state’s highways. With the joint efforts of Montana Tech and MSU, the research team will conduct a comprehensive study on the state’s current and future traffic data collection systems.”
A critical element in achieving the Montana Department of Transportation’s fundamental goal of providing safe, efficient and sustainable transportation services is the collection of accurate data on how the state’s highways are being used. Such data are necessary to support numerous MDT activities from planning, to infrastructure design, to enforcement of vehicle regulations. Due to limited resources, it is essential that such data are efficiently collected and then put to the best possible uses. The foundations of the data collection program are the permanent weigh-in-motion (WIM) and automatic traffic recorder (ATR) systems deployed across the highway network. These systems must be configured to accurately collect user data across the diverse geographic regions of the state and wide spectrum of goods being transported; further, they need to account for the significant seasonal variations associated with specific commodity hauls. Every WIM/ATR deployment, however, requires resources for installation, maintenance, and data reduction. Thus, a planning strategy is necessary to optimize MDT’s investments in its WIM/ATR program. The research will conduct a comprehensive review of MDT’s WIM program along with a basic review of its ATR data collection program. This review will encompass both basic data collection activities as well as how these data are and can be subsequently used. Recommendations will be made on potential changes to these programs to provide the best possible information in the most cost-effective manner to meet current and future data-user needs. In addition, the statewide traffic adjustment factors currently used by MDT will be reviewed, and regional adjustment factors will be developed that can reflect regional differences in highway use associated with changing demographics, economic conditions, etc.
The principal investigator (PI) on the project is Dr. Jerry Stephens, professor/research director at Montana State University, and co-PIs are Dr. Qi and Dr. David Veneziano, research scientist at Montana State University.
For more information, please contact Dr. Qi at 406-496-4449.