The concept for the Western States Forum originated through the rural California/Oregon Advanced Transportation Systems (COATS) partnership. This partnership, initiated in 1998 by the California and Oregon Departments of Transportation with support from the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University, has sought to advance the implementation of intelligent transportation systems (ITS) to meet transportation challenges in rural areas. Over the last decade, the COATS partnership has increasingly focused on technology transfer and the Forum has developed and grown with this purpose.

The inaugural Forum was held in 2006 in Mount Shasta, California, with 15 engineers and technicians from three states in attendance. The Forum has grown considerably since then. Average attendance for the last three Forums has been about 40 and participants have come from eight different states in the western region. The agenda has also evolved since the first Forum. Starting in 2008, hands-on demonstrations were incorporated into a second day of technical presentations. The demonstrations have been very well-received and will continue to be an integral part of the Forum agenda.

After four phases of COATS spanning 12 years, the Steering Committee determined that it was in the best interest of the project to broaden its area of service to the western United States. To address this intent, the Western States Rural Transportation Consortium (WSRTC) was formed with the following purpose:

  • To promote innovative partnerships, technologies and educational opportunities to facilitate and enhance safe, seamless rural travel throughout the western United States; and
  • To provide a collaborative mechanism to leverage research activities in a coordinated manner to respond to rural transportation issues among western states related to technology, operations and safety.

The Western States Forum continues with the support of the Western States Rural Transportation Consortium.

In 2012, the Western States Forum was recognized with a Best of Rural ITS Award at the annual National Rural ITS Conference.  The Forum won for Best New Innovative Product, Service or Application.