Bike Routes Sea Level Rise 6 ftClimate change is a highly charged issue with much debate focusing on how sea level rise, heat waves, flooding and extreme weather events will impact major transportation infrastructure such as roadways, bridges, tunnels, subways, rail and bus stations, parking lots and airports. Not much attention has been given to the potential impact of these climate events on non-motorized transportation including sidewalks, hiking trails, bicycle paths, public parks and recreational facilities. With growing interest in healthy lifestyles, as well as increasing use of non-motorized modes for daily commutes, it is imperative that future planning and policy decisions consider mitigation strategies that accommodate pedestrians and bikers.

In the Mid-Atlantic region, there are many low-lying areas that will certainly be affected by flooding caused by sea level rise, increased precipitation and storm surges. Researchers at the University of Delaware and Morgan State University are assessing the vulnerability of non-motorized transportation facilities, starting with an analysis of trails and bike routes in Delaware. Ardeshir Faghri, PhD, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Delaware, and Hyeon-Shic Shin, PhD, Assistant Professor, School of Architecture and Planning, Morgan State University, are modeling sea level to predict the number of trails and bike routes in Delaware that will be impacted by low, medium and high sea level rise at the end of 2100. In addition, they are estimating the length of trails inundated by various levels of sea level rise. Understanding sea level rise and its impact on pedestrian and bike facilities will enable the development of strategies to minimize or eliminate the negative impacts.

The researchers have developed a GIS-model of sea level rise to identify the number of facilities projected to be affected by the three different scenarios of sea level rise. Both the length of inundation and the maximum depth of water were estimated. Next, the team will allocate a level of service required to repair and reinstate the facility to good working condition, ranging from minor rehabilitation (A) to hazardous requiring major rehabilitation (F). The prototype model (a 1740 meter trail in Sussex County, Delaware) projected if the sea rises 0.5 meters by the end of century, the trail will have level of service C and if sea level rises 1 meter, the level of service will be F. With sea level rise of 1.5 meters, the model projected almost complete inundation of the trail – a finding that implies the trail would be “gone”.

The next stage of research will assess flooding related to storm surge. A survey will also be conducted to establish baseline attitudes toward walking and biking during heat waves. Future work includes expanding the study to trails and bike routes in Maryland.

Ultimately, the researchers hope to share a better understanding of how climate change will impact non-motorized transportation facilities along with guidelines on how to integrate the impacts of climate change in short- and long-range planning for these facilities. Strategies might include elevating parts of a trail or moving it land-ward.

“Direct impacts of climate change have been investigated in many fields,” said Faghri. “However, there is a lack of knowledge and research on how non-motorized transportation facilities will be influenced by climatic stressors such as sea level rise. This MATS UTC-funded research represents a step forward in our understanding of probable significant impacts for bikers and pedestrians. We’re expecting to publish the work in February 2017.”

Dr. Faghri may be contacted at

Research Highlight: FRP Wraps for Next Generation Sustainable and Cost-Effective Rehabilitation of Coastal Transportation Infrastructure

Exposure to harsh winter conditions can cause cracking in concrete bridges, leaving interior structural supports vulnerable to outside elements. De-icing salt, applied to wintry roads, often penetrates the cracks, causing these structural supports to corrode. Salt water has the same effect on coastal infrastructure. Over time, this corrosion destabilizes the concrete, resulting in costly repairs and unsafe conditions.

Researchers at Marshall University (MU) and the University of Virginia (UVA) are exploring how fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP) wraps, a technology that has been around for over 20 years, might offer a fresh approach to repairing and fortifying damaged bridges. Currently used primarily for specialized applications, such as earthquake resistance, FRP wraps hold the promise of extending the service life of corrosion-deteriorated concrete. In cleaning and repairing the damaged areas, then applying the optimal number of FRP sheets in the optimal number of directions, the life of the structure could be saved for many more years. However, cost/benefit analyses and assessment criteria are needed before State DOTs widely adopt the approach.

Working closely with WVDOH and VDOT, the research team is developing a practical guidebook for selecting suitable bridges and outlining evaluation, design, construction and training guidelines. Wael Zatar, PhD, Dean of the College of Information Technology and Engineering at MU, Hai Nguyen, PhD, Research Scientist in Civil Engineering at MU, and Osman Ozbulut, PhD, Assistant Professor in Civil Engineering at UVA, are undertaking a non-destructive evaluation approach for projects in West Virginia, a state already using FRP for infrastructure repair. Initially, they will use a variety of damage and inventory parameters to develop a prioritized classification process to help practitioners identify possible candidate structures.

Zatar serves as chair of the National Committee on Structural Fiber Reinforced Polymers for the Transportation Research Board, a group of national and international experts committed to expanding the current state of knowledge and practice related to repair technologies. He suggested that this MATS UTC-funded project is an important component in understanding the optimum use of FRP wraps.

“Although FRP is a costly material, it offers clear benefits in terms of remedial repairs,” he explained. “Maintenance on these deficient structures is imperative and, if not done correctly or in a timely manner, may result in the need for complete bridge replacement. If we can develop an assessment tool that weighs the long-term repair and replacement benefits of FRP wraps against the cost, then we can make significant advances in efficient and sustainable structural safety improvements.”

Ultimately, the team plans to deliver an FRP reference report for bridge inspections and maintenance programs as well as recommendations for field implementations and classroom education initiatives.

For more information about this project, contact Dr. Zatar at

Student Spotlight: Jeffrey Sadler named MATS UTC Student of the Year

SadlerJeffrey Sadler’s academic path has been steady. Whether collaborating on research projects related to coastal flooding or mentoring students on projects related to sea level rise, he has remained focused on protecting coastal communities and infrastructure from adverse environmental conditions related to climate change.

Now undertaking his PhD as a member of the Goodall research group at the University of Virginia (UVA), Sadler is well positioned to pursue this interest. Jonathan Goodall, PhD, an associate professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering at UVA, teaches and studies environmental and water resources engineering, with research interests in urban hydrology, resilient infrastructure systems and stormwater management, among others.

With Goodall’s guidance, Sadler has contributed to a number of research studies. Most recently, he and several other students worked with Goodall and Venkataramana Sridhar, PhD, assistant professor at Virginia Tech, on a MATS UTC- funded project titled, Impact of Climate Change and Sea Level Rise on Stormwater Design and Reoccurring Flooding Problems in the Hampton Roads Region.  The team conducted three related studies on the impact of sea level rise on transportation infrastructure in coastal Virginia.

In the first study, the UVA group used geospatial data and geographic information system data processing to estimate roadways vulnerable to flooding in various sea level rise scenarios. They found by 2100 with intermediate sea level rise predictions, more than 10% of major roadways will be inundated at high tide.

The second UVA study examined how rainfall variability impacts the ability to accurately measure rainfall using gauging stations. Experiments were conducted to understand how local rainfall observations for problem-area watersheds around Virginia Beach impacted the ability to accurately predict rainfall on the watershed. The findings showed having a gauge within 1km of the watershed greatly reduced the precipitation prediction error, especially for a 15-minute time step. These results suggest the need for a dense rainfall monitoring network for coastal cities where flooding risks are increasing due to sea level rise and climate change.

Sadler’s PhD research focuses on using machine learning to predict flooding in urban coastal environments and prioritizing resource spending for maintaining roadway infrastructure. Given the multiple factors and complex interactions influencing coastal flooding, such as precipitation, groundwater, tides and sea level rise, machine learning approaches are good candidates for prediction of flooding over traditional, physically-based models. His thesis represents some of the first research to use machine learning approaches to predict urban coastal flooding. He expects to graduate in 2018.

In addition to his research, Sadler considers mentorship of other students one of his top academic accomplishments. He mentored a group of undergraduate students studying sea level rise and roadway flooding as part of either their senior capstone project or the MATS UTC undergraduate summer research internship program. The work resulted in a submission to the Journal of Infrastructure Systems.

MATS UTC has taken notice of his many consortium-related activities, recently naming Sadler ‘2016 Student of the Year’. His contributions to the MATS UTC-funded project on the impact of sea level rise on flooding in Hampton Roads, as well as his leadership with other students, warranted the honor.

His research advisor concurs. “I am thrilled to have Jeff as a PhD student,” stated Goodall. “He is not only an excellent student, but is quickly becoming an excellent researcher as well. He has already taken on a leadership role in his research to better understand and predict flooding impacts to roadways in Virginia Beach and Norfolk, and I expect big things from him as he continues to advance in his career.”

Sadler completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Brigham Young University where he majored in hydrology. Upon graduating from UVA, he plans to continue to study climate effects on coastal communities and infrastructure. “If we can understand the coastal environment and its impact on infrastructure, then we can take steps to manage water resources and improve the quality of life for people.”

Sadler may be contacted at

MATS UTC Welcomes New Managing Director

Lindsay Ivey Burden, PhD, an active contributor to MATS UTC since its inception, is stepping into the role of managing director of the center.

Together with Brian Smith, director of MATS UTC, and leaders representing each of the consortium universities, Ivey Burden will promote MATS UTC initiatives addressing some of the most urgent sustainability issues faced by the transportation industry. These are activities focused on freight movement, coastal infrastructure resiliency, energy efficient urban transportation, water quality management and land-use practice.

“Our former managing director, Dr. Emily Parkany, did an outstanding job to enable us to establish a strong and vibrant center. We are fortunate to bring in someone with Dr. Ivey Burden’s depth of experience in research, education and training, and outreach, as we seek to take on new challenges in the coming year,” states Brian Smith.

With research interests in geotechnical engineering, foundations engineering and geophysical testing techniques among others, Ivey Burden is well–positioned to support the multi-disciplinary interests of faculty and students across Region 3. In particular, her expertise in resiliency assessments for transportation infrastructure has broad implications for environmental sustainability and provides her with an expansive vision for transportation research, education and workforce development.

Working with colleague, Nii Attoh-Okine, PhD, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Delaware, and UVA graduate student, Lizzie Engel, the team presented Use of Graph Theory to Quantify Resilience in Multimodal Transportation Systems at the 2016 MATS UTC Annual Meeting in Charlottesville in August. The presentation supports the team’s MATS UTC-funded project to develop a multimodal transportation facility resilience index. Engel presented a poster on the subject at the 2015 TRB International Conference for Sustainability in Transportation. It was the only MATS UTC project selected for the conference that year.

As part of her new role, Ivey-Burden will be directing the MATS UTC undergraduate summer research internship program. Hosted by universities within the MATS UTC consortium, the program offers students the opportunity to work on active research projects with wide-ranging transportation implications. Applications will be accepted in the spring.

“I am excited to expand my role with MATS UTC and to work with faculty and students across the consortium,” Ivey Burden said. “MATS UTC has had many collaborative successes bringing new approaches and technologies to the field, and bringing resources and new knowledge to transportation professionals all over the region. I’m looking forward to building on the momentum.”

Ivey Burden received a BS and ME in civil engineering from the University of Louisville and earned her PhD in civil engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. She is an assistant professor in civil and environmental engineering at UVA and is involved in the ASCE GeoInstitute, the Transportation Research Board (TRB) and the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI). She is an NSF ENHANCE Fellow.

Ivey Burden may be contacted at

Faculty Spotlight: Navid Tahvildari, PhD, Old Dominion University


For Navid Tahvildari, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Old Dominion University (ODU), the study of complex physics in coastal waters goes hand-in-hand with the study of vulnerabilities of built environment to natural hazards. Specializing in hydrodynamics, Tahvildari’s research interests span a number of different coastal processes and their impacts on coastal infrastructure. Using numerical models and analytical methods, he seeks to build better predictions of the impact of coastal storms under climate change and sea level rise for improving the resiliency of infrastructure and, importantly, the shorelines that are natural defense systems against coastal storms.

Some of these interests are reflected in Tahvildari’s MATS UTC and VDOT-funded project, Investigating the Vulnerability of the Transportation Infrastructure in Hampton Roads Region to Extreme Weather and Sea Level Rise. Together with colleague, Mecit Cetin, PhD, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at ODU, the team is using hydrodynamic modeling to capture the dynamic nature of flow over natural and urbanized landscape driven by storm surge, waves, and tides. Both the City of Norfolk and VDOT helped to identify critical and vulnerable areas prone to flooding. Simulations of storm surge flooding under low, medium and high sea level rise rates are currently underway. Ultimately, the goal is to provide accurate predictions of the time and duration of flooding in these areas to enable advanced warnings and traffic rerouting.

Tahvildari’s recent research also encompasses the concept of natural and nature-based shore stabilization measures. Using hydrodynamic modeling and field study, his research team is exploring the efficiency of wetlands and ‘living shorelines’, which integrate structural and natural features, to mitigate erosion and protect coastal communities. Working with ecologists, the research will contribute to development of design guidelines and help arm engineers, project planners and policy makers with information to implement sustainable approaches for shoreline damage reduction.

Currently advising two PhD and five masters students, Tahvildari works to ensure that research and practice keep pace with changing environmental and infrastructure conditions. He has introduced undergraduates to fluid mechanics. At the graduate level, he has taught classes on coastal hydrodynamics and sediment processes, dredging and beach engineering, and environmental fluid mechanics.

Tahvildari is one of several instructors from across the MATS UTC consortium involved with a graduate-level semester-long transportation sustainability course. Offered in the fall of 2015 and 2016, the course provides multi-disciplinary perspectives on a variety of tools, models, methods and best practices related to improving transportation systems. Tahvildari teaches a module on coastal infrastructure resiliency, focusing on the impact of coastal processes on transportation infrastructure. The module introduces coastal processes and the design of hard and soft coastal structures for shore protection. Students have the opportunity to consider risk and vulnerability of coastal transportation infrastructure to natural hazards and resilience of coastal systems under climate change and sea level rise.

Similarly, he worked with colleagues from the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech to present workshops on the infrastructure impacts of sea level rise in the summer of 2015. Intended for students as well as transportation professionals and practitioners, the workshops provided a targeted assessment of the impact of sea level rise, covering topics such as climate change impacts, precipitation-driven flooding, stormwater infrastructure, coastal forces and sea level rise impacts on coastal infrastructure. The workshops addressed how engineering solutions can counteract these forces.

“Coastal engineering offers the opportunity to address real concerns about the vulnerabilities of our coastal infrastructure and assess the impacts of natural hazards on environment and society,” he explained. “Coastal engineers can work with other subdisciplines of civil engineering such as structures or transportation, and other disciplines from ecology to social sciences, to develop sustainable strategies that can address challenges facing our communities.”

Tahvildari earned a PhD in Civil Engineering from Texas A&M University, an MSc in Civil Engineering from Sharif University of Technology and a BS in Civil Engineering from Tehran Polytechnic. Prior to joining ODU, he was a postdoctoral scholar in the Environmental Fluid Mechanics Laboratory at Stanford University.

He can be contacted at

Ralph Buehler (VT) Contributes to UN Habitat and European Commission Report

Ralph Buehler, Associate Professor at Virginia Tech, was an expert contributing content to the transport chapter of the newly released UN Habitat and the European Commission report ‘The State of European Cities 2016: Cities leading the way to a better future‘. The report will also be presented at Habitat III in Quito and at the Eurocities 2016 Annual Event in Milan. Here is a link to the report website (download is at the bottom of the website):

Register for our Fall 2016 Careers in Transportation webinar series!

On the fourth Tuesday of each month (Sept 27, Oct 25, Nov 15) at 4:00 pm, MATS UTC will host a one-hour webinar to provide some insight on careers in transportation. All are invited to attend, but we especially encourage students to come and learn from three professionals who will share their career paths and advice.

Tuesday, September 27, 4:00 pm will feature Jose Gomez of UVA (and formerly Virginia DOT)
Tuesday, October 25, 4:00 pm will feature Camelia Ravanbakht of the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization
Tuesday, November 15, 4:00 pm will feature Donny Williams of West Virginia DOT

Please register here for all three webinars to get reminder notices!  Alternatively please follow this link to join the webinar room at 4pm on the fourth Tuesday:

Materials from the presentations will be available on this page, including the archived recordings, following the events.


Faculty Spotlight: Celeste Chavis, Ph.D., Morgan State University

For Celeste Chavis, it’s always been about using engineering to solve social problems. Starting out as a mechanical engineering major at Ohio State University, she had the opportunity to intern at the Ohio Department of Transportation. Seeing the effects of traffic congestion on the everyday lives of people changed the trajectory of her career.

Now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Transportation and Urban Infrastructure Studies at Morgan State University (MS), Chavis continues to seek out ways to improve the lives of people, particularly in minority communities and underserved areas, through innovative transportation solutions. Her research interests include public transportation systems, bicycle and pedestrian accommodations, policy and regulatory decisions, multimodal transportation network modeling, informal transportation systems and equity of transportation systems.

Several of these interests come together in her MATS UTC-funded project, Quantifying the Impact of On-Street Parking Information on Congestion Mitigation. Together with colleagues Mansoureh Jeihani, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Transportation and Urban Infrastructure Studies, Morgan State University, and Hesham Rekha, Ph.D., Samuel Reynolds Pritchard Professor of Engineering, Virginia Tech, the team is investigating innovative parking management strategies to decrease congestion. Working closely with the DC Department of Transportation (DDOT), one of the country’s leading agencies in on-street parking management innovation, the researchers are implementing a pilot test using parking meter data in the Chinatown area of Washington, DC.

Using a driving simulator with the study area modeled, the project will position 100 test subjects in different traffic conditions, with different parking availabilities, pricing and parking availability information. The results are expected to provide a clearer understanding of how parking information can improve congestion in urban areas. A poster on the work was presented at the MATS UTC Annual Meeting held in August 2016.

Chavis’ interests in the social impacts of public transportation have resulted in a partnership with Baltimore City Public Schools to address absenteeism. “The majority of middle and high school students in the district rely on public transportation to attend school,” stated Chavis. “Their limited access to convenient routes and timely schedules is a disincentive to attend school on a regular basis.”

Chavis is exploring options for improving access, including proposing alternative routes that better serve residential communities and providing evidence to support supplemental transportation services.

“I’m very interested in understanding how transportation affects different segments of the population,” said Chavis. These interests have taken her far afield, including research in Nairobi, Kenya, last summer to better understand roundabout efficiency. Roundabouts are circular intersections where traffic flows in one direction with entering traffic yielding to traffic already in the flow. In Nairobi, these intersections are controlled by traffic police. Working with IBM Research Africa, Chavis used data collected from sensors on public vehicles to analyze the traffic flow along roundabouts. She found that current control allows for high vehicle flows; however, coordination between roundabouts is important in order to prevent queues from impacting neighboring roundabouts.

In addition to her research, Chavis keeps busy teaching three classes each semester. “The transportation program at Morgan State is unique,” explained Chavis. “In addition to studying traditional civil engineering topics, students in the Morgan State program focus specifically on transportation coursework. As a result, I teach a range of courses such as traffic engineering as well as a general education class on the social impact of transportation systems for planning and public policy decisions.”

Chavis is a member of the Institute of Transportation Engineers and the Paratransit Committee of the Transportation Research Board. She received a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Ohio State, and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from the University of California, Berkley.

Contact Dr. Chavis at

MATS UTC Competitive Collaborative Proposals Due Nov. 1!

The Request for Proposals for the 2017 MATS UTC Competitive Collaborative Proposals is found here.  The proposals are due November 1, but interested PIs must communicate their interest and potential proposal focus areas to their university’s Executive Team member by early October.  More details are found in the RFPVT Eligible Researchers

MATS UTC 2017 Competitive Collaborative RFP.

Transportation Infrastructure Flooding: Sensing Water Levels and Rerouting Traffic Out of Danger

Flooding in the Oceanview area of Norfolk during Tropical Storm Hermine. Credit: Wavy–TV, Aaron/Kurtz

Flooding in the Oceanview area of Norfolk during Tropical Storm Hermine. Credit: WAVY–TV, Aaron/Kurtz

Many coastal urban areas are prone to flooding due to inadequate stormwater management infrastructure, rising sea levels, tidal effects, and intense precipitation. These events can have significant impacts on a region’s transportation systems and economic vitality. In heavily populated areas, such as Virginia Beach and Norfolk, there is a critical need to forecast the magnitude of floods and high tide events within a short time frame to plan proper protective measures and to mitigate the danger to drivers and vehicle-related property damage.

Building on MATS UTC previously funded work on infrastructure resilience and adaptation for hurricanes in coastal areas and the impact of climate change and sea level rise on stormwater design and reoccurring flooding problems in the Hampton Roads region, a team of Virginia Tech and University of Virginia researchers is focusing on the resilience of critical transportation operations to respond to coastal flooding. The current research project seeks to protect drivers who are on the road as flooding occurs and those who have not yet entered a particular road and must be re-routed. Adopting a multi-disciplinary approach (hydrology, regional climate and precipitation forecasting, and transportation engineering), the project is using modeling and simulation to identify patterns of tidal levels and rainfall intensities and durations that cause flooding, using the data to forecast periods when roadways may be flooded.

The research team will use simulations of weather conditions, seasons (including tourism and tidal effects), times of day and other effects to provide clearance times of the soon-to-be flooded areas. Their analysis will also include an evaluation of trade-offs associated with providing a warning and closing roads unnecessarily versus failing to issue a warning/road closure when one is needed.

The team is working closely with the City of Virginia Beach, aligning the project with the City’s longer-term goals to improve methods for road closures due to flooding. The plan is important not just to protect drivers, but also to ensure that emergency services, such as fire, police and ambulances, have safe, alternative routes during times of flooding. Having predictive capabilities could allow emergency personnel to relocate if flooding is projected to occur due to a forecasted rainfall event.

Ultimately, the predictive capabilities of the models will allow better allocation of limited resources during critical periods. The team plans to develop a protocol for communicating predicted flooding events and a decision support tool for use in the local traffic management center so that advisories can be provided to the public through variable message signs and 511 systems, thereby reducing traffic delays and improving driver safety.

“This project is an exciting way to combine our research fields to address a relatively frequent issue that delays and frustrates drivers. Our approach should lead to increased safety during flooding and shorter delays for the public and emergency responders,” said Pamela Murray-Tuite, Ph.D., Associate Professor at Virginia Tech.

In addition to Dr. Murray-Tuite, principal investigators include Virginia Tech researchers, Dr. Kevin Heaslip and Dr. Venkataramana Sridhar, and UVA researcher, Dr. Jon Goodall.

For more information, contact Dr. Murray-Tuite at Read more about the project here.