Author Archives: Robin Heimer

Leveraging Connected Vehicles to Enhance Traffic Responsive Traffic Signal Control

One of the earliest innovations promoted by the FHWA’s Every Day Counts initiative is adaptive signal control technology – adaptive because traffic flow can be regulated based on data transmitted by strategically-placed sensors to adjust the timing of red, yellow and green lights. The goal is to reduce congestion by creating smoother flow and improving travel times by progressively moving vehicles through green lights. A positive by-product is that emissions are reduced and fuel economy is improved.

With growing use of Connected Vehicles (CV) (vehicles typically equipped with communication technologies such as GPS to communicate with the driver, other cars and roadside infrastructure), researchers at Old Dominion University, Virginia Tech and Marshall University are exploring optimization of current adaptive signal control technology to estimate queue length and develop enhanced signal coordination through communication with CV sensors. The research focuses on Traffic Responsive Plan Selection (TRPS), an underutilized adaptive control product enabling the selection of pre-programmed traffic signal timing plans based on vehicle demand observed from selected vehicle detectors along a signalized corridor.

Using a signal system in Morgantown, WV as the test bed, the researchers tested algorithms for estimating queue lengths from vehicle trajectory data in real-time, estimating the state of the system in real-time, and communicating information back to the controllers to change the timing plans when appropriate. The field data collection work has been completed and the advanced TRPS plans are now being compared in a simulation environment to basic coordination timing plans and basic TRPS control option across various volume scenarios to estimate improvements in delay, emissions, and fuel consumption.

“Most intersections have timed signals to ensure traffic moves at a regular pace,” explained Mecit Cetin, director of the Transportation Research Institute at Old Dominion University and one of the project’s lead collaborators. “The beauty of using enhanced TRPS is the ability to develop a full range of scenarios, or traffic response plans, to modify the timing of the traffic signal. Think, for example, of a traffic signal near a movie theater. Traffic flow fluctuates from the norm when movie-goers leave the theater. Using CV data and the most appropriate plan, the traffic signal becomes responsive to queues in real-time. In other words, the traffic signal is responsive to the immediate problem.”

The goal is to develop guidelines for designing and operating TRPS to reduce fuel consumption and emissions while promoting the adoption of traffic responsive programs as a low-cost adaptive solution to reduce congestion.

For more information, contact Dr. Cetin at


$18.6 billion in road, bridge, rail and public transportation improvements; board also approves VDOT and DRPT’s annual budget

RICHMOND, Virginia – The Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) approved today the latest Six-Year Improvement Program (SYIP) for the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and the Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT), which allocates $18.6 billion to transportation projects over the next six fiscal years beginning July 1, 2017. Projects include highway, road, bridge, rail, transit, bicycle/pedestrian paths and other transportation improvements across the state.

The SYIP provides funding to more than 3,600 transportation projects to improve the state’s infrastructure. This SYIP is the second program to include projects funded through the new funding structure provided by the Governor and General Assembly in 2015, including SMART SCALE distributed High Priority Projects and District Grant programs and State of Good Repair.

FY 2018-2023 Six-Year Improvement Program breakdown:

$15.2 billion – Highway Construction:

  • $1.1 billion – State of Good Repair
  • $2.1 billion – SMART SCALE
  • $0.7 billion – Legacy Programs
  • $3.4 billion – Specialized Programs
  • $1.2 billion – Revenue Sharing
  • $1.6 billion – Maintenance
  • $0.1 billion – Research and Planning
  • $3.9 billion – Public-Private Partnerships
  • $1.1 billion – Local and Regional Funding

$3.4 billion – Rail and Public Transportation

  • $817 million – Rail Initiatives
  • $2.6 billion – Public Transportation*

*Includes $168 million in SMART SCALE funds.

$18.6 billion – Total six-year program

VDOT’s Annual Budget for FY 2018  

The Virginia Department of Transportation’s (VDOT) annual budget for Fiscal Year 2018 is $5.4 billion, representing a one percent increase from the FY 2017 budget. The increase from the previous year is due to a large increase in project participation contributions from the regional entities and localities, offsetting a significant reduction in state revenue and lower use of bond proceeds. Without the increased project contributions, the FY 2018 budget would have been $315 million less, or a four percent reduction from the FY 2017 Budget.  The annual budget is based on the most recent official state revenue forecast from December 2016 and estimated federal funding.

Funds that will be provided for highway maintenance and operations represent 35 percent of the total budget, followed by nearly 31 percent for highway construction.

Smaller portions of the budget are directed to address the needs and requirements of debt service, support to other agencies, tolls, administration, and other programs.

The breakdown:

$356 million – Debt Service

$2.13 billion – Road maintenance and operations (includes city and county street payments)

$548.6 million – Support to other agencies, tolls, administration and other programs

$1.87 billion – Construction

$492.5 million – Funding dedicated to Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads Regions for local and regional transportation projects

$5.41 billion – Total VDOT annual budget

DRPT’s Annual Budget for FY 2018

The Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) annual budget for Fiscal Year 2018 is $689 million. The overwhelming majority of these funds are directed to a variety of grant recipients, including: public transportation providers, local and regional government entities, freight railroads, and Amtrak. Over 50 percent of these funds are dedicated to capital improvement projects. The annual budget is based on the most recent official state revenue forecast from December 2016 and estimated federal funding.

The breakdown:

$429 million – Public Transportation Programs

$207.3 million – Passenger and Freight Rail Programs

$1.6 million – Rail Industrial Access Programs

$7.8 million – Rail Preservation Programs

$8.7 million – Commuter Assistance Programs

$13.9 million – Agency Operating Budget

$4.3 million – Planning, Regulation, and Safety Programs

$16.4 million – Human Service Transportation Programs

$689 million – Total DRPT annual budget

Upcoming Webinars: Converting Paved Roads to Unpaved Roads

Converting Paved Roads to Unpaved Roads

Tuesday April 4, 2017 from 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM Mountain/ 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM Eastern

Add to Calendar

This is an online event.


The National Center for Rural Road Safety (Safety Center) and the Center for Environmentally Sustainable Transportation in Cold Climates (CESTiCC) are co-hosting a FREE, 1.5-hour online webinar.
This webinar will take place Tuesday, April 4th from 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM Mountain/1:00 PM to 2:30 PM Eastern.
This webinar will provide an overview of the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Synthesis 485 Converting Paved Roads to Unpaved. The webinar will present the contents of the synthesis report which summarizes the state-of-the-practice of the road conversion process, tools that can be used to aid in the decision making process of whether to convert from paved to unpaved including available resources and design guides, and what has worked and what has not worked for those in the unpaving process including public outreach and identified impacts.

To register for the webinar, please click on the button below. 
Instructions on accessing the webinar will be sent after your registration is confirmed.

Register Now!
Thank you for letting us be your “Safety Sidekick!”  We look forward to having you join us!
Jaime Sullivan
Rural Road Safety Center

Student Spotlight: Cem Sazara Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Old Dominion University

The Transportation Research Institute (TRI) at Old Dominion University (ODU) addresses critical issues in surface transportation systems. Bringing research expertise around traffic operations, intelligent transportation systems, travel demand modeling and simulation, connected vehicles, and choice modeling, TRI offers young researchers and graduate students the opportunity to work at the leading edge of innovative congestion, safety and environmental traffic solutions.

Currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Modeling, Simulation and Visualization at ODU, Cem Sazara is a member of the TRI where his research interests include autonomous vehicles, LIDAR technology and data analysis. He views traffic and congestion issues as constantly evolving, especially as increasing numbers of vehicles and commuters use transportation systems originally built for much smaller volumes of traffic. He is interested in how real-time mobile data, collected from sensors and autonomous vehicles, holds the promise of “hidden nuggets of important traffic information” not unlocked by existing stationary cameras or sensors.

Sazara is currently completing a project using LIDAR (light detection and ranging) remote sensing technology and autonomous vehicles to explore distance measurement and obstacle detection. LIDAR produces point clouds that have important information about the surrounding environment. Sazara and his research partners collected trajectory data on a two lane urban road using a Velodyne VLP-16 LIDAR. Due to the dynamic nature of data collection and limited range of the sensor, some of these trajectories had missing points or gaps. The project proposed a novel method for recovery of missing vehicle trajectory data points using microscopic traffic flow models. The final manuscript entitled, Offline Reconstruction of Missing Vehicle Trajectory Data from 3D LIDAR, is in preparation and will be presented this June at the 2017 IEEE Intelligent Vehicles Symposium in Redondo Beach, CA.

Next, Sazara will turn his attention to a MATS UTC-funded project estimating road inundation levels due to recurrent flooding. The project will develop a set of tools and analytical capabilities to estimate water inundations due to flooding using data primarily from video surveillance cameras.

Dr. Mecit Cetin, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Director of the TRI, is Sazara’s advisor. “Cem not only has excellent analytical skills and a curious mind, but also great work ethics,” said Cetin. Sazara will look to leverage these skills as he pursues a research career with either a private company or research institute in the transportation field.

“Our ability to collect data in real-time is a huge leap forward in advancing our capacity to develop innovative solutions based in true driving behaviors and congestion issues,” Sazara stated. “The Hampton Roads region has great opportunities to collaborate with government agencies and other research groups as well as interesting infrastructure such as coastal roadways, bridges and tunnels. It’s exciting to think that this sensor data could be the key to understanding and influencing traffic in a whole new way.”

Sazara received a BS in Electrical-Electronics Engineering from Bogazici University (Turkey) and an MS in Industrial and Systems Engineering from Colorado State University. He expects to graduate in 2018.

Contact Cem Sazara at

IPA Presents Research Outcomes at 96th Annual TRB Meeting

Researchers from the Institute for Public Administration (IPA) at the University of Delaware presented research outcomes at the 96th Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) in Washington, D.C. on January 9 and 10, 2017.

Intermodal Facilities Presentation

IPA policy scientists Marcia Scott and Christopher Kelly presented at Session 464, “Data and Technology for Rural and Intercity Decision Making.” The presentation highlighted findings of a paper selected for inclusion in the TRB’s 2017 Annual Meeting Compendium of Papers entitled, “Research of Viable Attributes and Potential to Integrate Curbside Intercity Buses in Intermodal Transportation Facilities.” The paper was co-authored by Scott, Kelly, former public administration fellow Eileen Collins, IPA Director Jerome R. Lewis, Ph.D., and Professor Ardeshir Faghri, Ph.D. and Research Associate Mingxi Li, Ph.D., of UD’s Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering. The paper may be downloaded from UD Space at

The research paper provides a synopsis of a more in-depth report, co-authored by Scott, Kelly, and Collins and published in November 2013 on, “Intermodal Transportation Facilities: Research of Viable Attributes and Potential to Integrate Curbside Intercity Buses.” The research highlighted benefits of successful intermodal transportation facilities that support and enhance transit usage, promote seamless transfers among modes, provide clear access to transportation networks, maximize transportation options, and create efficiencies of shared costs and transportation infrastructure. In addition to transportation benefits, the report explored the potential for intermodal facilities to serve as centers of revitalization and hubs of economic, commercial, and mixed-used development activity.

While barriers to intermodalism exist, report findings suggest that development and investment in intermodal transportation facilities—which serve as a hub for all modes of transportation, including curbside intercity buses—will promote a more integrated and sustainable transportation system.

Public Involvement Poster Presentation

IPA policy scientist Marcia Scott and public administration fellow Savannah Edwards presented a poster at TRB Session 697, “Current Issues in Transportation Public Involvement.” The poster was among the 25 selected for presentation by the TRB Committee on Public Involvement. Entitled “GIS Story Maps Empower and Engage Stakeholders in Planning for Complete Communities in Delaware,” the 4’ x 8’ poster was designed by IPA policy specialist Sarah Pragg. It summarizes research, funded by the Mid-Atlantic Transportation Sustainability University Transportation Center (MATS UTC), which explores the use of GIS Story Maps to satisfy mandates for increased transparency, accountability, and public engagement in planning for transportation-efficient and sustainable places. IPA developed a series of GIS Story Maps to illustrate Delaware’s complete communities planning framework that is designed to build capacity of local governments to create “attractive, inclusive, efficient, healthy & resilient places.” Each Story Map conveys one of the five elements of a complete community. IPA’s GIS Story Map Gallery can be viewed online at

By Marcia Scott, IPA Policy Scientist

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