MAUTC Has Released List of Projects


We just received the attached list of projects from the Mid-Atlantic University Transportation Center led by Pennsylvania State University. These projects spanned the period from 2012 – 2014. The UVA projects and URL links are listed here. Projects from the other consortium universities are found here.

Karst Topography: Noninvasive Geophysical Detection Methods and Construction Techniques

Next Generation Traffic Management Centers

Performance Evaluation of Damage-Integrated Girder Bridges

Transit Signal Priority with Connected Vehicle Technology

The Need for Conducting Forensic Analysis of Decommissioned Bridges

Feasibility of Using Shape Memory Alloys to Develop Self Post-Tensioned Concrete Bridge Girders

Development of Digital Instructional Modules for Transportation Engineers Overviewing the Fundamentals of How to Obtain Soil Properties in Practice

Multimodal Enhancements to Public Private Partnerships

Sinkhole Risk Assessment Along Roadway Construction.

Trenchless Technology Settlement Investigation/Study of a Pipe-Scanning Robot for use in Post-Construction Evaluation during Horizontal Directional Drilling

Webinars to Disseminate Information and Results from University of Virginia and Virginia Tech MAUTC Research Projects

Donna Chen Interviewed with Fast Forward to Excite High School Students in Transportation


The following text was published on the Fast Forward website:

What will transportation look like in 20 years? Will self-driving cars replace traditional automobiles? Will more people carpool or use public transportation? Will we leave a healthier environment for the next generation? These are just a few of the questions that Donna Chen, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Virginia, tries to answer on a daily basis.

Donna is studying the impact that up-and-coming technologies will have on society and the environment. For example, will the switch to self-driving cars cause people to drive more? If so, will this lead to even greater energy consumption and more congested roads? What could we do today to prevent that before it happens?

In other words, transportation researchers like Donna are people who know how to ask the right questions, and whose knowledge might even influence the course of the future.

Check out Donna’s video to learn more, and to hear her thoughts on some important issues relating to our transportation system. And be sure to keep following Fast Forward for more news and information on careers in transportation!

CTS Graduate students win Eisenhower Fellowships


Two UVVA Civil and Environmental Engineering graduate students have been awarded prestigious Dwight D. Eisenhower Transportation Fellowships by the US DOT’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA): Erin Robartes and Sean Laffey. Erin is a second-year graduate student in Professor Donna Chen’s group. She holds a BS in Civil Engineering from the University of Connecticut. Sean Laffey is a first-year graduate student in Professor Brian Smith’s group, though he is currently located at the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center in McLean, VA. He holds a BS from CEE at UVA and has worked at AECOM since graduating in 2012. Per the FHWA, these fellowships, “[advance] the transportation workforce by attracting the brightest minds to the field through education, research, and workforce development. CEE is proud of its students for having won this high honor.

UVA 2016 MATS UTC USRIPs Participated in Tours and Activities


During the nine week MATS UTC Undergraduate Summer Research Internship Program, the six students working at UVA participated in several tours and activities.  Along with five other students working at University of Delaware, Marshall University and Old Dominion University, they each worked on a research project.  All students were responsible for a Journal Club presentation (they met with a web meeting online so that the students at the four universities could interact), a presentation during the End of Summer Symposium on July 28 (also online), and wrote a final report.  Please see the Symposium news post for more details about the participants and their projects and also links to their posters, presentations, and reports.

But the UVA students also participated in three tours and at least a couple of events with the UVA Center for Diversity’s Research Experience for Undergraduates program.  The UVA students toured the McCormick Road Dorm Renovation project (and wore hard hats and safety vests), the UVA Hospital Chiller Facility (and learned how cold water is distributed to the hospital for air conditioning), and the Green Roof at the Hospital (fitting our Center’s sustainability theme).  With the UVA Center for Diversity REUs, they participated in their opening day “ropes” orientation course and attended their day at Kings Dominion amusement park.

Several photos from these tours and activities are included here.

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Kings Dominion

UVA Student Muhammad Sherif Presents at ASCE Conference in Nashville


Ph.D. Student Muhammad Sherif attended at the ASCE Engineering Mechanics Institute (EMI) Conference 2016 & Probabilistic Mechanics & Reliability Conference 2016, which was held in Nashville, TN between May 21-23, 2016.

Muhammad Sherif delivered a presentation during the conference. His presentation is titled as:

  • “Characterization of mechanical and electrical properties of SMA-PVA fiber-reinforced cementitious composites”

UVA’s Teresa Culver and Jon Goodall Presented at the World Environmental and Water Resources Congress

At the 2016 World Environmental and Water Resources Congress, on May 22-26 at EWRI, West Palm Beach, Florida University, University of Virginia’s Teresa Culver and her student Ryan Mahon presented her joint project (in collaboration with University of Deleware’s Pei Chiu and Paul Imhoff) titled “Field Performance of a Bioinfiltration System with Biochar and Zero-Valent Iron”. The full project description can be found below on MATS UTC:

Project: Simultaneous Removal of Nitrogen and Phosphorus from Stormwater by Zero-Valent Iron and Biochar in Bioretention Cells

Jon Goodall gave a presentation titled “Stormwater Management in Virginia Beach Using Real-time Sensing, Modeling, and Control” coauthored with Jeff Sadler, Alishan Hassan, Carlisle Rowlands, Guannan Wang, Mohamed Morsy, Kamin Whitehouse, and C. Gregory Johnson. The presentation abstract, project page, and a link to the event page are below:

“Coastal urban areas are facing significant stormwater management challenges. Sea level rise, more frequent extreme weather events, subsidence, and nuisance flooding are some of the stormwater challenges facing these regions. Virginia Beach, the largest city in Virginia, is a model case study of a coastal city facing significant water resource management challenges. Virginia Beach has built eight pumping stations to transfer water stored in Best Management Practices (BMPs), typically wet ponds lined by houses, to larger water bodies with additional storage capacity to prevent flooding. When extreme rainfall events are forecasted, one pumping station’s intake pond can be manually lowered to increase storage capacity for stormwater runoff. The University of Virginia (UVa) is conducting research to develop and deploy low-cost, low-maintenance, machine-to-machine sensors capable of providing localized information on on water resources in real-time for the region. Potential future applications for these sensors in Virginia Beach are for water resources management to mitigate nuisance flooding, which impacts parts of the city on a regular basis. The vision is to have real-time sensors of rainfall, soil moisture, tide levels, and BMP water levels that can be used with models for addressing localized areas facing nuisance flooding. In this presentation, we will introduce stormwater management practices in Virginia Beach and describe prototyping work being documented at UVa to create low-cost, low-maintenance, real-time sensors that can be deployed and used along with models for decision-support in areas like Virginia Beach facing nuisance flooding problems.”

Project: Impact of Climate Change and Sea Level Rise on Stormwater Design and Reoccurring Flooding Problems in the Hampton Roads Region

Announcing an Exciting TRB ABG20 Webinar on Thursday, October 13, 2016 – The Power of Diversity: Attracting and engaging diverse groups in the Transportation Industry

Diversity of people, minds and thought unlocks great potential for the transportation industry. The TRB Education and Training Committee (ABG20) session explores and celebrates diversity through its many forms, voices, and audiences. Our conversations and stories expand the definition of diversity as we look into a range of topics including careers and opportunities, serving various populations, and organizational transformations.

Co-sponsored by: American Public Transportation Association
Thursday, October 13; Registration link available in mid-September

Join us on July 20, 2016, 1pm ET for an Exciting TRB ABG20 Webinar – Transportation: A natural vehicle for Integrated STEM Learning

The TRB Education and Training Committee (ABG20) webinar will explore STEM learning in programs utilizing a transportation lens through informal educational settings.  It will build off of the findings from the 2015 National Research Council’s report on productive STEM programs in out-of-school settings. It will explore ways in which the Transportation field can offer

  • a productive area for advancing STEM learning goals given the broad reach of the modes and the disciplines involved.
  • a continuum of STEM job opportunities and career paths that start at multiple levels of credentialing (High School, advanced certificates, Associates degree, Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral level)
  • a familiar field of inquiry for students of all backgrounds to engage in as they all experience the field in daily life, from walking and biking to transit and highways

Co-sponsored by: National Network for the Transportation Workforce
July 20, 2016, 1pm ET; Registration link available in mid-June

Professor Donna Chen Featured in UVA Engineering News Post

The following text is taken from an article published on the UVA Engineering website:

Donna Chen

Professor Donna Chen’s Triple-Header: Shared, Autonomous, Electric Vehicles

After spending hundreds of billions of dollars over the last decade on new roads, one fact is abundantly clear: As a nation, we are never going to build ourselves out of traffic congestion. The draw of the city is too powerful. The Millennials’ migration to central business districts is just the latest twist in a century-long shift from rural to urban.

“Urbanization has been great for the economies of cities, but not for their traffic,” says Donna Chen, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering. “In many cities, gridlock is a way of life.”

In response, transportation planners like Chen have focused on making better use of existing infrastructure, adopting such techniques as dynamic congestion pricing lanes now being used on the Washington, D.C., beltway to encourage people to change their driving behavior. Given the magnitude of the challenge, however, the impact to these approaches has been limited. The answer, says Chen, is to go beyond simply changing behavior to changing drivers’ fundamental assumptions about transportation.

In the convergence of three emergent technologies—mobile computing, autonomous vehicles and electric vehicles—Chen believes she has the tools to do exactly that.

Carsharing 2.0

“In urban areas not well served by mass transit, most people feel that their only alternative is to own a car,” says Chen. “But from a public and personal point of view, this is not an efficient use of resources.” Having made the upfront investment, most consumers don’t consider the cost of each trip they take or whether they are using their investment efficiently. In fact, the amount of time an individual car is on the road pales in comparison to the time it spends in parking lots and garages, consuming vast amounts of public space.

Chen’s research is inspired by the rise of the shared-use economy and, in particular, the example of carsharing companies like ZipCar. Her goal is to refine these models so they provide the on-demand convenience of car ownership without the drawbacks. “Carsharing has really taken off in some urban areas because it is more flexible than mass-transit and less expensive than private-vehicle ownership,” Chen says. She notes that its popularity has been limited by such issues as the need for users to walk to the nearest carshare vehicle.

Chen has turned to autonomous car technology like that being developed by Google or Apple for a solution. In Chen’s carsharing system of the future, a rider would use a smartphone app to call an autonomous vehicle to a location. Once the rider reaches the destination, he releases the vehicle, which then drives autonomously to the next customer’s location. Chen envisions trip optimization software that would minimize the travel time between the end of a trip and the beginning of the next.

The benefits of this system are enhanced when Chen adds the third new technology to her system: electric vehicles. Removing privately owned gasoline-powered vehicles from the roads and replacing them with electric carshares could help regions achieve national- and state-level air quality standards for ozone and particulate matter and reduce carbon emissions. Electric vehicles are also well suited to the short trips typical in urban settings.

Testing Carsharing in Virtual Austin

Chen has been conducting a series of modeling studies to assess the feasibility of her ideas. For instance, to identify the factors that determine fleet size in a city modeled after Austin, Texas (where Chen earned her doctorate), she created an agent-based model, which works much like the video game SIM City. She found that fleet size is sensitive to battery recharge time and vehicle range. Carshare systems need fewer cars when they use fast-chargers and cars with 200-mile range.

On the basis of these studies, Chen concludes that for low- to average-mileage households, autonomous, electric carsharing networks are a competitive alternative to private car ownership. They also compare favorably to manually driven carsharing services. She also determined that using wireless induction charging, rather than corded chargers that require an attendant, was critical in making electric shared autonomous vehicles price competitive with their gasoline-powered counterparts.

“The models help us learn more about how the systems might work before we put them in practice,” Chen says. “They will also help us understand the impact of the technology as it improves.”