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ODU Engineers Part of Six-University Consortium to Receive $5 Million Department of Transportation Grant

Mecit Cetin, transportation engineer with students.Transportation Engineer Mecit Cetin (center) and some of his students.

Old Dominion University is part of a consortium of six mid-Atlantic schools to receive a $5.16 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to research and develop energy efficient and environmentally sustainable modes of transportation.

Old Dominion University's Transportation Research Institute, part of the Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology, will contribute research and innovation to the Mid-Atlantic Transportation Sustainability University Transportation Center (MATS UTC), a joint venture that will allow the participating schools to work toward promoting sustainable and resilient infrastructure, adaptation to extreme weather and reducing the country's dependence on foreign oil.

MATS UTC will be headquartered at the University of Virginia. The other members of the MATS UTC are Virginia Tech, the University of Delaware, Morgan State University and Marshall University. The winning grant proposal, submitted in January, was selected from Region 3, which includes Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia. This is the first time ODU has become a partner of a regional UTC.

Mecit Cetin, associate professor of civil engineering at Old Dominion University and the school's principal investigator on the project, said transportation engineering research has grown significantly at ODU in the past few years, with the creation of the Transportation Research Institute (TRI) which Cetin directs, and the Center for Innovative Transportation Solutions (CITS) in Virginia Beach. Prior to this new UTC grant, TRI has been a member of two other UTC consortiums: A national UTC led by the University of Maryland and a Tier-I UTC led by University of Idaho.

"Becoming a partner of the regional UTC will add further momentum to our Transportation Research Institute to be recognized as one of the premier transportation research programs in the nation," said Cetin.

"This grant will allow us to conduct interdisciplinary research with colleagues from ODU's Maritime Institute and from the member institutions in the areas of sustainable freight movement, sustainable land-use practices, energy efficient urban transportation, and coastal infrastructure resiliency, which are clearly important considerations for the transport systems in the Hampton Roads Region as well as the Mid-Atlantic region."

Co-principal investigators on the project are Wayne Talley, Frederick W. Beazley professor of economics and director of ODU's Maritime Institute of the Strome College of Business; and Manwo Ng, assistant professor of modeling, simulation and visualization engineering.

The primary focus of MATS UTC is in environmental sustainability of transportation. Projects being tackled by the consortium partners include:

  • Sustainable Freight Movement - Freight movement is particularly critical in the mid-Atlantic region given the large port facilities, critical trucking routes, extensive rail network and inland waterways. While the movement of freight plays a key economic role, the impact of freight movement on the environment in the region is significant and must be directly addressed.
  • Coastal Infrastructure Resiliency - The majority of the population in the mid-Atlantic region lives in coastal areas that are directly impacted by the effects of climate change - particularly sea-level rise and extreme weather events. The MATS UTC will conduct research to better understand risks and identify innovative adaptations.
  • Energy Efficient Urban Transportation - The I-95 Urban Corridor in the mid-Atlantic region experiences extreme congestion. According to the Texas Transportation Institute's Urban Mobility Report, the Washington D.C. region is the most congested in the nation, with Philadelphia also in the top-10. The MATS UTC will focus research on energy efficient, environmentally sound methods to address this urban congestion problem.
  • Enhanced Water Quality Management - Given the mid-Atlantic's coastal location and important inland waterways, the management of stormwater on transportation facilities is particularly important to protect watersheds. Regional transportation agencies are particularly interested in looking beyond meeting minimum regulations to developing more sustainable water quality management practices.
  • Sustainable Land-use Practices - The mid-Atlantic region is made up of an incredibly diverse mix of densely populated urban areas, sparsely populated forested regions, brownfield sites, among others. One-size-fits-all land use policies and practices simply will not work. The center will investigate practices that promote environmental sustainability.

In a release when the grant was announced, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner said he was excited about the work this grant will make possible.

"We desperately need to improve the condition of our nation's infrastructure, and efficiency gains through this kind of research will be key to that goal. I congratulate UVA, Tech and ODU for receiving this grant, and thank them for their leadership on this important issue," Warner said.

The MATS UTC has initiated plans to coordinate and cooperate closely with UTCs in Region 3 as well as collaborate with other UTC's across the United States.