National Institute for Advanced Transportation Technology

The National Institute for Advanced Transportation Technology at the University of Idaho is a center of excellence for transportation research, education and technology transfer in the state of Idaho, the Pacific Northwest and Intermountain regions, and in the United States.

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Dr. Ahmed Abdel-Rahim Chosen to Lead UI’s National Institute For Advanced Transportation Technology

(By Rob Patton)

The University of Idaho College of Engineering announced today the selection of civil engineering professor Ahmed Abdel-Rahim as the permanent director of the National Institute for Advanced Transportation Technology (NIATT). Abdel-Rahim has been serving as interim director since the spring and has been an active NIATT researcher since 2000.

“Ahmed brings a rare combination of excellent research credentials and discerning leadership skills to the NIATT directorship,” said Jon Van Gerpen, associate dean for research in the College of Engineering. “I have been impressed with his problem-solving skills and willingness to collaborate.”

Abdel-Rahim’s research focuses on traffic operation and controls, transportation systems, modeling, highway design and traffic safety, and, most recently, security and survivability of transportation infrastructure.

Since 2009, Abdel-Rahim has been a part of 25 externally funded research projects totaling over $2 million in awards, 18 of which he has led as principle investigator. Abdel-Rahim’s research has been funded by a wide range of organizations including the National Cooperative Highway Research Program, Federal Highway Administration, Idaho Transportation Department and the U.S. Department of Transportation.

In addition to his role as NIATT director, Abdel-Rahim also serves as the director for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Transportation for Livability by Integrating Vehicles and the Environment, or TranLIVE, a $6.8-million university research consortium led by the University of Idaho which includes partners such as Old Dominion University, Syracuse University, Texas Southern University and Virginia Tech University.

Abdel-Rahim is also the recipient of the College of Engineering’s outstanding faculty award in 2010 and the University of Idaho’s midcareer award in 2012.

Abdel-Rahim also coordinated a recent visit to UI by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, underscoring that NIATT has made the campus a focal point for developing, implementing and deploying 21st-century transportation solutions not only for the state and region, but for the nation.

“Ahmed is a proven leader and mentor,” said College of Engineering Dean Larry Stauffer. “As interim director he has provided terrific leadership, and I expect this to continue now that he is the permanent director, continuing to develop the college’s reputation for excellence in transportation research and education.”


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“Measures to Alleviate Congestion at Rural Intersections”

Case Study at State Highway 55 / Banks-Lowman Highway Offers ITD Efficient Congestion Solutions  (By Heloise Abtahi)

There aren’t many drivers today who can say they’ve never had to endure holiday traffic. Cars can be backed up for miles, cutting heavily into precious holiday time. This type of congestion is especially noticeable at normally quiet rural intersections, which can go from seeing very little regular traffic to seeing thousands of cars around holidays like Memorial Day weekend or the Fourth of July. In an effort to help alleviate this congestion, Dr. Ahmed Abdel-Rahim, a professor in the Department of Civil Engineering and Interim Director of NIATT, and NIATT Research Assistant Chris Bacon conducted a case study focused on one intersection in particular: State Highway 55 and Banks-Lowman Highway. This area was identified by the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) as experiencing typically low traffic volumes with a spike around holidays. In order to mitigate the problems drivers were experiencing at this and many other rural intersections around Idaho, Dr. Abdel-Rahim and Mr. Bacon worked to find the best way to meet not only the particular needs of the SH-55/Banks-Lowman Highway intersection, but also to discover the most efficient methods for limiting strain on all types of rural intersections during holiday periods.

SH-55/Banks-Lowman Highway IntersectionUsing data from automatic traffic counters installed by ITD in 2006, the research team was able to establish a base count for the average daily traffic (ADT) for the peak season from past years. To collect the traffic data for 2014, the project team worked with ITD to get an accurate ADT through the use of both automatic traffic counters and cameras installed at the intersection. The result was an excellent and very thorough data set that according to Dr. Abdel-Rahim, makes the study’s findings much more universally applicable. “Because of the extensive data collection, we really were able to totally understand the problem and offer a solution.” Not only were the objectives of the project (collecting traffic data and offering a potential solution for peak congestion at the SH-55/Banks-Lowman Highway intersection) successfully achieved, other rural intersections will benefit from the case study. Though the SH-55/Banks-Lowman Highway intersection has somewhat unique geographical features, Dr. Abdel-Rahim believes that the study will be a great help in alleviating heavy congestion during these holiday periods at many types of rural intersections.

Chris Bacon worked as a research assistant for this project, helping to collect and analyze the data. From a student’s perspective, he says, this was an excellent opportunity to gain truly practical experience of what he’s learned in the classroom and to understand the value of using the actual technology. Working with ITD allowed him to get experience with their automatic traffic counters and to understand how to assemble a thorough and useful data set. Chris even went so far as to note that not only was the volume of traffic increasing during these peak periods—the types of vehicles and the people driving them were changing as well. SH-55/Banks-Lowman intersectionMany of these vehicles might not normally be classified as large or oversized, but in the hands of drivers who might be unpracticed in driving with a trailer and unfamiliar with the area, a truck with a small trailer can prove to be a rather large obstacle. It is this careful attention to detail that makes this study so useful not only to the SH-55/Banks-Lowman intersection, but also to rural intersections throughout Idaho and, on a larger scale, the country. After all, this congestion is something that effects not only holiday-makers in these areas, but also those who live and work there. This case study was able to define and provide a solution for an identified problem, and in doing so, it will offer very real results.



Civil Engineering students working with NIATT, Christopher Bacon, Riannon Heighes, and Brett Seely have won paper competitions administered by the National Conference on Rural Public and Intercity Bus Transportation. Each student will receive a cash prize and travel funds to attend the conference on October 26-29, 2014 in Monterey, California. This year’s conference theme is “Setting Our Course for the Future”. Students were asked to envision four alternative perspectives for our transportation future: a vision of continued growth, one of disciplined or constrained growth, a future of decline and collapse, or one of transformation. Understanding these four alternative perspectives is important as many believe that the way we envision our future actually shapes the future. Christopher participated in the graduate student research paper competition. His paper, entitled “Real-Time Information Projecting Towards the Future,” received second place honors. Riannon and Brett competed in the undergraduate student essay competition, finishing in first place and second place, respectively. Congratulations Christopher, Riannon, and Brett! We know that you will represent the University of Idaho, the Department of Civil Engineering, and NIATT well.



Naresh PachauriNaresh Pachauri (MSBAE ’08, MSc Chemistry ’11) worked with Dr. Brian He and Dr. Jon Van Gerpen as a graduate research assistant focusing on continuous biodiesel production using reactive distillation.  Naresh said, "The process cut down the costs and reaction times significantly." Prior to coming to Idaho, Naresh received a B.Tech in Chemical Engineering at NIT in India.

He was particularly fascinated with Idaho's winters.  His favorite past time was to learn & gossip with his mentor and friend, Dr. Joseph Thompson. He is thankful for the opportunity to do research and the financial support for his graduate studies from NIATT.  

He has worked in variety of biodiesel plants spread across the nation (including 2,5,10,20,50 & 100+ MGY capacities). He has been with his current company for the past two years.



Zane SappZane Sapp (BSEE ’08, MSEE 2010) has been working for Campbell Company in Boise, Idaho since graduating from the University of Idaho. He started working with NIATT in 2008 with Dr. Richard Wall. The work he did focused on board level troubleshooting on the Advanced Accessible Pedestrian System (AAPS). They now sell the AAPS as a product at Campbell. "This was truly an amazing experience to bring a product from a thought to fruition. I had all the tools from my undergrad experience that I could then apply at the graduate level. I was very fortunate to have NIATT to provide this great experience," said Sapp. He also had an internship with Campbell in summer of '09 and then was hired permanently by the company the next year.

Sapp said, "Since employment we have built a fine engineering team here a Campbell. We continue to design and build new products for the traffic industry. We also continually improve our products by visiting field sites and learning what the customers would like to see on the street. I’d like to thank NIATT and Dr. Wall for making this all possible."

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National Institute for Advanced Transportation Technology

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