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.”

54th Annual Idaho Asphalt Conference

by Heloise Abtahi


From October 22-23, Moscow and University of Idaho played host to attendees and presenters at the 54th Annual Idaho Asphalt Conference. The conference took place at the Best Western University Inn and was well-attended not only by many industry professionals and contractors, but by students and faculty from the University of Idaho and Washington State University. Presentations took place throughout the day on a wide variety of topics, ranging from asphalt compaction practices to recycling. The conference also included an Exhibition Hall with displays from private companies like Caterpillar, Inc. and Maxam, Inc. that remained open throughout the day.

54th Annual Idaho Asphalt Conference Presentors

Conference Organizers and Presenters: Dr. Fouad Bayomy (UI), Bob Horan (Asphalt Institute), Larry James (Instrotek), Mike Santi (ITD), Thomas Van (FHWA), Mike Anderson (Asphalt Institute), Kamil Kaloush (Arizona State University), Tim Murphy (Murphy Pavement Technology), Steve Ryan (Caterpillar, Inc.), and Steve Cross (Oklahoma State University). Not pictured: John Duval (Pavement Services Inc.), Jon van Gerpen (UI), Brandon Reall (Tensar).

Presentations (presenters pictured above) continued on the 23rd following an icebreaker the night before. The day of presentations began with opening comments from Dr. Fouad Bayomy, who has chaired the conference since 1991. Dr. Bayomy not only organizes the conference, he also uses the opportunity to get students, both undergraduate and graduate, involved. For his undergraduate Construction Materials course—which is offered during the fall when the conference is taking place—students are required to attend at least part of the conference and write a short paper on a topic that they’ve attended a presentation on during the day. For Dr. Bayomy’s graduate students, conference attendance is also compulsory, and a paper on one of the day's topics will also be required (though in this case students will be required to write a more involved term paper).

The conference however, still maintains a balance between academic work and the professional world. John Duval, conference organizer and president of Pavement Services, Inc. in Portland, Oregon, noted the presence of private company managers, engineers, and even equipment operators at the conference. “This cross-section… it works its way into the program. What you’ll notice is that…there’s information you can put into practice next week, and there’s also information you can put into practice maybe five years later.”

Indeed, the conference has witnessed the development of ideas from brand new to theoretical technologies being implemented in the field. Dr. Bayomy noted the particular case of Intelligent Compaction technology, which dominated the last round of panels at the conference. The idea, says Dr. Bayomy, was presented at the conference about 10 years ago by a professor from Texas A&M. Years later, the technology is being field-tested and developed by private companies, and the findings are being presented at the same conference they were introduced at, a transition which Duval says the conference plays a role in.

Conference attendees had a great deal to say about the utility and worth of the conference. Clint, a University of Idaho student now in his first year of graduate school, says he attended the conference a couple of years ago as part of Dr. Bayomy’s undergraduate course. He returned, he says, to hear about new technologies and stay up-to-date, as well as to maintain and make some new professional and academic contacts. Another conference attendee, an industry professional who has attended the conference on and off for the last 13 years, said he was very pleased with a lot of the days’ presentations, citing Tim Murphy’s “Compaction Best Practices” presentation and Brandon Reall’s “Geogrids-Proper use in Pavement Structures.” He also noted the number of students in attendance, saying it was “great they came” because “it’s a great opportunity to gain some practical knowledge.”

For more information on the conference see

 In Memoriam: Michael Dixon 












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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 Christopher Bacon, RiannChris, Riannon, Brett, & Dr. Changon Heighes, and Brett Seely (pictured with Dr. Kevin Chang, UI CE Assistant Professor on right) have won paper competitions administered by the National Conference on Rural Public and Intercity Bus Transportation. Each student received a cash prize and travel funds to attend the conference October 26-29, 2014 in Monterey, California. This year’s conference theme was “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 and focused his research on how GPS-tracking on city busses could make a positive impact in the future. Outside of his presentation, which went very well and even netted a request from one audience member to share his research sources so that it might be used on another project to implement a GPS tracking system in another city, the conference was a great opportunity to network and learn a great deal about a staggering variety of topics. “By sitting in on a variety of topics, something that would be hard to do outside of a national conference like this one, it really opened my eyes to see what is going on in that sphere of transportation engineering.”

Riannon and Brett competed in the undergraduate student essay competition, finishing in first place and second place, respectively. Riannon’s paper, titled, “A Future of Transformation for Public Transit in Rural Communities,” discussed “several significant transformations that must occur in order to ensure the survival of public transportation in rural communities.” Riannon (as well as Christopher and Brett) had never been to the conference before, but said that it was “a really cool experience,” and was able to learn more about a variety of projects that appealed to her interests, including a planned partnership between federal lands/parks and public transit agencies.

Brett, too, enjoyed the conference a great deal, saying “the location, events and diversity of participants really kept me enthused and interested.” His paper was actually quite unique in that it was not set up in a more traditional research format. Instead, Brett chose to “draft [his] 2030 vision of rural and intercity bus transportation into a hypothetical city council planning meeting set in the future.” This distinctive approach, he says, was intended to “emphasize how innovation needs public involvement and support to come to fruition.”

Congratulations Christopher, Riannon, and Brett!



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."

more alumni . . .


Current newsletter

Research project descriptions and final reports

Graduate program in transportation

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Research capabilities

UTC Program at NIATT

2010-2011 Annual report (pdf)

NIATT faculty/staff directory

University of Idaho home

NIATT Student of the Year


Idaho Asphalt Conference

Sustainable Transportation Conference

Smart Signals Conference and presentations

National Institute for Advanced Transportation Technology

University of Idaho
115 Engineering Physics Building
Moscow, ID 83844-0901
Phone:  (208) 885-0576
Fax:      (208) 885-2877

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