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ODU Officially Opens Center for Innovative Transportation Solutions in Virginia Beach

In an event co-hosted Nov. 1 by Old Dominion University President John R. Broderick and Virginia Beach Mayor William D. Sessoms, Jr., ODU officially opened its Center for Innovative Transportation Solutions (CITS) in Virginia Beach.

Keynote speaker Sean T. Connaughton, Virginia Secretary of Transportation, officially opened the Virginia Beach Town Center facility with a keynote address that lauded ODU and the City of Virginia Beach for collaboratively working to solve problems that affect everyone.

The center will focus on developing and applying innovative techniques, including the expansive use of modeling and simulation, to address a broad variety of transportation challenges and issues facing the region, state and nation.

CITS Director Asad Khattak, ODU's Batten Chair in Transportation, said ODU researchers have already made two presentations to the City of Virginia Beach, one to City Manager Jim Spore and his team, the other to Virginia Beach City Council and Mayor Sessoms.

Six researchers will be housed at CITS, with others joining them to collaborate on specific projects.

Broderick said the facility can become a test-bed for innovative and sustainable transportations for the research and beyond.

"Through CITS, we hope to propel the City to the forefront of transportation research-regionally, nationally, and internationally," he said

"We have assembled a team of internationally known researchers and educators that include Dr. Khattak, Dr. Mike Robinson and Dr. Mecit Cetin who will lead the development of the center."

Sessoms said projects currently being discussed between ODU and the City of Virginia Beach include creating modeling and simulation capabilities, adding roadway infrastructure, and supporting long range planning efforts to update the comprehensive plan.

"The research and development to be conducted at CITS will be unbiased non-partisan scientific endeavors that will ultimately result in more informed decisions for city officials and more successful projects for the region's infrastructure," Sessoms said.

John Sokolowski, executive director of ODU's Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center, said cities face many complex issues in transportation planning, decisions that can provide the basis for sustainable economic growth.

"Modeling and simulation enables decision-makers to see the impact of planned improvements on congestion and ease of access to neighborhoods and businesses, resulting in better informed decisions and more successful projects. This partnership between Old Dominion and Virginia Beach brings together the transportation research resources and urban planning capabilities to solve these complex issues for the benefit of all," Sokolowski said.

CITS was created following an agreement with the Virginia Beach Development Authority, with a goal of positioning the city and university at the forefront of transportation research for the region and beyond.

Approved June 19 by the Development Authority, the agreement provides ODU office space in One Columbus Center, valued at approximately $50,000 per year, for three years. In return, CITS will complete detailed transportation simulation and modeling research of an equivalent value for Virginia Beach. The topic will be jointly selected by researchers and city leaders.

Khattak also leads Old Dominion's work as part of a five-university team recently named a Tier One University Transportation Center (UTC) by the U.S. Department of Education. Work on the $3.5 million grant to integrate real-time data systems and advanced transportation applications, to better manage congestion while minimizing environmental impacts, will be done at CITS. Researchers will also study alternative fuels and technologies, fuel conservation, urban studies, land use and public policy to support transportation decision making at the local, regional and national levels.

In addition, other possible areas of research include:

  • Multimodal transportation planning, including signal light timing, public transportation planning and analysis, potential growth of light rail and simulation of future traffic patterns;
  • Intelligent transportation systems, including Advanced Traveler Information Systems, advanced sensors analysis, and inter-vehicle and vehicle-to-vehicle communications;
  • Safety and security, including driver and passenger behaviors and evacuation transportation plans; and
  • Transportation impacts of climate change and sea level rise.

Old Dominion has held classes in Virginia Beach since 1988, and currently offers 28 bachelor's and 17 master's and doctoral degree programs. Nearly 2,000 students take courses and 90 faculty members teach at ODU's Virginia Beach campus in Princess Anne Commons. The university recently announced the relocation of its nurse anesthesia program to Virginia Beach.