11/05/15 / MU University Communications

  • Marshall engineering dean appointed to a prestigious national expert panel

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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Dr. Wael Zatar, dean of Marshall University’s College of Information Technology and Engineering (CITE), has been appointed to serve as a member of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) National Expert Panel on "Use of Fiber Reinforced Polymers in Transportation Infrastructure," which is being conducted as one of the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Synthesis Studies.

The main objective of projects under this program is to synthesize existing information on a topic of relevance to highway objectives. Synthesis publications have proven to be useful and authoritative reports on highway problems and practices. As a member of the expert panel, Zatar is expected to participate in regular meetings to discuss the topic and refine the scope of the project, suggest sources of information, and identify and discuss potential topic consultants.

The panel will advise on the format and content of the synthesis report and review the draft documents.

Neil J. Pedersen, executive director of the Transportation Research Board’s, informed Zatar by letter of his appointment.  

The TRB is a division of the National Research Council (NRC), a private, nonprofit institution that provides expertise in science and technology to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities.

The NRC is jointly administered by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine. Members of NRC technical committees serve as individuals, not as representatives of the organizations by which they are employed or of which they may be members.

The expert panel provides a forum for gathering, synthesizing and disseminating information on research and development and on the design, fabrication, serviceability, inspection and repair of fiber-reinforced polymer transportation structures. Activities of this panel assist developing an awareness of the potential impacts of using composites for a wide range of structural applications and provide information for development and conduct of academic courses on composites for civil engineers.

The panel will focus its work on evaluating the use of fiber reinforced polymers in highway infrastructure as they relate to: how State Departments of Transportation (DOTs) are using fiber-reinforced polymer and summary of use by application, whether the use is experimental or an institutionalized standard practice, lessons learned by state DOTs, specifications, design guidelines, methods of procurement/contracting, long-term durability, performance evaluation and qualification testing, use of the fiber reinforced polymers in repair and retrofit applications versus new construction projects, cost considerations and how cost impacts the decision, challenges to implementation and how fiber-reinforced polymers are incorporated into life-cycle cost analysis.

“I am fascinated with this very prestigious appointment and with the fact that I have been selected to serve the civil and the structural engineering community at this very high level. It is an absolute honor to assume this role, to serve at this capacity and to be one of very few panelists coming from academia from all over the globe,” Zatar said. “As an expert panelist I would provide guidance, with my panel colleagues, and review reports aimed at documenting the current state of the practice in the use of fiber-reinforced polymer in highway infrastructure.  The synthesis will identify fiber-reinforced polymer applications, barriers to more widespread use, current research, and research needs.”

Zatar, who calls himself “a very proud Marshall University employee,” will be the first from the state of West Virginia to serve in such a national role in the field of composites’ application to transportation infrastructure.

“My role on the panel would allow me to continue acquiring the latest knowledge in the field and be able to transfer and implement the state-of-the-art knowledge and the state-of-the-practice for repair technologies, thus benefitting the infrastructure system in West Virginia and the United States,” Zatar added.

Zatar also serves as the chairman of the National Committee on Structural Fiber Reinforced Polymers of the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies. The committee is among the largest and most prestigious national – and international – committees on the subject of Structural Fiber Reinforced Polymers. Zatar’s initial service is for three years, from 2015 to 2018, although his service is expected to be extended for another three years to 2021.

9/13/15 / The Herald Dispatch

  • Fit Fest Raises Funds for Paul Ambrose Trail

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HUNTINGTON - Hundreds of Tri-State residents turned out to run, bike, walk and race Sunday afternoon as part of the sixth annual FitFest at Ritter Park.

The community wellness event and fundraiser raises money for the Paul Ambrose Trail for Health, a growing bicycle and pedestrian and jogging trail system in different sections of Huntington.

The path provides free, healthy recreation opportunities for the city of Huntington.

FitFest "seems to be growing," said Kenneth Ambrose, father of Paul Ambrose who was among the victims of 9/11. "The path is being used by so many people. It's great to see the utilization of it. Exercise and fitness is just what Paul was about."

His wife, Sharon Ambrose, said she was pleased with the crowd and the children's activities included in FitFest. "Every year there are more children," she said.

They included a 25-, 50- and 100-yard dash along with a mile and a mile and a half fun run races, according to Emily Hagan, marketing specialist for the Rahall Transportation Institute which is overseeing the trail system. For adults, there was a 5K, a 10K and a

20-mile bicycle race.

"We have something for everyone in the family," Hagan said. "We want to keep the kids active."

So does Jamie LaFear of Huntington. She brought her three children, Reagan, 6, Nathan, 8 and Quentin, 10. "We came out to support the event," LaFear said. "I think it's a good event for Huntington."

"I support the health initiative," said Sarita Gumm of Myra, West Virginia. "I love running. I do a lot of trail running. This is a great event, and I support what they're doing."

Ray Frye of Huntington was among those planning to run in the 5K along with a stroller and his twin 4-year-old daughters, Sara and Anna.

"My daughters love it," Frye said of the stroller. "They say, 'Go faster, Daddy!' "

Before his race, he had his daughters participated in the 25-yard dash. Sarah finished first, and Anna came in third, according to their proud dad.

"We have them in soccer," Frye said. "We try to get them to be active. They're big swimmers. We can't always control the calories they take in, but we can help them burn them off."

Greg Sergent of Culloden was planning to walk in the 5K fun run with his daughter, Michelle.

"Mom is the runner; we're the walkers," Michelle Sergent said.

While Michelle has participated in other fun runs, it was the first for her dad. "We're doing this for our health," he said.

Becky Waugh of Huntington was among the more serious runners in the race. "I've been in about two dozen since April," she said. Her husband, Eric, pushed their son, Ezra, 2, in a stroller in the race.

"(Ezra) knows weekends are race days," she said. "We do this to stay healthy and fit."

Valerie Sellards of Huntington was participating in her first 10K Sunday. "It's been something I've always wanted to do," she said. "I've been training." She's been pushing 4-year-old daughter, Lillian, and her 2-year-old son, Robert, in a double stroller. "I was on the treadmill the other day doing sprints, and they were running beside me. They both do yoga with me.

"I just want them to be active," she said.

Haley Smith, 12, and her friend, Carmen Carroll, 12, both participate in cross country at Barboursville Middle School and were planning to run in the 5K.

"I liked running, and I wanted to try cross country," Smith said. Her parents, David and Cindy Smith of Salt Rock, can't keep up with their daughter, so they ride their bicycles for exercise.

Haley Smith didn't have a time in mind she was shooting for in the race. "I'm just going to try my best," she said.

9/9/15 / The Herald Dispatch

  • Nichols at forefront of traffic engineering research

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HUNTINGTON - Dr. Andrew Nichols, associate professor of engineering at Marshall University, was featured on the cover of the winter 2014 edition of Neuron, a journal covering West Virginia science and research.

Nichols told Neuron while growing up in Point Pleasant he loved to hunt and fish. He also enjoyed math and science and was fascinated with LEGOs, so becoming an engineer seemed a normal fit.

"I didn't really make the connection between LEGOs and engineering until later in life," Nichols said. "I still use LEGOs to do outreach with K-12 students. I tell them if they like playing with LEGOs they should consider a career in engineering."

During his freshman year at West Virginia University, Nichols decided to study civil engineering so he could spend a lot of time outdoors, according to Neuron. While earning his master's and doctorate degrees at Purdue University, however, he tailored his field of study even more. While working in the traffic lab at Purdue, Nichols said he gained hands-on experience working with traffic signals, learning to use software to study traffic patterns and design traffic signal timings, according to Neuron. He also learned how to program actual traffic signal controllers at intersections. It's an expertise he told Neuron very few practicing traffic engineers possess.

"A traffic engineer is really a subset of civil engineering," he said. "A transportation engineer really deals more with design and curvature of a road and things like thickness of the pavement. I focus more on traffic signal control, signage and striping. I basically look at trouble spots and try and determine and ultimately fix the problem."

While working as an assistant professor of engineering at the University of South Carolina, Nichols said he always wanted to return home to help educate students in Appalachia. Marshall did not have an engineering program at the time, so Nichols said he figured to be a university-level educator in Appalachia he would have to teach at Ohio University, WVU or West Virginia Tech.

"It was a perfect storm that brought me here," he said. "When I moved away I didn't really see coming home as an option. Then I found out that not only was Marshall starting an engineering program, but a civil engineering program. Then I found out they were looking for a transportation engineer. The stars really did seem to align."

Seeing a traffic problem, Nichols said, is essential to solving a traffic problem.

"Most of the work I do is hands-on in the sense that it gets implemented on the roadway, affecting motorists every day," Nichols said. "I can't design a solution to a traffic problem without going to the field to see how drivers are performing and determining what is causing the congestion."

According to, Nichols' current research, funded by the West Virginia Department of Transportation, promotes ways to make West Virginia roads and intersections safer and more efficient. He conducts research in conjunction with the Nick J. Rahall Appalachian Transportation Institute, of which he has been program director for the institute's Intelligent Transportation System since 2007.

It was announced in a press release this past April Nichols was the recipient of the 2014-2015 Charles E. Hedrick Outstanding Faculty Award from Marshall, earning him a $5,000 grant from Charles B. and Mary Jo Locke Hedrick. The award recognizes a full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty member with a minimum of seven years of teaching experience at Marshall and a record of outstanding classroom teaching, scholarship, research and creative activities, according to guidelines set by administrators at Marshall.

Nichols lives in Lesage with his wife, Kristin, and his 11 year-old son.

Follow reporter Brandon Roberts on Twitter @brobertsHD.

About Dr. Andrew Nichols

Bachelor of Science in Engineering, West Virginia University, 2000

Master's and Ph. D. Purdue University, 2004

Assistant professor, University of South Carolina, 2004-2007

Assistant/associate professor, Marshall University, 2007-present

Program director, Intelligent Transportation System, Rahall Appalachian Transportation Institute, 2007-present

9/7/15 / Charleston Gazette-Mail

  • Huntington’s Fit Fest benefits PATH system

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HUNTINGTON — Huntington’s seventh annual Fit Fest will return to Ritter Park from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday to celebrate healthy living and promote the Paul Ambrose Trail for Health, known as PATH.

The PATH trail system, established in 2006, was founded in memory of the late Dr. Paul Ambrose, a gifted physician and Huntington native, who died in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Ambrose received his master’s of public health from Harvard in 2000 and served as a senior scientist in federal research, studying the escalation of obesity in the United States.

In collaboration with the Rahall Transportation Institute and city of Huntington, the trail made in his memory has grown to incorporate prominent local businesses to provide alternate means of transportation to cut congestion, connect the community and help people get exercise.

Cassey Bowden, marketing manager of the Rahall Transportation Institute, said although fundraising for PATH was vital, raising awareness of the trail was the primary goal.

“We want to show the community that there’s potential for growth and attract more users and inevitably get people involved to see how they can use the path and keep it in good conditions,” she said.

Since 2009, Fit Fest has been the primary fundraiser of the trail’s construction, dividing proceeds between trail maintenance and building fees.

“There are several folks that we work with that make PATH happen,” she said. “The maintenance is a large endeavor, and those are portions we take a lot of pride in to make sure the trail stays in good shape and is usable.”

Bowden said her involvement with PATH and Fit Fest began when she made the decision to place roots in Huntington.

“My husband and I decided to raise our family in Huntington, and I see PATH as a way to encourage families to get out and use it as a wellness resource,” she said. “We have two little boys and they already understand the importance of exercise and physical fitness.”

Having access to the city’s amenities and quick transportation via PATH are two convenient ways to shape the Huntington community, Bowden said.

“You go to big cities and notice that they have nice walking or cycling paths, and I want people to think our city is a nice place to go for a walk or ride in too,” Bowden said.

In addition to the 5K run/walk, 10K run, one-mile fun run and children’s dashes, a leisure bicycle ride has been added to the event’s agenda, beginning after the races at 4:15 p.m.

“Some other folks may not be interested in running, but this gives us another event for families to participate in without running,” Bowden said. “It gives them the option to explore PATH with a guide to show them where to go so that when they’re out riding with their families, they have a path to follow.”

Bowden said she anticipated a surge in attendance with the addition of the ride.

“Every year we seem to gain new followers, and that’s what the bike ride will do,” she said. “I think we’ll see a bit of a positive change in numbers for adding the leisure bike ride.”

In 2008, the Congestion Mitigation Air Quality grant awarded $1,016,500 to the city, which funded the Guyandotte floodwall trail.

Trail construction began on Sept. 11, 2009 at St. Cloud’s Commons Park in West Huntington. In 2012, Fit Fest donations totaled $87,000, which was designated for the completion of the St. Clouds Commons path.

“Trails have been constructed as a direct result of the money raised at Fit Fest,” Bethany Williams, RTI trails research associate, said in a press release.

Bowden said construction plans for the next portions of PATH are underway and under revision in the PATH planning committee.

Fit Fest will also feature games, obstacle courses and activities for children throughout the event.

Registration and event details for Fit Fest may be found online at

PATH donations and information can be accessed at

Contact writer Lexi Browning at

- See more at:

7/2/15 / The Herald Dispatch

  • Blood drive honors area firefighter

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HUNTINGTON - In the past, whenever there was a charitable cause to get behind, Huntington firefighter Wes Bowden led the charge.

Whether it was the fire department's boot drive to benefit kids at the Huntington City Mission or helping to distribute Angel Tree gifts with the Salvation Army, "Wes was always there to help, and he never asked for anything in return," said his longtime friend, Capt. Chris Wilson.

Since April, Bowden has found himself on the receiving end of firefighters' generosity, after suffering an aortic aneurysm at the station.

He's had five surgeries since, and spent the past few months at home working hard on recovering.

Firefighters' support was demonstrated again when they showed up in droves Wednesday at the St. Mary's Conference Center for an American Red Cross Blood Drive in Bowden's honor. The blood drive was put on in partnership with St. Mary's and the Rahall Transportation Institute, where Bowden's wife, Cassey, works as marketing director.

Both Wes and Cassey Bowden, who are parents to two young boys, were on hand at the blood drive on Wednesday and said the support they've experienced in the past few months has been overwhelming.

"It's very exciting," Wes Bowden said of the great turnout at the blood drive on Wednesday. "I really appreciate it, and I'm glad to see so many people come."

He's still in the process of recovery, but has gone from re-learning how to take a first step to walking up to half mile a day.

He's a fighter, Wilson said.

"The way he's fought through all this is just an inspiration to us," Wilson said, while donating blood. "And on top of that, he's just a great guy who didn't deserve any of this. He fought through it and has taken every challenge head-on. He's not back to work yet, but he's fighting to get back."

Cassey Bowden said she's been "taken aback" at the community support. It started in the hospital, where the firefighters showed up in force and where people brought food, cards, paintings and other tokens to show their support.

"You live in a place you love, and you're going about your life and raising your family, and you don't think something so tragic and life-changing will happen, or that people will respond in such a caring way," Cassey Bowden said. St. Mary's, where Wes Bowden was treated, was tremendous, she said, from the doctors and nursing staff to the janitorial staff, whom she got to know well, to the volunteers. She also expressed gratitude to the Rahall Transportation Institute, where she just returned back to her job and which, under the leadership of Executive Director Frank Betz, encouraged all employees to take time off Wednesday afternoon to head over to St. Mary's to donate blood.

The blood drive was booming as of mid-afternoon on Wednesday, just a couple hours in.

"Team Bowden is in full effect," said St. Mary's spokeswoman Angela Henderson-Bentley. "It's been amazing - the response from the community, his fellow firefighters and even students here at the School of Nursing, who just came over."

The Red Cross was a fitting charity, as Bowden himself received some 40 pints of blood throughout his treatment.

Chad Pauley from the Red Cross recruitment division said it was a tremendous gesture, not to mention a great time to donate because supplies are low in the summer.

Forty percent of the Red Cross's donations come from students, and with school out in the summertime, donations drop a great deal.

To schedule an appointment to donate blood or for more information, call 800-733-2767 or visit

6/16/15 / The Herald Dispatch

  • Parsec to operate Prichard terminal

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PRICHARD - A big missing piece was put in place Tuesday when it was announced Cincinnati-based Parsec Inc. will be hired to operate the $30 million Heartland Intermodal Gateway facility at Prichard.

The decision was made by the West Virginia Public Port Authority's Board of Directors. Charles Neal Vance, director of the Port Authority, praised the board's decision.

"Parsec will be an excellent company to operate our facility at Prichard; they have many years of experience and bring a safety record that is unmatched," he said. "The West Virginia Public Port Authority Board of Directors believes there can be an excellent opportunity with this company, with their corporate headquarters in Cincinnati and intermodal operations with Norfolk Southern in Columbus."

Prichard is the terminus in West Virginia for Norfolk and Southern Railroad's Heartland Corridor, which begins in Norfolk, Virginia, and ends in Chicago. The cargo transfer facility is expected to attract businesses, particularly warehousing operations.

Parsec currently operates 33 terminals in the United States, Canada and Mexico. According to its website, Parsec's operations are responsible for handling approximately 45 percent of the nation's trailer on flatcar, or TOFC, traffic each year.

"We put out a request for proposals, and we looked thoroughly at every respondent," Chris Fleming, development coordinator for the Port Authority, said. "Parsec came to the top."

The Heartland Intermodal Gateway terminal will offer industrial and warehousing space, a modern and efficient freight container service and improved access to international rail lines.

The 100-acre terminal will be bordered by the Big Sandy River with access to U.S. 52 approximately 10 miles south of I-64 in Kenova.

Fleming said Parsec officials will be on site beginning in August preparing for the facility's planned December 2015 opening. Parsec will hire a gate operator, terminal supervisor and two equipment operators, but the facility is expected to have a ripple effect across West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky in terms of jobs.

The terminal will open not long after the completion of a multi-million dollar expansion by auto parts manufacturer Allevard Sogefi at the A. Michael Perry Industrial Park in Prichard.

Norfolk Southern has spent millions to get the facility built and make proper modifications to existing railways.

Parsec also operates Norfolk Southern's Rickenbacker Intermodal Terminal near Columbus, Ohio. The $68.5 million facility is part of the Rickenbacker Global Logistics Park, one of the largest integrated logistics complexes in the United States. Other Parsec clients include Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, Union Pacific Corporation, Triple Crown Services, CSX Corporation, Canadian Pacific Railway, Canadian National, Kansas City Southern and Florida East Coast Railway.

"This is a big step toward getting everything going in December," W.Va. Sen. Bob Plymale, D-Wayne, said. "I am glad to get this part over with. The terminal is moving along well and everything is on par."

Plymale, who spent years in the legislature trying to appropriate funds and incentives for the project, said this past March that not having a company to operate the facility was "problematic" in regard to businesses looking at the project.

U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-West Virginia, also said in March that delays choosing an operator were "alarming," but added the multi-million dollar project will be a significant stimulant to job growth and economic development.

"As such, it needs to be a professionally run and well-managed facility," he said.

Rahall Transportation Institute CEO and executive director Frank Betz outlined the facility's benefits. He said the Heartland Intermodal Gateway terminal will increase the flow of goods between the East Coast, Midwest and West Coast; increase efficiency for large shipments; enhance the ability to compete and trade globally; provide alternative shipping options for domestic markets; offer environmentally friendly transportation options; improves access to ports, satellite terminals and distribution centers; and reduce highway congestion and fuel consumption.

"The Parsec announcement is great news for West Virginia," Betz said. "Parsec works with Norfolk Southern really well and they have everything they need to operate this facility. By having this terminal we can build around it manufacturing, warehouse and distribution jobs."

Parsec Vice President David Budig said he was pleased when notified his company was awarded the contract.

"There's a lot of potential for growth in that area," Budig said. "The need for more employees will be there as the facility grows, which I expect will happen quickly. This is a wonderful opportunity for Prichard and the entire state of West Virginia."

The company that became Parsec began in 1949 when the general manager of the Cincinnati Transfer Company, Otto Budig, started Budig Trucking Company. Later, the company expanded and created Parsec.

Follow reporter Brandon Roberts on Twitter @brobertsHD.

4/9/15 / The State Journal

  • Huntington, WV awarded grant to aid development of polymer center

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded the City of Huntington a $200,000 planning grant to aid in cleaning up old industrial sites in the city's Highlawn neighborhood and facilitate development of an “advanced polymer center.”

Mayor Steve Williams told a March 9 news conference that Huntington is one of only 20 communities nationwide to receive a grant this year under the EPA's Brownfields Area-Wide Planning Program.

Williams said the city hopes to redevelop nearly 80 acres of underutilized, former manufacturing facilities along the Ohio River between the Marshall University campus and the Highlawn neighborhood. In addition to the $200,000 planning grant, the Huntington Municipal Development Authority has applied for a $400,000 EPA grant to address the tract's environmental issues.

The long-idle ACF Industries rail car plant is included in the grant area, but the status of the plant remains uncertain. Questioned after the news conference, Williams said he hopes to meet with ACF soon to discuss the plant's future. The mayor said the vision for the redeveloped grant area includes new recreational and riverfront facilities, retail and hotel development, green areas aimed at improving storm water management and the new polymer center.

Earlier this year, the City of Huntington, the Huntington Municipal Development Authority, Marshall University, the Marshall University Research Corp., Marshall's Brownfields Assistance Center, the Rahall Appalachian Transportation Institute, the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing and Rubberlike Inc., formed a collaborative team to develop the polymer center.

A Huntington firm, Rubberlite, manufactures high-tech engineered rubber and plastic foams that go into a wide array of uses — from shoes and bras to cars and trucks, and even the Space Shuttle.

“We started out in 1986 with two employees and no customers,” J. Allen Mayo, Rubberlite's founder and CEO, told the news conference. Today, he said, Rubberlite has 170 employees and exports its products to 45 countries.

Williams said Marshall and Rubberlite will work with the city to launch the new polymer center downtown in an interim facility in a former Appalachian Power Co. office building in the 1100 block of 6th Avenue. Manufacturing companies have already committed to transfer investment and jobs into the polymer center later this year, he said.

The center, Williams said, “will provide companies developing market-driven technologies and products with the resources to commercialize and integrate into new light manufacturing plants and the global supply chain.”

3/29/15 / The Herald Dispatch

  • RTI Working to Improve the State’s Infrastructure, Economy

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From the cameras that control traffic signals to the database police use to file crash reports to the Hatfield-McCoy ATV trails and the Heartland Intermodal Gateway, the Rahall Appalachian Transportation Institute has its hands in just about any project that involves transportation and economic development.

"Without transportation, we couldn't have civilizations," said Frank Betz, executive director and CEO of RTI. "...We need a reliable transportation system ... One of the big problems we have now is (poor) infrastructure in this country."

In 2013, the American Society of Civil Engineers rated West Virginia's infrastructure as poor, Betz said, with "some lock and dam systems on the verge of choking off vital commerce, with failures looming from a system with over 380 high-hazard dams."

Additionally, the engineers say 46 percent of the state's bridges are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete and 47 percent of the state's roads are in poor or mediocre condition, which costs motorists an average of $273 each year in added repair and operating costs.

Betz said the main impediment to better infrastructure is the massive costs and lack of funding from the federal government.

"The United States right now only spends 2 percent of its GDP on infrastructure. That's a 60 percent decline since 1960. China spends 9 percent, and Europe spends 5 percent," Betz said. "It's just a downward spiral for our infrastructure. We're not investing money and there's a lot of reasons, like people fighting about not raising taxes."

The American population is expected to grow to 400 million by 2050, and a country that flourished from its early investment in rail is now lagging behind Europe, Japan and China, which all have high-speed passenger rail, Betz said.

One of the issues is the federal gas tax is at 18.4 cents per gallon, and it's been that amount for 20 years.

So how is RTI working to improve the states of transportation and the economy in West Virginia?

RTI works with industry, government and university to advance multimodal transportation, research and technology solutions for economic growth and development.

"When you do business in that area, you can get a lot done. I have relationships in government ... industry partners in different companies and the university," Betz said. "... RTI is not static. We're changing with the times, and with the times, there's much more focus and integration from a technology standpoint."

One of the projects RTI has been involved with from the start is the Heartland Intermodal Gateway, which is scheduled to open in December 2015. Betz said it will be an "on and off ramp to the global economy."

"You have companies ... that see huge benefits from being able to ship their goods here. It's going to open up a lot of opportunity for warehousing and distribution," he said. "It's really going to be a big boon for this area."

RTI has also developed a web application that allows for sharing, consolidation and standardization of data related to post-mine land sites, called an economic development data portal.

"Land use planning is important in transportation because you have to understand that if you're trying to develop an area, you have to be able to plan where your roads can be," Betz said. "In West Virginia, there are a lot of post-mine lands so the (Office of Coalfield Community Development) asked us to get involved and create a site selector tool."

The site selector allows companies considering a location in West Virginia to find the optimal site for their business by viewing different levels of infrastructure provided in certain areas.

RTI is also involved in data collection and analysis, such as the West Virginia Workforce Study. RTI analysts have gathered information on workforce demographics in order to recommend strategies to address any critical shortages of workers. For example, Betz said, there is currently a shortage in welders. By knowing this, adjustments can be made to education and training in the state.

One of the more innovative projects with which RTI is involved is intelligent transportation systems. Betz said RTI will be involved with a connected vehicle study as the technology rolls out in the next five years across the country.

Connected vehicles are those that communicate with the infrastructure grid - for example, a car that can drive itself.

"We're going to be involved in making sure West Virginia stays in step with what's going on in the rest of the country and make sure we have the proper infrastructure to support it," Betz said. "Because if two-thirds of the country had connected vehicles and driverless vehicles that connected to their infrastructure and we didn't - from an economic development standpoint, it would be the same thing as not having roads.

"We've missed out enough in this area," he said.

The West Virginia Department of Transportation sponsors highway projects at RTI, including the intelligent transportation systems that use cameras and sensors to monitor road and traffic conditions, the electronic commercial drivers license system, and the GPS reporting system that allows the West Virginia State Police to record and electronically submit information on traffic stops, incidents and arrests.

The Federal Railroad Administration's Office of Research and Development sponsors rail projects that are aimed at improving safety by making rail cars more visible and warning train operators of possible issues on their vehicle or on the track. RTI also works with the U.S. Corps of Engineers.

Some of the other projects in which RTI is involved include the Paul Ambrose Trail for Health, the Hatfield-McCoy Motorized Trail, and the recently announced Advanced Polymer Center.

More details about RTI's projects and research can be found at