04/11/2014 / Charleston Gazette

  • Huntington trail feeds fitness trend

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The saying “if you build it, they will come” might have been written for a movie, but it just as easily could have been written for Huntington’s Paul Ambrose Trail for Health.

The 26-mile network of recreational trails, popularly known as the PATH, has been in development since 2007. Bethany Williams, program coordinator for the Huntington-based Rahall Transportation Institute, said the trail’s growing presence has sparked a surge in recreational cycling, walking and jogging within the city.

“There has been a change,” she said. “People seem to be thinking healthier. We’re especially seeing it downtown, where bike lanes have been installed. People are riding bikes to work and school, as well as riding them for fun and fitness.”

Such use dovetails precisely with developers’ vision for the PATH. Williams said its namesake, Dr. Paul Ambrose, championed health and wellness as a form of preventative medicine. After Ambrose was killed in the 9-11 terror attacks, his family set up a foundation to help promote Ambrose’s obesity-fighting ideals.

In 2007, Huntington-area officials began drawing up plans for a multi-use trail in and around the city. A public contest gave the trail its name in 2008, and in 2009 volunteers built the first new segment of trail in the city’s St. Cloud Commons Park. Successful fund-raising efforts led to plans for segments in the Harveytown area and along the two sections of the city’s floodwall.

So far, eight sections have been completed and are in use: a 4.8-mile stretch along the floodwall between Ritter Park and West Huntington; a 2.75-mile stretch along Memorial Boulevard between Ritter Park and Harveytown Road; a 1.7-mile stretch along the floodwall in Guyandotte; a 1.5-mile stretch through Spring Hill Cemetery; a 1.1-mile stretch that encircles Ritter Park; another 1.1-mile stretch that encircles St. Cloud Common Park; an 0.59-mile stretch along Harveytown Road; and an 0.25-mile stretch near the Ohio River in East Huntington.

Organizations began holding events on the trail in 2009.

The first was FitFest, a multi-distance run/walk and community event. Next was the Tour de PATH, a multi-distance bike ride in and along the trail network.

On April 3, the Tour de PATH will join forces with the Healthy Huntington Festival, the culmination of the Healthy Huntington 90-Day Challenge.

“The challenge gives Huntington residents a set of things to do every week that promote healthy living,” Williams explained. “The gist is to add a few things every week, and by the end of 90 days it should result in some lifestyle changes. Holding the Healthy Huntington Festival at the end of that gives people a chance to celebrate the improvements they’ve made in their health.”

The festival, headquartered at the city’s Pullman Square shopping and dining area, will kick off at 8 a.m. with a 5K run/walk. Williams said event’s vendors will focus on healthy eating and healthy habits that include exercise.

The Tour de PATH is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m., also at Pullman Square. Williams said the event, which is free and open to all participants, is

“not just for adults, either. Kids are welcome, especially on the shorter ride, which is slower-paced for their little bikes.

“The rides include a 4-mile loop around downtown and Marshall [University]; a 7-mile loop that goes around Marshall and out to Ritter Park and back; and a Grand Tour of 26 miles that follows the PATH where it has been built. There will be two groups going out on the long ride, a slower-paced group and a fast-paced group.”

Williams said the Huntington Police Department’s bike patrol officers would accompany riders on the 4-mile circuit. “It’s going to be a really safe ride,” she said. “The only thing we ask is that riders wear helmets. Those who participate will be given a chance to purchase commemorative t-shirts.”

City and county officials hope eventually to link the scattered segments into a single cohesive unit. It’s possible to ride the entire trail now, but hopping from segment to segment involves riding on city streets or walking on sidewalks.

Williams believes the day will come when people throughout the city will be able to access the trail without traveling more than a few blocks.

“The plans are in place,” she said. “Now it’s a matter of securing the funding and doing the work to link the segments together.”

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03/17/2014 / Herald Dispatch

  • Long Named Co-Chair of Transportation Board

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Diana Long, director of workforce development and education at the Rahall Transportation Institute in Huntington, has been appointed as co-chair of the Transportation Research Board Committee on Transportation Education and Training.

The committee works to improve communications among the academic community, private and public sectors and government agencies involved with academic training in the transportation field.

Long earned her bachelor's from University of Charleston, master's from Marshall University and her doctorate of education from West Virginia University.

03/26/2014 / Rahall Transportation Institute

  • RTI and WVDMV Partnership Creates Efficient and Accurate Technology for Commercial Driver’s License

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HUNTINGTON, WV – A partnership between the Rahall Transportation Institute (RTI) and the
West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles (WVDMV) has created an efficient, accurate and
technology-based method to administer Commercial Driver’s License, CDL, testing. This
project converted a paper-based testing procedure into a fully automated system, eCDL
(electronic Commercial Driver’s License).
With funding from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the WVDMV
partnered with RTI to develop software that uses the capabilities of Global Positioning System
(GPS) to record and document verifiable skills tests. Utilizing Toughbook laptops with GPS
capabilities, RTI developed a comprehensive integrated system that complies with federally
mandated CDL testing standards while increasing fraud detection capabilities for WVDMV.
eCDL not only utilizes the GPS system during the road test, but additionally records GPS data
during the vehicle inspection, and basic skills portions to ensure the test is completed in
regulated areas.
The eCDL system is linked to the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators
(AAMVA) national database. DMV managers utilize the database to keep track of authorized
testing locations and personnel requirements. AAMVA's database is called the Commercial
Skills Testing Information Management System (CSTIMS), and examiners use the system to
schedule testing. When an eCDL test is complete and a valid Internet connection is made, the
data is sent to the eCDL server and then to the CSTIMS server for a full-circle testing solution.
The eCDL system has created cost efficiencies; time efficiencies and increased accuracy of test
scores. With the advanced technology of eCDL testing in place, supervisors are able to review
examiners through the technology rather than frequent and costly field checks. This has
reduced the amount of travel time and the need for a large fleet of cars. Through the technology
and GPS location tracking, CDL testing fraud has been eliminated. In 2013, 2,930 tests were
administered in West Virginia.
“The State of West Virginia has saved time and money by reduction of physical materials like
paper and vehicles. The roads are also safer, because the accuracy of testing scores is 100
percent compared to manual calculations,” Chandra Inglis-Smith, Information Systems Program
Manager at RTI, said. “We [RTI] are constantly reviewing the program [eCDL] to see how we
can improve it, whether it be superficial as to how the fields appear, changes to the exam forms
based on new requirements, or even new reporting mechanisms.”
RTI is a leader in transportation research and economic development solving transportation challenges
and addressing future needs through applied multimodal research, workforce development and advanced
technology transfer. RTI harnesses advanced transportation technology, leverages resources and
employs strategic processes to improve the economic competitiveness of the Appalachian Region and
the nation through its connections to the national and global transportation system. To learn more about
RTI, visit

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02/26/2014 / West Virginia Research

  • Scientist Spotlight: Dr. Andrew Nichols

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Dr. Andrew Nichols loved hunting and fishing as a child growing up in Point Pleasant, West Virginia.  His fascination with Legos and enjoyment of math and science naturally set him on a path to become an engineer.  It was at Purdue University where he was pursuing his Master’s and Doctorate Degrees in civil engineering that Nichols found out that traffic engineering was a great fit for him.

While at Purdue, Nichols worked in a traffic lab which he credits with giving him invaluable hands-on experience with traffic signals to complement what he was learning in the classroom. He developed skills that allow him to not only use software in the office to study traffic patterns and design traffic signal timings, but he also learned how to program actual traffic signal controllers that are installed at all intersections – expertise, he said, that very few practicing traffic engineers have.

The research he is doing right now as an associate professor of engineering at Marshall University is funded by the West Virginia Department of Transportation (WVDOT).  His research 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 (RTI) at Marshall University – a leader in multimodal transportation and economic development in West Virginia and the Appalachian Region.

02/16/2014 / Charleston Daily Mail

  • Coordinator Hopes To Expand Huntington Trail System

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HUNTINGTON, WV — To some, Huntington is an unhealthy city on an economic downturn, but that couldn't be any more false for people like Bethany Williams, who live, work and exercise in the city.

Williams, an avid cyclist and program coordinator for the Rahall Appalachian Transportation Institute, a research and economic development firm headquartered in Huntington, is part of a team that manages the Paul Ambrose Trail for Health, commonly known as PATH.

The expansive trail system is a pedestrian and bicycle alternative transportation network that connects vital portions of downtown Huntington, neighborhoods and Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District parks.

West Virginians outside of Huntington may not be familiar with PATH, but they could see the trail come to their city if Williams had her way.

"Alternative transportation like PATH is a big piece in the development of every progressive city," Williams said. "My goal is that RTI can keep adding on to it. I'd like to see a trail that connects cities like Charleston and Huntington."

PATH is Rahall Transportation Institute's primary trail project, but the firm is involved in the development and management of others, like the Hatfield and McCoy trails located throughout the state.

While Rahall Transportation Institute is a major sponsor of PATH, the trail is a community project spearheaded by the city of Huntington and the Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District. Other sponsors include the Paul Ambrose Charitable Foundation, Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce, Cabell County Commission, Cabell Huntington Hospital, St. Mary's Medical Center and other local nonprofits and businesses.

The city of Huntington is the primary administrator of grant funds PATH receives and is responsible for hiring designers and contractors for construction. Charles Holley, director of development and planning in Huntington, said PATH has received a total of $4.5 million in grant money since its inception.

He said the city has sought innovative ways to connect PATH trails, one being the use of cemeteries. He said people were already using them to get between trailheads, but they had to use openings in fences to get inside.

"We have to look at the city a little differently," Holley said. "What are the existing assets we can utilize?"

Holley said the city decided to open Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District-owned cemeteries for PATH users and that it intends to connect more portions of PATH in the years to come. Ultimately, Holley's goal is to see every Huntington resident to be within a half mile of the system.

Williams believes better access to PATH will create more interest among the community and stir more excitement for using alternative transportation.

"We definitely need the community behind this project," Williams said.

Perhaps the most active members of the community are Ken and Sharon Ambrose, whose son Paul has been the main inspiration and namesake for PATH. Paul Ambrose was a Huntington native, a graduate of the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine at Marshall University, a student of former Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop and a leader in the creation of the Surgeon General's Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity. Once the call to action was completed, Paul Ambrose flew to a conference in Los Angeles about adolescent obesity. He flew out on American Airlines Flight 177. It never landed, and Paul Ambrose lost his life in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

While his life was taken from him, Paul Ambrose's family and community members, who were affected by his work, were inspired by his passion for preventative health care. He also received national recognition when the Surgeon General's Call to Action was published in December 2001, for which he received a posthumous Surgeon General's Medal of Honor.

Paul Ambrose's work in preventative health care brought obesity (especially in children) to the forefront of the U.S. health care agenda and initiated several healthful eating and exercise initiatives around the country.

He had a particular impact in Huntington. Ken and Sharon Ambrose believe Paul would have been most proud of the work in Huntington being done in his name and for the sake of preventative health care.

Williams said people in Huntington have become more receptive to alternative transportation and healthful lifestyles since the introduction of PATH trails. She said it has health benefits for people who use it and that it relieves traffic congestion and improves the city's air quality by reducing the number of cars on the street.

When the travel option favors alternative transportation, Williams would rather take her bicycle.

"It (using alternative transportation) is a different way of life that takes getting used to," Williams said. "But once you do, you don't ever want to go back."

Williams is part of a growing cycling community that uses the PATH system in Huntington. Williams said about 15 miles of off-road PATH trails have been completed, but they are often separated by stretches of road that can be difficult to cross, especially for pedestrians.

Rahall Transportation Institute and the city of Huntington plan to move forward with the development of PATH by connecting the current sections and creating a more cohesive alternative transportation system. Accomplishing that will not be easy, Williams said. To connect PATH trails, portions of heavily-trafficked commercial and residential properties will have to be crossed.

Both Williams and Holley remain optimistic that PATH will continue to grow and be looked to as other cities create alternative transportation infrastructure.

For West Virginians interested in learning more about PATH and using its expansive trail system, there are several events like Tour de PATH scheduled throughout the year.

Tour de PATH is an event that promotes and increases awareness of cycling as a means of travel, fitness and recreation. Proceeds from the event go to additional public awareness, map creation and development of PATH.

The next Tour de PATH has yet to be scheduled but will take place sometime this fall.

02/04/2014 / The Charleston Gazette

  • Chem Spill Economic Impact Is $61 Million, Study Says

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Charleston, W.Va.  -- The economic impact of the Jan. 9 chemical spill that contaminated the water supply for 300,000 people is $61 million, according to a preliminary study.

The Marshall University Center for Business and Economic Research conducted a preliminary investigation, which looked at establishments such as schools, medical offices, restaurants, hotels and some retail stores that needed clean water to provide service.

The CBER estimates the initial impact to be slightly more than $19 million for each business day during the "Do Not Use" water order issued for nine counties.

"This amounts to 24 percent of the economic activity of the affected area," a press release states.

In the four days following the ban, CBER estimates the total impact around $61 million, including two business days and two weekend days.

The study estimates the number of affected workers to be nearly 75,000 for each business day the ban was in place, representing about 41 percent of area workers.

Some were hit harder than others, the study shows.

"This high share is an indicator of the nature of the impacts, where the lower-wage, service-producing sector was more acutely impacted than higher-wage industries," the release states. "Establishments in the restaurant and lodging industries are less likely to recover lost revenues and are among those most affected by the inability to use water."

The study suggests state and local government and industries such as mining and construction to be unaffected.

The estimated impact does not include clean-up costs of the spill or emergency expenditures made as a result and thus does not represent the full economic impact, the release states.

A portion of the impact is permanently lost revenue and employee income that will not be recovered. Further analysis is needed to uncover the full effect, the release states.

Last week, the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau told The Charleston Gazette financial losses from only 12 businesses are totaling $1 million.

12/18/2013 / Herald-Dispatch

  • Machine Simulates River Experience

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HUNTINGTON -- A large portion of West Virginia's economy passes by Huntington each day, and many residents may not even see it happening.

The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates the state's waterways and ports account for $1.6 billion of the state's economy as well as 9,980 of its jobs, which made the need for a simulator at the waterways academy all the more necessary, said Capt. John Whiteley, director of the Inland Waterways Academy at Mountwest Community and Technical College.

"In Huntington, like many other cities on a river, people don't realize there's a river out there," he said. "When they built the floodwalls in these cities, you couldn't see the rivers anymore. They don't realize how much traffic travels on the river and how important it is to our economy."

The Full Mission Wheelhouse Simulator was unveiled to the legislators, media and the public during an event at the waterways academy, which shares space with the Tri-State Fire Academy along W.Va. 2.

The simulator includes seven visual channels to give pilots- and captains-in-training a 180-degree view forward from the wheelhouse and a channel that allows them to see the view behind them. The channels simulate the river settings at busy inland ports including Cinicinnati, New Orleans and the Port of Huntington Tri-State, which is the largest inland port in the United States, Whiteley said.Whiteley also has the ability to simulate water and weather conditions as well as scenarios with other water bound traffic to test the capabilities of the nearly 500 students that come through the program each year.
"The biggest thing is safety. We use a simulator to train people safely," he said. "If you take a brand new guy going through Cincinnati, Cincinnati has five bridges you have to go through and they're not lined up, so you have to learn how to wiggle your way through the bridges. If you miss, you knock down the bridge. With this, if you hit the bridge, it says, 'OK. Let's start again,' and there's no damage."

Once students have completed training there, Whiteley said they are on track to start careers that could put them in the six-figure salary range within eight to 10 years.

Before the simulator was built at the waterways academy, the nearest wheelhouse simulators to Huntington were in Paducah, Ky., and Virginia Beach, Va.

Funding for the simulator came through a grant partnership with the Marshall University Research Corporation and the Rahall Transportation Institute.

U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., recited the statistics that illustrated the economic impact of the state's waterways, and he pointed to the motto of the American Waterway Operators Association, "Barges are Beautiful."

"I went to Congress believing transportation builds jobs," Rahall said. "That's the motto of the Rahall Transportation Institute. In my book that's the real beauty."

12/14/2013 / Williamson Daily News

  • MCRA Launches New Website

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The Mingo County Redevelopment Authority announced today the launch of its new interactive website, and that the site is now live at

According to Deputy Executive Director Leasha Johnson, the new website was designed with broadband marketing strategies in mind that allow for business attraction, the promotion of Mingo County’s business and industrial development assets and infrastructure, and assisting both new and existing business with development initiatives.

“The new website is an impressive showcase of Mingo County’s ability to leverage our natural assets into value-added, job-creating industries,” Johnson said.

With grant funding from the West Virginia Geologic & Economic Survey’s Broadband Grant Program, the MCRA partnered with the Rahall Transportation Institute and Bulldog Creative Services to design an entirely new website which is dynamic, interactive and informational. Bulldog Creative Services provided the technical and graphic design component of the project, and RTI identified the web structure, branding concept, and developed the new GIS web application which acts as an interactive site selector tool within the website.

Christine Borders, vice president of Bulldog Creative Services, said, “We were thrilled to be asked to partner with Mingo County Redevelopment Authority for this project. We worked closely with their team to give the website a fresh look that is clean and modern, all while creating a functional, user-friendly site.”

The geographic information system application which was built by RTI combines industrial site information, such as location, property size, lease/purchase prices, and other information, with existing infrastructure layers, enabling developers to have the ability to evaluate economic data available for Mingo County.

“The new MCRA website will provide businesses and developers with the resources and information needed to identify development opportunities within the county,” said Robert H. Plymale, CEO and director of the Rahall Transportation Institute.“The site-selector application on the new and modern website will provide ease and flexibility to developers, both public and private, in gathering information and determining optimal sites for business and production.”

Steve Kominar, the Authority’s executive director, said, “As we move into the phase of marketing Mingo County’s rich assets, we must present technology that will allow us to compete in the worldwide arena. I am extremely pleased with the product developed by the Mingo County Redevelopment staff led by Leasha Johnson. I feel we are in the position to showcase Mingo County to the world.”