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Transportation Engineering Students Help Transform the Villanova Train Station

The results of a CEE senior capstone design project currently underway among 20 students focusing on transportation engineering could leave a lasting impact on campus for years to come. Together, they will create a multi-pronged design solution to transform the Villanova Train Station and surrounding area.

“The best part of this project is that students are getting an opportunity to be creative and provide real design recommendations to be considered by the University in the implementation of its future campus master plan,” says Dr. Leslie McCarthy, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering. She and Dr. Seri Park, Visiting Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, co-instruct the transportation capstone course that challenges students to generate designs for various modes of transportation, including railways, bicycles, pedestrian, and challenging traffic circulation analyses.

Jeffrey Knueppel, Chief Engineer and Assistant General Manager, and Robert Lund, P.E., CE ’78, MSCE ’81, Manager of Structural Engineering, for Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), as well as Robert Morro, Associate Vice President for Facilities Management, serve as “clients” for the comprehensive senior design project.

Morro taught the first session of the course and outlined project deliverables. Working within a $26 million budget parameter, five groups of four students must develop a comprehensive set of design plans for the following scope of work.

  • Rail station design: The historic SEPTA platform and stationhouse on campus must be upgraded to reflect standards set forth in the Americans with Disabilities Act to improve accessibility. After completing a feasibility study, students will recommend the best way to raise the platform and address any resulting track alignment or overhead clearance issues. They will also recommend one of three pedestrian crossing options: a renovation to the existing underpass, the design and construction of a new underpass, or the development of an overhead pedestrian bridge.
  • Traffic circulation analysis: Students will develop traffic impact, signal warrant and safety, and traffic operation analyses to address future traffic demand increases at key intersections around campus, involving Lancaster Avenue, Spring Mill Road, and East County Line Road.
  • Intermodal mobility upgrades: Students will design a cross section of pavement, a street signage and marking plan, and a bike path design for Spring Mill Road and County Line Road near the SEPTA rail station on campus. Beautification, lighting, and pavement materials will play a key part in the proposals.
  • Parking lot and bus bay design: Students will design a multi-modal parking lot or structure that can accommodate projected increases in SEPTA ridership and possible SEPTA bus service. As part of the design, students must determine the best materials to use and the strategies for mitigating stormwater runoff.

In each set of plans, students will include options to address any environmental remediation, mitigations for disruption of Amtrak or SEPTA service, and historical preservation issues that may arise as a result of their recommendations. They will also benefit from access to industry experts, such as Gerald Solomon, Director of Project Development and Environmental Review for the Federal Highway Administration.

“In the transportation capstone, we are applying what we have learned previously in conjunction with the massive quantity of additional resources available at our disposal. These resources are the exact guidelines used by professionals to design the roads we drive and walk on every day,” says Vanvi Trieu CE ‘12. “The capstone has allowed me to obtain a practical experience in the engineering design world that closely simulates a real job in the profession. It has connected all the bits and pieces of information we have learned over the years. In the end, we were able to fit these pieces together and systematically redesign the entire station and local area.”

Students will present their findings and recommendations at the annual Civil and Environmental Engineering Day celebration on April 27.

A view of the historic stationhouse.
A view of the historic station house.