Dr. Ahmed El-Aassar

Sept. 18, 2012
Gannett Fleming Inc. Lead Noise Engineer Dr. Ahmed El-Aassar.

Gannett Fleming's Ahmed El-Aassar, Ph.D., INCE, ASA, designed a first-of-its-kind audio visual tool that provides a revolutionary way for community stakeholders to gauge the noise impact of proposed infrastructure projects.

Sounds of Transit debuted during a transit analysis study of the South Florida East Coast Corridor. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) had contracted with Gannett Fleming to evaluate multiple transit technologies for an 85-mile, 28-city corridor. The planning process required extensive public outreach to address community and decision-maker concerns, including one highly controversial component — the sound impact.

Sounds of Transit is built on an Interactive Sound Information System (ISIS) developed by David Dubbink Associates. While ISIS had served as a backbone to prior tools to convey environmental noise, Sounds of Transit was the first application that enhanced the system with video instead of graphic imagery and animation. To populate the ISIS, El-Aassar developed a library of recorded and calibrated digital audio and video recordings of various transit alternatives. This audio visual tool was used to clearly and accurately demonstrate the impact of actual sound levels during public workshops. Today, this tool is being applied at project sites around the country. For instance, the team was able to show sound levels, audio, and video of freight train operation in a trench in an urban area in Washington, D.C., In addition, it will be applied during the expansion of an Amtrak and freight trains operation in Charlotte, N.C.

This innovation has far-reaching aptitude to assist communities worldwide, as this technology is independent of language and noise metric systems. Powerful and scalable, it can be customized for any type of infrastructure improvement where noise concerns exist, such as high-speed rail, highways, airports and military operations.

El-Aassar has shared the value of this tool with other consulting firms, state departments of transportation, the Federal Transit Administration and during national technical conferences, including Noise-Con 2010, The Institute of Noise Control Engineering's annual conference; the 2010 Railroad Environmental Conference; the Transportation Research Board 89th Annual Meeting; the American Public Transportation Association 2011 Annual Expo; and the 2011 International Bridge, Tunnel, and Turnpike Association's Facilities Management and Maintenance Workshop.

With more than 13 years of experience, El-Aassar develops and implements all phases of acoustical analyses, including noise monitoring, impact and mitigation analyses, and noise barrier design for transit and rail projects. Sounds of Transit was named as one of Mass Transit magazine's top technology innovations of 2011, and it earned a National Recognition Award in the American Council of Engineering Companies' 2011 Engineering Excellence Awards. In 2012, El-Aassar was recognized by CSX with an Outstanding Service Award in the Environmental Services Category for his application of Sounds of Transit.

El-Aassar holds a doctorate and Master of Science in environmental engineering from the University of Central Florida, a Master of Science in water resources management from the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, and a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering from Cairo University in Egypt. Active in professional associations, he is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Transportation Research Board, the Acoustical Society of America and the Institute of Noise Control Engineering.

Improving U.S. Transit

While living abroad in Great Britain during my graduate studies, I was exposed to great rail transportation systems. I was able to travel all over Europe and within the United Kingdom using only the public transit. This helped show me the possibilities of a comprehensive transit system. Now, a few years later, I am excited to be involved in noise studies for several public transportation systems in the U.S., hoping that one day a better connected system will be available for the public to use, reducing the need for cars or airplanes. It inspires me to know that this effort encourages the public to use public transportation.

Transit Technology

What I enjoy most about working in the transit industry is the ability to design and mitigate the noise levels emitted from the different transit systems and being able to provide and implement solutions for a better quiet environment for the public. Part of my job is the interaction with the public during community meetings; the opportunity to interact with the public, listen to them, and ease their concerns is such a rewarding experience. With noise being a hot topic, I enjoyed working on the design of Sounds of Transit. This innovative tool helps explain the noise topic to the public in order to achieve support for implementing and building a great network of public transit systems.