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Pittsburgh's Civil Engineering News Blog

  • 18 Feb 2016 8:52 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Tom Batroney, PE, ENV SP, M.ASCE – ASCE Pittsburgh Sustainability Committee Chair

    Jason J. Borne, PE, CPSWQ, ENV SP, M.ASCE – ASCE Pittsburgh Sustainability Committee Vice Chair

    This is the second part in a series of ASCE-Pittsburgh articles related to the Envision Rating System. The first part of the series introducing the system can be read here.

    The Envision Rating System, developed in part by the American Society of Civil Engineers, provides engineers a standardized tool for evaluating the level of sustainability for the diverse sectors of civil engineering infrastructure projects including:

    • Transportation
    • Parks
    • Dams
    • Energy
    • Stormwater
    • Water
    • Wastewater

    The intention of the rating system is to provide a holistic method for evaluating sustainability metrics throughout the life cycle of projects.

    This installment of the article series discusses the five categories within the Envision Rating System: Quality of Life, Leadership, Resource Allocation, Natural World, and Climate and Risk. Each category is further subdivided into subcategories that include detailed credits. In total, the rating system is made up of 60 subcategory credits that evaluate a specific project component related to sustainability. The categories and subcategories are intended to capture the level of sustainability in a simple and understandable credit system approach. As more credits are accumulated within the categories and subcategories, the greater the overall sustainability rating of the project. These credits can then be applied for achieving an official Envision Certification Award for the project (Platinum, Gold, Silver, Bronze). The following is a short description of each category and subcategory. 

    Quality of Life

    Quality of Life addresses a project’s impact on host and affected communities. These impacts may be physical, economic, or social. Quality of Life focuses on assessing whether infrastructure projects align with community goals, are incorporated into existing community networks, and will benefit the community in the long term. Community members affected by the project are considered important stakeholders in the decision-making process. The category is further divided into three subcategories: Purpose, Wellbeing, and Community. Many of these questions address the question: “Are we doing the right project?”

    Leadership

    The Leadership category addresses a team’s ability to communicate and collaborate with a wide variety of people in fostering ideas for a successful project. The category is subdivided into three subcategories: Collaboration, Management, and Planning. The credits for Collaboration pertain to involving stakeholders to capture ideas and foster innovation across project groups. The intent is to improve communication across teams and stakeholders allowing for cross pollination of ideas. The Management subcategory deals with creating collaborations between various systems within a project, thus reducing waste and often times cost. The Planning subcategory is intended to increase the project team’s awareness of long-term factors which may impact the project. Understanding planning issues, such as the regulatory environment and future growth trends in the area, can lead to a project that avoids pitfalls and plans effectively.  

    Resource Allocation

    The Resource Allocation category addresses the materials used in the construction and operation for the lifespan of the project. The category is subdivided into three subcategories: Materials, Energy, and Water. For each subcategory, the quantity, source, and characteristics of these resources and their impacts on the overall sustainability of the project are assessed. In general, the category assesses the ability of the project to limit the amount of:

    • Finite materials used on the project,
    • Non-renewable fossil fuel energy sources, and
    • Water consumption.

    There are also additional credits for emphasizing monitoring systems during operations.

    Natural World

    Infrastructure projects have an impact on the natural world around them, including habitats, species, and nonliving natural systems. The way a project is located within these systems can create unwanted impacts if not properly accounted for in design and operation.  The Natural World category addresses how to understand and minimize negative impacts while considering ways in which the project can interact with natural systems in a positive way. The Natural World category is subdivided into three subcategories: Siting, Land and Water, and Biodiversity. In general, these subcategories address the project’s ability to limit the environmental impact on the surrounding landscape and habitat.

    Climate and Risk

    The Climate and Risk category addresses potential short term and long term climate change and risk management of the project. The category is divided into two subcategories: Emissions and Resilience. The Emissions subcategory evaluates the projects ability at reducing greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions during the full life span of the project (construction and startup activities, operations, and decommissioning.) The Resilience subcategory evaluates the projects ability to be adaptable to potential changes in environmental conditions, both in the short term and the long term.  

    The intent of the second part of the article series was to provide a high level overview of the credits within the Envision Rating System. For more in-depth information, visit the Envision website at http://www.sustainableinfrastructure.org/. The next installment of the Envision Rating System article series will focus on the companion tools available within the Envision Rating System, including the planning level Self-Assessment Checklist Tool, and the Business Case Evaluator Tool for assessing economic return benefits for sustainable design.

    For more information on becoming involved within ASCE Pittsburgh’s Sustainability Committee visit our webpage at: http://www.asce-pgh.org/SustainabilityCommittee


  • 11 Feb 2016 8:51 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Brian Sekula, P.E., P.L.S., M.ASCE was celebrated at the 2015 ASCE Pittsburgh Kick-off Dinner for his commitment to civil engineering.  At the Kick-off Dinner, Brian received his life membership recognition.

    Mr. Sekula earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from Drexel University in 1973.  During his cooperative education periods, he worked with a construction company and several consulting engineering firms.  In 1980, he then went on to obtain a Master of Science in Civil Engineering with an emphasis in Geotechnical Engineering at The Pennsylvania State University in 1980.  While at Penn State, he was able to include in his course work classes in Airport Engineering, Solid Waste, Hydrogeology, and Agronomy soil classes.  He went on later in his career to obtain a Master of Business Administration from Clarion University in 1996.

    His professional career began in 1974 as a project engineer with Lee-Simpson Associates, Inc. a consulting engineer in DuBois, Pennsylvania where he worked on sanitary engineering projects, geotechnical projects, and airport projects.  During his tenure at Lee-Simpson, he obtained his license as a Professional Land Surveyor and Professional Engineer, and also obtained his Pennsylvania Operator’s Licenses for a Water System and Sewage Treatment Plants.

    His next position was as Energy Coordinator at North American Refractories Company (NARCO) in Curwensville, Pennsylvania, where he identified and designed energy saving projects that dealt with natural gas, oil, propane, or electric.  Following NARCO, he worked for 8 years in the bituminous coal industry preparing surface mine permit applications.  After the mining position, he returned to consulting engineering in the sanitary/municipal field with deep involvement with sewage and water treatment plants, water distribution systems, and sewage collection systems. 

    His current position is with The EADS Group, Inc. as a Principal, Vice-President, and Office Manager.  He also oversees the Sanitary/Municipal, surveying, and environmental departments, and is very involved with oversight of design reviews, mentoring of younger engineers, and assisting with project management and client coordination.  He still works with mining permitting, environmental permitting, geotechnical engineering, and provides technical assistance and mentoring to the surveying department.

    Mr. Sekula’s is active in the community, including being a board member and Secretary of the Clarion County Economic Development Corporation, a member of the Clearfield County Planning Commission, Treasurer of the Union Township Fire Company, a member of the City of DuBois Watershed Committee, and a volunteer at St. Catherine Church in DuBois.  He was also the past Chairman of the DuBois Red Cross Board of Directors, past Treasurer of the DuBois Area Jaycees, and former member of Parish Council of St. Catherine Church.

    Mr. Sekula took the time to answer a few questions on the occasion of his life membership recognition.

    What are some of the most exciting projects you’ve worked on?

    I worked as an expert witness for the defendant in a professional liability case.  The case revolved around the design of a mine drainage treatment system and whether it met the standard of practice.  In that case, I used my civil engineering and mining experience, chemistry, knowledge of water treatment systems, and experience as a water system operator.  It was challenging and fun.  The defendant won the case which was upheld upon appeal.

    I performed a sewage plant re-rating for a DEP Water Quality Management permit which included an Engineer’s Report, plans, permit modules, and specifications.  Upon DEP completing the technical review and issuing a revised permit, the plant received a re-rated hydraulic capacity of 2.4 MGD without any capital investment required.  The initial hydraulic capacity of the plant was 1.6 MGD.     

    How has ASCE impacted your career?

    I recall early on where ASCE promoted civil engineering as a “People Serving Profession”.  That concept was interesting and somewhat a puzzle.  After having worked in the field for now over 40 years, I believe I understand it.  We design and see projects built that impact people all of the time.  Whether it is a highway, bridge, water system, building, airport, or sewage system they all impact the general population.  In our business pursuits, we interact with people I believe a good bit more that many of the other engineering disciplines.  To get our projects done, we need to work with Councils, Supervisors, Authority members, and the general populace.  The design part is relatively easy compared to the personal interaction we need to do.     


  • 04 Feb 2016 2:31 PM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    By Linda Kaplan, P.E.,  and Nicholle Piper

    The second session for the Civil Engineering Western Pennsylvania ACE [Architecture, Construction, Engineering] Mentor Program was held at Mascaro Construction on November 18, 2015.  

    This year’s project is the design of a summer camp, with a focus on sustainability and using the natural landscape (previously reported on here).  Each student was responsible for a cabin design, and each group was responsible for the design of central camp elements.  Approximately 40 students attended the second session to further the design of their camps by preparing civil engineering site layout plans. 

    The second session began with a presentation that provided an overview of civil engineering, describing the history and the sub-disciplines, including environmental engineering, geotechnical engineering, site/civil engineering, transportation engineering, structural engineering, and water resources engineering. In addition, a natural resources scientist from Langan Engineering explained landscape architecture, identifying wetlands and stream boundaries, and permitting impacts to aquatic features.

    After the presentation, the students divided into their groups and were provided a 24”x 36” site background plan and a sample ordinance.  The site background plan provided existing features including a stream, wetland, and road as well as contour lines that represent elevations.  The ordinance provided design criteria for the proposed sidewalk access, parking spots, loading areas, drop-off locations, and dumpster areas.  In addition, the ordinance provided instructions for the stormwater management design, wetland and stream encroachments, and utility layout (including sanitary sewer, electric, water, and gas service).  Each group used color pencils to layout the various site utilities, following the APWA/CGA color code (per ANSI Standard Z535.1).  The groups then presented the civil engineering design of each camp, describing the iterations since the October 21, 2015 preliminary plans.

    The students met again on December 2, 2015 at the Engineers Society of Western Pennsylvania, this time to learn about Structural Engineering, led by SEI Pittsburgh.

    The session concentrated on concrete design since steel has been presented the past several years. Beginning with a presentation about structural engineering, the focus then shifted to the details of concrete mix design.   Each of the four main components of concrete were discussed: Portland Cement, large aggregates, small aggregates, and water. Additionally, various forms of concrete tests were presented, including compression tests and slump tests.  Then, using the calculations presented, each group was charged with developing a mix design for the bridge abutments that would be on their camp site.  The students were tasked with designing their concrete to meet a specified slump. The students had to scale down their design to determine the ratio of components they would need, assuming 1 pound of Portland Cement.

    After their mix design was “approved” the students had the opportunity to mix a small batch of their concrete and test their slump.  Each group was given 1 pound of Portland cement and could then request their required amounts of large and small aggregates, and water.  They then mixed their concrete in 5 gallon buckets, and used a modified slump cone to test the workability of their design.  This hands on activity gave the students a thorough understanding of concrete variability and the application of their design.

    The ACE mentoring program is an opportunity for students to learn about various ACE disciplines before picking a college program.  A majority of the participants enroll in Architecture or Engineering undergrad programs.  ACE is well respected by various college admissions personnel and offers some significant scholarships at the end of the year.

    Our appreciation to ESWP for allowing us to mix concrete in their banquet hall, and to the Keystone-Mountain-Lakes Carpenters Union for their assistance with supplies, set up, and clean up.  


  • 28 Jan 2016 10:09 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    By Djuna Gulliver

    Nathan Toohey, P.E., was an undergraduate student in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Carnegie Mellon University in the year 2000 when he won the ASCE Pittsburgh Section Student Award Foundation Grant.  “It was a great feeling, to be acknowledged by my peers, colleagues, and especially my mentors,” Nathan says. 

    By 2003, Nathan had graduated and taken a non-profit job in Fort Collins, CO, with Village Earth to work on community-based sustainable development practices with civil engineering applications.  This job gave him the opportunity to travel to Purulia, India to assess the hydrologic needs for three rural villages through water quality analysis, geologic reconnaissance, and topographical surveying.  There, he also assessed necessary structural and cosmetic refurbishments for an abandoned community center.

    In 2007, Nathan decided to pursue a Master’s degree at the Colorado School of Mines researching the ability to geomechanically characterize chemically-stabilized soils using a seismic wave-based technology.  In December 2015, at School of Mines, he finished a Ph.D. specializing in dynamic (low-frequency), poromechanical characterization of saturated sands.  With his Ph. D. adviser, Nathan developed a real-time monitoring system of a vibratory plate, used to compact foundation soils on the seabed floor in Venice Lagoon, Italy after the seabed was dredged for retractable floodgates.  Amidst his research, Nathan also co-patented two methods (one accepted, the other pending) that characterize subsurface fractures networks to provide treatment completions evaluations using passive seismic signals during hydraulic fracturing stimulation.

    Nathan took the time out of his busy schedule to talk about what he loves about his field and what he misses about Pittsburgh.

    What do you enjoy most about your current job?

    Collaborative, inter-disciplinary research. Contemporary engineering solutions require knowledge and insight from multidisciplinary teams to bridge gaps between civil, environmental, mechanical, and electrical engineering knowledge to incorporate the advancements provided by the systems control and computing science communities. 

    In tandem with graduate school, I work for an oil and gas service company that provides geophysical monitoring and completions evaluation for hydraulic fracturing.  It is very rewarding to be a part of this energy industry with the ability to interactively contribute to technological innovation and improvement. 

    What advice would you give other young engineers?

    Get practical experience, but aspire for higher education. Pursue advancing the state-of-art, once you have a well-developed understanding of current practice. Innovate! Learn to communicate with those who do or do not have a similar technical background. The consulting world can be notoriously resistant to change and innovation. Develop and communicate new ideas and integrated solutions. Civil engineering is advancing in so many new and exciting directions, be a part of it!

    I have also benefited from working professionally with colleagues in Sweden, Italy, Canada and India. I encourage engineering students to seek international experience, either in academia or industry. Institutional impedance can often blind US developments with respect to what the rest of the world is developing.  Listen, observe, and collaborate.

    What is your best memory of being a civil engineering student?

    Working with the Carnegie Mellon Civil and Environmental Engineering faculty. Jim Garrett, Susan Finger and Larry Cartwright played instrumental roles in how my professional choices ultimately guided my career trajectory. 

    I also spent my junior year studying abroad at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland. This was a fantastic opportunity to engage engineering from a different perspective, and to also identify the ties that bind us.

    What classes and activities did you participate in that have most influenced you?

    I wanted to be a civil engineer because of the practicality of building. Designing a project and seeing the results always held great reward in my eyes. Senior Design and Construction was a literal realization of this process. I also participated in an Independent Study semester doing timber design and construction, with Larry Cartwright advising. Both of these experiences gave me considerable insight into what might actually be incongruent with respect to an expected engineering design and physical construction constraints.

    Is there anything you miss about Pittsburgh?

    So many good things...family, friends, culture. Pittsburgh has such a wonderfully diverse culture, and the seeds for amazing technological development. But I mostly miss good old-fashioned pierogies and them Stillers!

    To contact Nathan Toohey email him at: ntoohey2e@gmail.com.

    In 1988, members of the ASCE Pittsburgh Section founded the Student Award Foundation (SAF) of the Pittsburgh Section of the American Society of Civil Engineering.  Since that time, the SAF has given awards to emerging leaders who call the Pittsburgh Section home.  In 2007, American Bridge Company provided a donation of $75,000 and, since, the primary award is the American Bridge Leadership Award.  Thanks to the donation by American Bridge, the SAF annually confers the American Bridge Leadership Award of $5,000 or more.  In addition to the American Bridge Leadership Award, the SAF bestows 


  • 21 Jan 2016 8:21 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    By Nicolle Piper and Jonathan Shimko

    The Western Pennsylvania ACE Mentoring program kicked off in early October again this year.  About 40 high school students from over 10 area schools are participating. This year's project is to create a summer camp in the hills of Western Pennsylvania

    The focus this year will be on sustainability.  Each team must design their camp to be as environmentally friendly as possible – design considerations include structures arrangement on the site, types of materials used, types of natural resources harvested, and a respect for the surroundings.  Each session will not only introduce new Architecture, Construction, and Engineering disciplines, but also incorporate sustainable initiatives. While the overall camp layout and central facilities will be designed as a group, each student is required to design their own cabin within the camp.

    The first session of the year was held at Boy Scouts of America Camp Guyasuta in Sharpsburg where the team project was introduced to the students.  During the session, the students got to learn more about the LEED Silver rated McGinnis Education Center from Gary Moshier, the architect of the building.  They also got to tour the camp grounds.  As a team activity, each group designed their own camp flags.

    In the site and project planning session, the students prepared preliminary site layout plans.  The session began with a presentation on project planning from an architectural perspective and then transitioned to describe the coordination required between engineers and architects to plan an effective site layout.

    ASCE Pittsburgh Section Younger Member Forum (YMF) members served as presenters.  After the presentation, the students met with their groups and were provided with architectural building blocks and a site background plan.  The building blocks consisted of rectangles drawn to-scale that represented the footprints of the five required buildings and the minimum six required cabins.  

    The site background plan provided contours and existing features including a stream, wetland, and road.  Using an ordinance as a guideline, the groups began to plan the layout of the buildings and the site features that would comprise each of their camps.  

    Students presenting their site layoutsMentors offered guidance during the session, but each group created unique and creative camps, with the plan to update the site layout during the Civil Engineering session on November 18, 2015.  The session wrapped up with every group taking a few minutes to present their site layouts.

    The ACE Mentoring Program continued on November 4, 2015 at the Chatham University’s Eden Hall Campus in Gibsonia, Pennsylvania for a session on Water Resource Engineering, hosted by the ASCE Pittsburgh Section Environmental & Water Resources Institute (EWRI).  Students learned about the Eden Hall Campus’s sustainable design and operational considerations, as well as, stormwater issues that engineers consider when building in or near potential floodplains.

    Students touring a greenhouse in Eden HallThe session began with a tour of the Campus.  Kelly Henderson, Sustainability Education Coordinator for the Faulk School of Sustainability at Chatham University, provided the walking tour that included many innovative technologies and design elements that are employed at the campus, such as:

    • Sustainable agricultural
    • Stormwater management
    • Irrigation
    • Water reuse and recycle
    • Energy facilities

    After the tour students returned for a presentation and activity prepared by Jonathan Shimko who represented EWRI and Tetra Tech, Inc., that provided insight to methods used to calculate stormwater runoff and peak stream flows.  The goal of the exercise was for the students to calculate the potential floodplain associated with their camp designs.  The student were given a real set of data to develop a calculation to provide for a more sound and comprehensive design for their camps.

    The ACE mentoring program is an opportunity for students to learn about various ACE disciplines before picking a college program.  A majority of the participants enroll in Architecture or Engineering undergrad programs.  ACE is well respected by various college admissions personnel and offers some significant scholarships at the end of the year.

    Our appreciation to Chatham University and Tetra Tech, Inc., for providing support for this session. 


  • 14 Jan 2016 9:27 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    By Alex Potter-Weight

    More than 50 ASCE members and guests gathered on November 19th at Cefalo’s Banquet and Event Center for the Pittsburgh Geo-Institute’s monthly dinner meeting and technical presentation, titled “Fixing a Crack in the Wanapum Dam”.  Dr. Rick Deschamps, Vice President of Engineering for Pittsburgh-based Nicholson Construction Company, presented the fascinating case history of a large dam remediation project that Nicholson performed in Washington State.  The presentation also included first-hand accounts of the construction from project engineers, Abigail Stein and Nathaniel Witter.

    The Wanapum Dam is on the Columbia River in Washington State, with a spillway 820 feet long and a hydroelectric capacity of nearly 1,100 Megawatts.  In February of 2014, after more than 50 years in service, a fracture was discovered on the upstream side of the concrete spillway.  The fracture ran the entire 65-foot width of one of the monoliths and was up to two inches wide.  After the dam was immediately lowered, a subsequent investigation showed that the primary cause of the fracture was an underestimation of the hydrostatic forces, resulting in an insufficient pre-construction design.  Dr. Deschamps praised all of the parties involved with the investigation for readily admitting the miscalculation, which allowed for an efficient and transparent remediation process.

    Nicholson Construction was brought into the project to repair the crack and prevent future damage so that the dam could be put back into service.  The first step in the repair work was coring of the dam to map the existing cracks.  This took place from a small gallery within the dam and the results of the exploration indicated that the problem was widespread as cracks were found within all of the monoliths.  Next, these cracks were grouted with either cement or chemical treatments.  The construction from the gallery also included the installation of uphole drains to relieve and monitor hydrostatic pressure.  Following the mapping and grouting from the gallery, construction continued from atop of the dam crest and spillway.  From there, large steel tendon and bar anchors were installed, each with a capacity of over 1,200 tons.  These anchors were drilled into the underlying bedrock and firmly locked the dam in place.  A final, challenging piece of the construction involved the installation and testing of the remaining bar anchors underwater, by divers. 

    Ultimately, the complex repair work was completed safely and on schedule, allowing the county public utility department to raise the water level back to its previous levels.  This raising of the water level not only returned the hydro-electric dam to its full operating capacity but also prevented depletion of the salmon population that migrates past the dam by way of a fish ladder.   

    Dr. Deschamps has given this presentation to different organizations since the completion of the project, including the Chicago Geo-Institute.  Hosted by the Geo-Institute Chapter of the ASCE Pittsburgh Section, the event included a social hour for exchanging professional insight and a buffet dinner.  Attendees earned 1.0 PDH hour for this presentation.  


  • 11 Jan 2016 4:39 PM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    By Linda Kaplan

    On December 28th, several ASCE Pittsburgh Section Younger Member Forum (YMF) members eagerly waited to catch sight of the Greenfield Bridge implosion.  Best known as the site of the “bridge under a bridge,” the Greenfield Bridge has been a poster-child for failing infrastructure in the area and the necessity for smarter investing. 

    Originally constructed in 1921, the Greenfield Bridge carried Beechwood Boulevard over I-376 (Parkway East) near the Squirrel Hill Tunnel.  The concrete open spandrel deck arch had a 466’ total length with a 274’ main span over the Interstate.  When chunks of concrete began falling off of the structure causing safety concerns for traffic on I-376 below, $700,000 was spent to build a simple steel structure below the bridge, to catch the falling debris.  The situation even gained national attention when it was featured in a 60 Minutes piece and a Last Week Tonight episode on failing infrastructure. 

    A contract for full replacement of the structure was awarded in August of 2015, and on December 28th, the existing structure was demolished.  A large soil “pad” consisting of 4000 cubic yards of fill was piled 10 feet high on the section of 376 that was below the bridges and both the Greenfield Bridge and the “catch” bridge were imploded, collapsing onto the Interstate below. 

    YMF members joined 1000s of other spectators in Schenley Park to watch the implosion live.  When asked why they were there two hours early, section Director and YMF Past-President Linda Kaplan, PE, told WTAE news “We really wanted to make sure we got a good spot for the view, and being a bunch of bridge engineers, we really thought it was going to be very crowded because we assumed everyone would be this excited about it.”  Ms. Kaplan was also interviewed for the on-air reporting and can be seen discussing the implosion at the end of the video here.  All members who attended agreed that it was well worth the cold 2 hour wait to see the implosion live.  Other members reported feeling the shockwave as far away as Greentree. 

    Material from the demolished bridge is part of a massive reuse and recycling project.  Concrete will be ground down to be used as fill, and the steel is being trucked to Josh Steel Co in Braddock.  A Post-Gazette article describes the details of the program. 

    Construction will now begin on the new steel arch structure designed by HDR, Inc.  The new bridge is scheduled to open in the Spring of 2017 at an approved cost of $15,500,000.  Included in the design are nods to the historic nature of the old bridge, including urns and ornate lampposts.  Considering the extensive repairs that were done on the existing structure over the years, Section History and Heritage Chair, Todd Wilson says “At least in some ways, the new bridge might pay more tribute to the original idea of the bridge than the previous bridge in its current state.”


  • 15 Dec 2015 8:06 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    By Gregory Scott, P.E.

    Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate both approved a five-year, $305 billion highway, transit and railway authorization bill. The overwhelming, bipartisan vote was 359 - 65 in the House and 83 - 16 in the Senate. President Obama signed the bill into law later on Friday December 4th.

    In the run-up to the vote, ASCE members urged adoption of the bill known as the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act.  The FAST Act provides nearly $233 billion for highways, $49 billion for transit and $10 billion federal passenger rail.  By the end of the bill’s five-year duration, highway investment would rise by 15% and transit spending would grow by nearly 18%.  The FAST Act is the longest surface transportation authorization bill since the enactment of a previous five-year bill in 2005.

    The bill includes:

    • Creation of a dedicated $1.25 billion freight program to help ensure federal investments are targeted at improving U.S. economic competitiveness;
    • Providing $900 million per year for large-scale projects under a new, nationally-significant freight and highways program;
    • Cutting the TIFIA program from $1 billion annually to around $300 million per year. TIFIA helps leverage billions of dollars in private sector capital for investment in our nation’s infrastructure;
    • Innovation initiatives, such as establishing a national program to explore surface transportation funding alternatives to the fuels tax; and
    • Investment in transit by creating a new research and deployment program, increasing funds for fixed guideways, and establishing a new bus facility program.

    Further details on the bill’s content is availableat ASCE’s Infrastructure Blog: http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/asce-news/infrastructure-in-the-news-infrastructure-on-the-fast-track-to-improvement/

    The bill was paid for through $70 billion in general fund money, which came from sources unrelated to transportation.  The largest offset came from spending down a capital surplus account in the Federal Reserve.  The bill does not “Fix The Trust Fund” as ASCE advocates, because it does not provide a sustainable source of revenues to support the HTF.  The Highway Trust Fund is now slated to experience a $24 billion annual shortfall starting in fiscal year 2021 should Congress fail to provide a future funding fix to this looming crisis.  ASCE’s President Mark W. Woodson, P.E., issued the following statement following the bill’s approval noting that despite its passage, Congress still has to address the long term solution for surface transportation funding.

    "After nearly a decade of short-term bills and numerous extensions, ASCE congratulates Congress on delivering a five-year authorization bill that will start to address our nation's backlog of surface transportation needs.  States will be able to plan, design, and build long-term projects because the bill increases funding and offers certainty that the federal government will continue to be a trusted investment partner.  The FAST Act increases federal investment into our aging roads, bridges, and transit systems, creates a national freight program, improves innovation, and streamlines the environmental and permitting process.  However, it does not provide a long-term fix to the Highway Trust Fund crisis.  ASCE urges Congressional leaders to start seriously exploring ways to fix the Highway Trust Fund in the long term now, so that in five years that solution can be implemented."

    Thank you to all our members’ efforts over the past several months in helping to secure program certainty and nominal funding for our nation’s federal surface transportation programs!


  • 10 Dec 2015 8:03 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    By Kate Luce Angell

    Image from httptheodysseyonline.commarylandis-social-media-worth-it212436Some of you might remember me as the person who helped to develop the 2010 Pennsylvania Report Card.  Since October 2015, I’ve been leveraging social media to help the four PA sections of ASCE promote the current campaign in support of the Highway Trust Fund and spread the word about the 2014 PA Report Card.

    This autumn, as part of that effort, I audited all of the social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) currently used by the Pennsylvania sections and gave a report to section leaders on where their social media efforts stand. At the end of the year, I’ll take a step back and look at how successful we’ve been in advancing our Highway Trust Fund and Report Card efforts.

    Looking at sections’ social media accounts, it was great to see people posting reminders for ASCE and Young Member activities, pictures from get-togethers, and job opportunities. In the Social Media Playbook, ASCE says that the first two principles of social media efforts should be connecting with members (communicating locally), and acting as stewards of the society and its mission (promote events, share photos, celebrate member successes). Everyone was doing a pretty good job on these two. Kudos to all the hard-working volunteers who maintain these accounts! It isn’t easy, I know.

    However, ASCE social media also has a third principle: Promote civil engineering. That involves “sharing civil engineering news and interest stories so your community can understand the importance of your members’ work.”

    Image from httpwww.groupfirst.comnews201509follow-us-on-social-mediaThis goal is a little harder to meet for most sections. But it doesn’t have to be! I’ve put together a few tips to make it easier and more intuitive for you—whether you’re in charge of your section’s social media efforts or even just want to use your personal accounts to spread the word.

    1.     Think of yourself as a citizen advocate for ASCE and the profession. You’re part of a profession that of which people don’t automatically understand the critical importance. You have to help them out and educate them. If you’re handling your section’s social media, that means keeping on top of the efforts of ASCE National, as well as what’s going on at the state and local level, and lending your social media voice to help make people aware and take action. It means recognizing the cool things engineers are doing in your community and posting about them. If you are using your personal account, you can post about civil engineering topics to your friends and family.  And, if you’re game, you could even be tweeting out to your legislator about causes like infrastructure funding.

    2.     Like, Follow, Repost, Re-tweet. There’s a lot of great civil engineering social media content out there, ripe for re-posting and re-tweeting. Here are some ASCE options you may already be following:
    But there’s also AASHTO, the Society of Women Engineers, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, PennDOT, and so many more. Make it easy on yourself—if civil engineering news shows up in your Facebook and Twitter feed, you can amplify the message with just a click of the button. Or join the conversation at hashtags like #FixtheTrustFund.

    3.     Ask for help and get the OK. ASCE National has a nifty Social Media Playbook that can help you navigate the social media world. If a section wants to begin a new social media effort, ASCE National asks that you let them take a look first. But even if your section’s social media is well-established, you can always consult ASCE’s social media experts at socialmediahelp@asce.org.

    4.     Don’t expect big results right away. Social media can be a powerful tool to amplify important messages, but payback in the form of more followers or Likes might not come easily or quickly. Still, it’s worth it to have a social media presence that can work to raise awareness of all the great things civil engineers do, and how important you are to your communities. That’s a message that bears repeating.
  • 03 Dec 2015 8:14 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Article by Alex Potter-Weight

    More than 60 ASCE members and guests gathered at the Pittsburgh Athletic Association on Thursday, October 29th for the most recent installment of the Terzaghi Lecture series.  The lecture was given by Donald Bruce, Ph.D., C.Eng., D.GE, M.ASCE.  Dr. Bruce is the President of Geosystems, L.P. His presentation, “The Evolution of Construction Techniques: The “Great Leap” Theory,” proposed that the field of specialty geotechnical construction primary advances in bold “leaps,” rather than slow and steady evolution.    

    The lecture began with an introduction to the “Great Man” theory, which considers that history is defined by the actions of a select cast of legendary figures. Dr. Bruce discussed the lecture series’ namesake, Prof. Karl Terzaghi, as one of these preeminent men in human history for his pioneering contributions to geotechnical engineering.  He then suggested that within the branch of specialty geotechnical construction, a related trend shows that courageous, project-based paradigm shifts drive the industry forward.  The presentation listed six criteria that these “Great Leaps” must meet in order to truly propel geotechnical construction into the future: 1) developed for a large project, 2) constructed by an innovative contractor, 3) approved by a responsible agency aware of the risk, 4) successful execution, 5) publication, and 6) codification.

    Dr. Bruce used one primarily example to illustrate this process: the monumental Wolf Creek Dam remediation in Kentucky.  In addition to the massive scale of the works to fix significant signs of distress in the dam, this project met the other criteria for a great leap forward in the industry. 

    To build the project, a successful joint venture was put together between European geotechnical construction giants Trevi ICOS and Soletanche, and specialty subcontractor Hayward Baker was employed for part of the grouting operation. The two-phase project included emergency remediation by Advanced Construction Techniques and Gannett-Fleming in the first phase, followed by grouting of the dam’s foundation in the second phase. The solution utilized a 6-foot wide, 535,000 square foot “disposable” diaphragm wall through the embankment into bedrock.  The actual cutoff was created by drilling nearly 1,200 50-inch diameter secant piles through the diaphragm wall. The US Army Corps of Engineers and a Board of Consultants were responsible for oversight of the design and construction, and took on a considerable amount of risk in ultimately approving the innovative solution.  The project was successfully completed 9 months ahead of schedule with nearly perfect technical results to date. Since project completion, the project team has helped meet Dr. Bruce’s final two criteria by creating 12 technical papers so far, and providing a benchmark for new dam safety codes that are currently in progress.

    As the 2015 recipient of the distinguished Terzaghi Lectureship, Dr. Bruce has given his presentation to different ASCE sections throughout this year.  Hosted by the Geo-Institute Chapter of the ASCE Pittsburgh Section, the event also included a social hour and a sit-down dinner.  The Section was happy to be able to provide 1.0 PDH hours for this presentation.  


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