Rocks Roads Ripples N'At:
Pittsburgh's Civil Engineering News Blog
By: Jayne Marks, PE
Jayne is a Structural Engineer in the Transportation Department of AECOM in Pittsburgh, PA. She was the Pittsburgh ASCE Younger Members Forum (YMF) President 2020 – 2021 and is the current Treasurer of the YMF, as well as the Winter Banquet Committee Chair.
On October 23-26, 2022, ASCE hosted their annual ASCE Convention at the Disneyland Hotel in sunny Anaheim, CA. I was fortunate enough to be a part of an amazing team of contributors who won this year’s ASCE Collingwood Prize; an award given to younger members under the age of 35 who are the author or authors of a paper (1) describing an engineering work with which the author(s) have been directly connected, or (2) recording investigations contributing to engineering knowledge to which the author(s) have contributed some essential part, and (3) containing a rational digest of results. Our paper is titled “Finite-Element Fatigue Analysis of a New Rib-to-Floor Beam Connection for Orthotropic Steel Decks” and was published in the February 2021, Volume 26, Issue 2 of the ASCE Journal of Bridge Engineering. Thanks to the generosity of my company, AECOM, and the Pittsburgh ASCE Section, I was able to attend the Convention with my co-authors and accept my award in person from outgoing ASCE President, Dennis Truax, and Executive Director, Tom Smith.
Pictured: Dennis Truax, Jayne Marks, Yixin Chen, Joe Saunders, Tom Smith
Attending the Convention was an amazing experience filled with many opportunities to gain new perspectives, form new goals, and keep my finger on the pulse of my profession. A large focus of the programming was on President Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill. Signed in November 2021, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is set to inject trillions of dollars into infrastructure over five years and presents a unique opportunity to the civil engineers who will be responsible for making this plan a reality.
The opening keynote was a panel of various government officials assembled to discuss implementation of the bipartisan infrastructure law. I found this presentation to be particularly engaging because it offered a perspective on a facet of my job that I don’t think I personally give enough thought to during the day-to-day: how do the decisions we, as civil engineers, make affect our communities? How can we ensure that this new wealth of resources is spent equitably and efficiently to enact the most positive change?
The Director of Los Angeles County Public Works, Mark Pestrella, stressed the importance of making data-based decisions when deciding how to utilize the money from the infrastructure bill. He mentioned that in LA, they’ve found that communities predominantly occupied by marginalized groups tend to be left behind when it comes to infrastructure spending; a conclusion they were able to come to based on data collected specifically to investigate this. Because of this, it’s important for civil engineers and decision makers to think creatively as we begin to utilize the funding provided by the bill: provide resources for smaller communities to help them navigate the grant writing processes, lump smaller projects in with larger projects to help them attain funding, combine smaller infrastructures systems into larger systems to avoid unnecessary segmentation, and provide education to communities so they’re able to properly maintain the systems they do have.
Pictured: Dennis Truax, Becky Keogh, Mark Pestrella, Laura Hanson
A similar message was reiterated during the Industry Leaders Forum event on the second day of the convention, with a strong focus on how racial inequality is a large component of this conversation. The newly appointed ASCE President, Maria C. Lehman, also highlighted the ongoing issue of gender inequality in our profession today during her acceptance speech. This was an inspiring address coming from someone so accomplished in her field. President Lehman has even been appointed to President Biden’s National Infrastructure Advisory Council which brought the conversation full circle. I sincerely appreciated these reminders that civil engineering is more than calculations done in a vacuum and that our choices and actions mean something beyond the obvious and important function of our jobs.
In addition to the larger presentations, I had the opportunity to learn more in the smaller presentations throughout the convention. I took a journey into ancient Rome to learn more about the Colosseum and a project that endeavors to use modern technology to recreate a moveable version of the ancient wooden flooring system that was lost to time. I also have a better appreciation now for the fake phishing email tests my company sends out every couple of months after sitting in on the session “Understanding Cyber Security Threats from a Hacker’s Perspective.”
Overall, attending the Convention was an incredibly valuable experience, not only for the things I learned, but for the people I met and the experiences I had. Disneyland was an amazing backdrop for a conference focused on innovation, creativity, and creation. Walt Disney once said:
“I don’t believe there’s a challenge anywhere in the world that’s more important to people everywhere than finding solutions to the problems of our cities. But where do we begin? How do we start answering this great challenge? Well, we’re convinced we must start with the public need.”
I made sure to keep this in mind as I got my picture taken with Mickey.
Pictured: Jayne Marks, Mickey Mouse, Scott Pickrell
On August 25, 2022 a group of 15 industry professionals took a tour of the Charleroi Lock and Dam, a project owned and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The lock is on the lower Monongahela River and is currently being modernized to include a new, larger River Chamber which will better accommodate today’s river traffic. Participants learned about several unique construction means and methods required for the project while viewing active construction within the dewatered lock chamber. Attendees were also treated to panoramic views of the construction site from the top of the new control tower. The existing lock chambers were constructed in 1932 and the new lock chamber is expected to be completed in 2024.
Check out the Spring 2022 Region 2 newsletter to learn what Director Jack Raudenbush has been doing, updates from around the Region, and even a Governor spot light of our very own Angela Mayer!
Spring 2022 Newsletter
By Edward J. Major II, EIT, A.M.ASCE
The 2022 YMF Winter Banquet was held on January 20th and I’m happy to report it was a SUCCESS! Previously, the Younger Member Forum (YMF) organized an annual networking and technical event called the December Dinner. This year, the YMF hosted the event in January to allow professionals and students the freedom to attend without possible schedule conflicts due to the holidays or final exams. While we were limited in capacity, we had 42 attendees come out to Penn Brewery on the North Side for an evening of food, networking and an informative lecture. Our keynote speaker, Jeff Argyros, gave a wonderful talk on the ALCOSAN Wet Weather Plant Expansion project. Attendees were also able to attend one of two tours of the brewery to learn about Penn Brewery’s history and process. The night concluded with several raffle prizes, including tickets to some great Pittsburgh places such as Phipps Conservatory and the Children’s Museum.
The YMF also wants to give all our Sponsors a huge THANK YOU! We were blown away by the generosity of these companies. Thank you to Arcadis for being the exclusive event sponsor of the Eisenhalle Room! Thank you to our bar sponsors, Colliers Engineering & Design and GHD! Thank you to our brewery tour sponsors, AECOM and Michael Baker International! And last but certainly not least, thank you to our dinner sponsors: Civil & Environmental Consultants, DLZ, Erdman Anthony, Geosyntec Consultants, Pennoni, and Venture Engineering!
We hope to see everyone at next year’s event! Until then, stay safe and remember to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to stay up-to-date on all the YMF happenings!
Pictured from Left to Right: Daniel Phillips (YMF President), Connor Gibson (YMF Treasurer), Rama Pandkar (YMF Secretary), Jeff Argyros (Keynote Speaker), and Jesse Doss (YMF Social Chair)
To all with a curious mind,
Recently, as creator and host of the Everything STEAM Podcast, I published an episode called Sinking Cities that featured Sebastian Lobo Guerrero, a key member of the American Society of Civil Engineer’s Pittsburgh Chapter (ASCE) and employee of American Geotechnical & Environmental Services. In 2020 he was voted Civil Engineer of the Year for ASCE’s Pittsburgh Chapter. Sebastian recently served as the Director for the chapter as well as served as the President of ASCE’s Geotechnical Institute. In the episode, Sebastian and I discussed many causations of sinking cities, while pointing out case studies all over the world where sinking cities are such as; Mexico City, Bogota Colombia and much more. To finish out the episode, we covered engineering and environmental approaches to slow or remediate these sinking cities.
Another episode that may be of interest to fellow members is an interview with Dr. Kent Harries. Dr. Harries is a tenure Professor at the University of Pittsburgh and is an active Fellow of ASCE Pittsburgh, ACI and IIFC. He will be featured in Woke Talk Podcast’s upcoming episode, Materials of the Future where we plan to discuss building materials that are used now, and showcase materials that could shake up the way we build our infrastructure in the future due to climate change action.
In many episodes to come, we plan to shine a spotlight on many other important members of Pittsburgh’s ASCE Chapter. These episodes include; Public Transit, US Infrastructure, The Importance of Engineering, Diversity in Engineering, Women in STEM and much more. If you would be interested in being involved in these conversations please, feel free to go to the Contact Us page on our website (https://everythingsteam.org), or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. To stay up to date with the podcast, connect with me on LinkedIn, or look up Everything STEAM on social media.
To listen or watch the interview with Mr. Guerrero, head to Our Streaming Platforms. You can listen to our podcast episodes on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Anchor by Spotify, Stitcher and Amazon Music. To view our video content, look us up on YouTube or use the link above! We hope that you enjoy our content and support us in our cause to make our society more STEAM informed, thank you.
About the Author: My name is Sam Stanford, and I am a Physicist, Structural EIT and alumni of the University of Pittsburgh. For more background information about myself, I was a member of Pitt ASCE, awarded top Civil Engineer of the Spring 2021 Graduating Class, Summa Cum Laude at the University of Pittsburgh and Slippery Rock University, and was inducted into the Sigma Pi Sigma Physics Honor Society.
Woke Talk Podcast is not an ASCE sponsored program and the views expressed are their own and may not reflect the views of ASCE.
Building and Planning for a Healthy and Equitable Future in Pittsburgh
When it comes to measuring the health and well-being of a community, there’s likely no better metric than the average life expectancy of its residents.
What would you guess are the average life expectancies in total years of residents from the places listed below? As you read along, just go with whatever first intuitively pops into your head; try not to overthink it.
A. A resident of the United States of America
B. A resident of Allegheny County
C. A resident of the City of Pittsburgh
D. A resident of Highland Park neighborhood of Pittsburgh
E. A resident of Larimar neighborhood of Pittsburgh
Ok, do you have your guesses written down? Now click here for the answers.
How did you do? Were you at all surprised at the results and the disparity between the residents who live in Highland Park and Larimar despite the fact that their communities are immediately adjacent to each other in Pittsburgh’s East End?
They say "Time is the most valuable thing a person can spend." They also say "You can always earn more money, but you cannot earn more time." ‘Not sure who first coined those sayings, but they are undoubtedly true. What is also true is that some communities in Pittsburgh are literally being robbed of decades of their time.
As Dr. Nobel Maseru explained during the 11th Annual Sustainability conference, there are many complex factors that go into these numbers, but the underlying social fabric is woven with threads of historical systemic racism. It's clear that this is the case simply by quick comparison of the bottom five and top five neighborhoods in the previously linked graph. As civil engineers, this is history that we must acknowledge. All of us, myself included, should educate ourselves on this critically relevant history. For example, the history of transportation civil engineering projects and the history of redlining of neighborhoods, disinvestment, and increased flooding. The first step in fixing a problem is acknowledging it exists. After that, education and learning. Then hopefully informed action.
On May 7 and 8, 2021 ASCE Pittsburgh Section, EWRI Pittsburgh, and Sustainable Pittsburgh held its 11th Annual Sustainability Conference, "Building and Planning for a Healthy and Equitable Future." The conference was held virtually and included experts from around the region and nation. If you were unable to attend both sessions were recorded and can be found here on YouTube: Go here for Day 1 and here for Day 2.
Below are some of my own personal reflections from the conference.
1. I've been on the conference planning committee for just about all eleven Sustainability Conferences. The racial equity panel discussion on Day 1 was one of the most important and eye-opening discussions I think this conference has ever had. If I were to recommend one session to watch one from the videos above, I would recommend this one. This was the first ever panel comprised entirely of BIPOC presenters that we've ever hosted at the conference and it was long overdue.
Some of the key items that stood out to me during this discussion is how Allison Acevedo, Director of the Office of Environmental Justice at Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, is making social justice and equity more of a priority for future funding decisions at the state level. Her group is also working towards decoupling this policy from future political regime changes. Likewise at the local level, Majestic Lane, Chief Equity Officer and Deputy Chief of Staff at City of Pittsburgh the City of Pittsburgh, stated how the City is in the process of developing neighborhood equity indicators and a framework for future City planning purposes. As engineers and planners, we now have the data to make better informed decisions regarding placement of investments in communities that need it most. Now it's a matter of top-down policy implementation at all levels of government as well as support from the engineering profession in order to make this type of action happen.
2. Our keynote speaker Carolyn Kousky, Executive Director at the Wharton Risk Center, University of Pennsylvania, presented how climate related disasters are perpetuating deeper poverty and greater inequality across the nation. To break this cycle, we need systematic changes to federal disaster recovery funding policies - especially for disaster recovery loans and grants. We also need more affordable and timely insurance mechanisms so that climate risks in disadvantaged communities are considered.
3. To address inequities perpetuated by climate change, communities will need infrastructure investments and budgets that are adaptable and flexible to a changing climate. Also, bold policy decisions are needed that may not be always popular with some key stakeholders, developers, and politicians. The City of Houston faced two major disasters and is moving forward with policy decisions that are requiring more from the development community in order to make their city more resilient. See Day 2 keynote speaker Carol Haddock MPA, PE - Public Works Director - City of Houston. See also the excellent climate resilience panel hosted by Grant Ervin, Chief Resilience Officer at the City of Pittsburgh where panelists talked about climate resilience initiatives underway as part of the City of Pittsburgh OnePGH Resilience Strategy.
4. All of us, myself included, need to do a better job communicating to the public the health and climate related challenges we are facing. We need language that is more understandable, accessible, and relatable. We need less scientific jargon and more plain language. We also need to find ways to empower the local community as part of the decision-making process so that there is grass roots community level ownership. Just about all of Day 2, but especially the panel discussions, spoke to this issue. Dave Rosenblatt, State Chief Resilience Officer in the State of New Jersey, Will Pickering, CEO of the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, and Ariam Ford, Executive Director at Grounded all spoke to the critical need for addressing this issue.
5. Creating lasting institutional change is very difficult. But for it to happen, it needs to start with leadership and a vision. Executing that vision also does not happen overnight and requires many years of partnerships and collaboration. Howard Neukrug, current Executive Director of the University of Pennsylvania Water Center and former CEO of the Philadelphia Water Department, talked about his multi-decade vision for the Office of Watersheds in the Philadelphia Water Department. As a result of the creation of the Office of Watersheds’ vision, eventually came the award winning and transformational "Green City, Clean Waters" plan for the City of Philadelphia. It's a terrific and motivating story. For young professionals this one is particularly worth watching.
Overall, the conference left me with a sense of optimism for the future of the Pittsburgh region. As this conference demonstrated, we have some tremendous regional leaders in Pittsburgh. It's great hearing a quote like this from Will Pickering, CEO of Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority: "When it comes to climate change and the future health of our communities, it's plain to see from our perspective that the 'do nothing' option isn't one that's acceptable."
Or this quote from Ariam Ford, Executive Director from the Pittsburgh based non-profit Grounded Strategies: "The process of empowering local residents and addressing historical inequities that Grounded is doing unfortunately isn't one that fits into the traditional engineering design process. The key is finding ways to bridge that gap between the grass roots communities and larger institutions."
Finally, as civil engineers, we are in many ways responsible for the future health and well-being of our communities and the people who call them their home. As we go about our daily work planning, designing, and building critical infrastructure projects, we should never forget the following words of wisdom and inspiration which I feel summed up the conference in just two succinct sentences. The first is from Dr. Nobel Maseru, and the second is from Ms. Carol Haddock:
"When inequality is too great, the idea of community cannot be obtained."
"It's the people, not the pipes."
On behalf of the conference planning committee, I would like to thank our conference speakers and all those that attended. We would also like to thank our partners: The City of Pittsburgh (especially Grant Ervin's team), American Public Works Association, and the Local Government Academy.
Tom Batroney, PE
President-Elect ASCE Pittsburgh
The Sustainability Conference Planning Committee Consists Of:
Jason Baguet, PE, Sci-Tek Consultants
Tom Batroney, PE, AKRF
Ben Briston, PE, Wade Trim
Ana Flores, EIT, Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority
Jim Price, Sustainable Pittsburgh
Greg Scott, PE, CDM Smith
Good day Pittsburgh Section, my name is Pat Sullivan and as some of you may know, over the last 3 years, I have been one of the Region 2 Governors for the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Region 2 covers the states of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and Northern Virginia and also Washington DC. There are 7 sections in Region 2: Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Delaware, Lehigh Valley, Maryland, National Capital and Central Pennsylvania. I am up for re-election and I would appreciate your support in helping me continue my duties as Governor. One of these duties is to meet with and aid sections and branches in enhancing their programs and providing opportunities for collaboration, sharing, and access to national resources. But the duty I most enjoy is the collaboration with the students at the approximately 25 colleges and universities in our region. My bio and ASCE resume is available to view on both the section website www.asce-pgh.com and the national website www.asce.org/elections .
As an ASCE member, please consider voting. In addition to voting for the Region 2 Governor, you can also vote for ASCE National President and there is also a referendum that will allow students to vote.
As you can see from the photos below, I have had an absolutely wonderful time being Governor. Starting back in September of 2018, as master of ceremonies for the Pittsburgh Sections’ 100th anniversary celebration and the Pittsburgh Sections’ 100th Anniversary book signing “Engineering Pittsburgh” to attending the Region 2 Student Conference at George Mason University in November of 2018 with the University of Pittsburgh student representatives.
Then it was off to the Region 1, 2 4 and 5 MRLC Conference in Orlando FL in January of 2019. It was cold that week, but I had a chance to catch up with student representatives from the University of Pittsburgh and emcee the lunchtime session, where I had a chance to ‘chat’ with over 500 attendees.
Of course, it isn’t all fun and games…occasionally there is work to be done, here we are hard at work at Bill Brittle’s house in central Maryland. And it is also necessary to support the ASCE Pittsburgh Section during important announcements, such as the 2018 Pittsburgh Section Report Card press briefing.
But as I said above, I enjoy talking to students, both at the university level and the high school level. I absolutely enjoy speaking to the high school students about civil engineering and how it started for me.
I hope to be able to continue these activities for the next three years. Thank you for your support.
In 2022 the four Pennsylvania ASCE Sections (Central Pennsylvania, Lehigh Valley, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh) will be releasing a new Report Card for Pennsylvania’s Infrastructure, however the work behind the scenes to develop the Report Card will be commencing late this Spring. The 2018 Report Card for Pennsylvania’s Infrastructure graded 18 categories of infrastructure and can be viewed at www.pareportcard.org as a reference as to the nature of the end product that is the goal to develop.
Volunteers are needed to join the infrastructure category committees. We are seeking to connect with members who have experience public policy or are interested in learning more about:
● The current condition of public infrastructure;
● The legislative and regulatory environment it is developed in;
● Infrastructure’s operations and maintenance and;
● How Public agencies and private corporations fund construction; operation; and renewal.
This is an opportunity to work in a team environment of like-minded professionals. The committees will work with staff from ASCE National and ASCE’s Committee on America’s Infrastructure to provide a snapshot of our infrastructure as it relates to us locally and on a national level. The volunteers will gather background information for each of the categories – including reports, studies, surveys and other research materials – from professional societies, non-profit associations, and local, state and Federal agencies, in order to determine grades for each category.
Grades will be developed in a simple A to F school report card format. Assigned letter grades are based on the following eight criteria: capacity, condition, funding, funding need, operation and maintenance, public safety, resilience, and innovation. The grades are an evaluation of the current state of the physical infrastructure itself and are not a reflection on the agencies responsible for the infrastructure, who are often working with limited resources. Historically, small teams of ASCE volunteers coordinate and meet with public agencies in the development and advance of the Report Card release to seek their input and notify them of the findings.
This is a wonderful opportunity for professionals as well as students who are interested in developing a deeper understanding of public policy and be acknowledged in a published report. Anyone interested should contact the Report Card for Pennsylvania’s Infrastructure Co-chairs, David DiGioia at email@example.com or Michelle Madzelan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When the ASCE Geo-Institute Pittsburgh Chapter (G-I) started planning the 2020/2021 program year we did not know if, when, or how we could even hold events. The Pittsburgh ASCE-GI dinner lecture series have always been very popular with the local geotechnical community. The series provides a chance to socialize, network, and learn from informative presentations. Cancelling the program year was not an option. New G-I committee members were elected to the G-I Board in Spring 2020 and knew that they had to find a way to carry on the torch of the dinner series and was immediately tasked with the challenge of finding new ways to engage with the geotechnical community during the COVID pandemic.
We decided that the best and safest way to proceed was to begin hosting the dinner series as virtual webinars. We all missed the typical food, drink, socializing, and networking of the normal dinner series; but the presentations to the geotechnical community could continue. The Pittsburgh Geo-Institute worked hard to line up engaging and exciting guest speakers for the 2020/2021 webinar series.
After organizing such a great speaker line up the GI board members wanted to ensure that the platform and time they picked for their webinar series ensured the highest quality for all members. After a thorough review of all the available platforms the Geo-Institute decided to use Zoom for their webinars. While after work hours were always best for the in-person presentations, it was decided that the best time for virtual presentations was during the lunch hour. The mid-day presentations were chosen because they would add a nice break to everyone’s standard working from home day and allow our members to take a break from their computer screens and spend time with their families after work.
The virtual program year was kicked off in September with the University of Pittsburgh’s IRISE Landslide Seminar; this was a collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Geo-Institute. The University of Pittsburgh hosted the platforms of these seminars.
On October 15, 2020, the ASCE Geo-Institute Pittsburgh Chapter kicked off their Zoom webinar programs with Fatma Ciloglu, Ph.D., P.E., with Michael Baker International. Dr. Ciloglu presented on Combi Piles-Lessons Learned to Manage Active Piping Erosion at Deep Foundations. This event was open to all members and non-members at no cost. A total of 144 professionals registered for this event, making it one of the largest events ever hosted by the ASCE Geo-Institute Pittsburgh Chapter to date.
After the success of the first two virtual meetings the Pittsburgh Geo-Institute was pleased to host the 56th Terzaghi Lecture by Edward J. Cording on November 19, 2020. The Tergazhi lecture was titled Observing and Controlling Ground Behavior During Tunneling. This event was once again open to all members and non-members at no cost. This virtual presentation set another registration record for the Pittsburgh Geo-Institute attendance with 188 people registering for the event.
On January 20, 2021, the Pittsburgh Geo-Institute was pleased to cohost the always popular annual joint meeting with AEG and PGS. Richard L. Beam, P.G. presented on Pennsylvania’s Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Emergency Program and drew in approximately 145 attendees across the three organizations.
While the start of the 2020/2021 program year looked bleak and uncertain, it has turned out some of the most well attended presentations of the ASCE Geo-Institute Pittsburgh Chapter. The virtual presentations allow professionals from outside of just the Greater Pittsburgh Area to benefit from the educational presentations, including those from faraway states like California, Arizona, and Utah. The ASCE Geo-Institute Pittsburgh Chapter thanks all their presenters and members for helping to make this year a successful program year. We look forward to the eventual restart of the popular in-person dinner meetings so that members can once again socialize and enjoy each other’s company, but until then please continue to join virtually from your home or wherever you may be!
Jack A. Raudenbush, P.E., M.ASCE, your Region 2 Director, is a member of the Central Pennsylvania Section. Jack represented you at the Oct. 26-27 board meeting. Use the following link to read his highlights from the ASCE Society board meeting which included such items as ASCE Code of Ethics and Life Membership.