Posts filed under ‘Environmental Issues’

Are You High On Speed…Rail?


 Matt Barcus
President, Precision Executive Search, Inc
Managing Partner, CivilEngineeringCentral.com

View Matt’s profile & connect with him on LinkedIn

It’s been quite some time since I have touched on this subject, so at the risk of “beating a dead horse,” here I go again!

Have you ever known anyone who has traveled via high-speed rail?  Have you actually experienced High Speed Rail yourself?  At the very least you have recently read about it or heard about it on the news.  I have never personally experienced it myself, but I’ve read enough about it  and viewed enough videos to know that I am very excited about what the future holds.  I have also spoken to folks who have actually traveled on High Speed Rail and the reviews were glowing!

Imagine blowing up a balloon; you’ve populated the balloon with enough air that is appears to be at full capacity, but maybe you want it a little bit bigger, so you put two more breaths into it.  It’s good.  It hasn’t popped, so you put two more breaths in.  It’s now stretched pretty thin, but maybe the kids are chanting, “Bigger! Bigger! Bigger!”   You push your luck one more time and in the middle of your next breath….POP!  As I write, our highways and airspace are pretty much maxed out when it comes to capacity, and as our population grows and our economy inches its way back into growth mode the constraints will be even heavier.  In fact,  on Monday CNN reported the following from the FAA:

Air travel in the United States is expected to more than double in the next 20 years, according to the Federal Aviation Administration’s annual forecast released on Tuesday.

It also predicts U.S. airlines will carry 1 billion passengers a year by 2021, a milestone that will come two years earlier than previously thought. (To put that number into perspective, about 712 million passengers flew on domestic carriers in 2010.)

 

If we fail to truly embrace High Speed Rail our infrastructure will share the same results as the balloon.

Last week Joe Biden announced a comprehensive plan that would allow for 80% of our hard-working population to have access to High Speed Rail by 2035 and has committed to $53 billion over six years.   Check out what the US High Speed Rail Association’s vision of what a national High Speed Rail system would look like:

The build out of High Speed Rail lines is a lengthy process; the environmental planning and reports, the public meetings, more reports, more meetings,  and one of the most, if not THE most sophisticated engineering and construction processes in the world requires much patience.  Of course the longer the discussion gets hung up in DC the even longer this will take.  As the United States continues to talk about High Speed Rail, the other countries on our globe continue to stay one step ahead of us.  I personally am not concerned about competing with other countries because at the end of the day I think the US rocks!    But all this talk over the years surrounding High Speed Rail, and the limited action is getting old – the advantages of High Speed Rail, as you and I both know, are enormous:

*Job creation

*Increased opportunities for employment due to easy access between cities

*A reduction in carbon emissions

*A national HSR system could reduce oil consumption by 125 bbl / year (according to Environment America)

*Reduce the stress already on existing, over-capacity infrastructure

*Ability to text message and check Facebook on phone without having to lookup for oncoming traffic 🙂

Look, the list goes on and on as to the advantages, no doubt.  A couple of years ago I wondered if people would really be able to give up their connections to their cars  on a daily basis.  The convenience they provide; the status they may show, etc.  But I think with all the studies that have been compiled, and the horrible recession that we have recently passed through, that particular mentality has passed its prime.   The development of true High Speed Rail has begun in FL and CA and significant investments have already been made in those regions.  May the rest of our country follow in their footsteps…let’s get this show on the road, or  shall I say, on the rail!

So, are you high on speed…rail?  I know I am and I would love to hear your thoughts – especially from anyone who may be against this type of innovation in our country…

Thanks for reading!

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February 16, 2011 at 5:11 pm 32 comments

Digital Cable But No Clean Water?

By Carol Metzner
President, The Metzner Group, LLC
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com

Perhaps you may have read last Sunday’s New York Times lead article by Charles Duhigg: Toxic Waters: Clean Water Laws Are Neglected, at a Cost in Suffering. For those who did not, the article focused on the human anguish that results from pollutants in our waters.  The abuse is caused by direct violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA). Keep in mind, the article did not focus on third world countries, but here in the US.  Senior Banking Accountant, West Virginia resident Jennifer Hall-Massey’s family is profiled:

“Neighbors apply special lotions after showering because their skin burns. Tests show that their tap water contains arsenic, barium, lead, manganese and other chemicals at concentrations federal regulators say could contribute to cancer and damage the kidneys and nervous system.

‘How can we get digital cable and Internet in our homes, but not clean water?’ said Mrs. Hall-Massey, a senior accountant at one of the state’s largest banks.

She and her husband, Charles, do not live in some remote corner of Appalachia. Charleston, the state capital, is less than 17 miles from her home.”

toxic-waters

Ryan Massey, 7, shows his caps. Dentists near Charleston, W.Va., say pollutants in drinking water have damaged residents’ teeth. Nationwide, polluters have violated the Clean Water Act more than 500,000 times. Photo taken by Damon Winter of the New York Times.

The article continues to disclose violation records obtained from not only the EPA but from State records. A multitude of violations were compiled into a fascinating and frightening national water pollution database. I encourage you to visit the database link, put in your zip code and hold on to your seats!

The blatant lack of fines or punishment to violators is unconscionable.  This past January I wrote a BLOG about outgoing President Bush’s midnight environmental legislation. Specifically stated, President Bush made sure that the coal industry had no problems depositing their waste from mountaintop mining into streams and valleys. Also, he circumvented the Clean Water Act and dismissed EPA leaders dissents. While it would be almost too easy to blame his administration and outgoing policies for today’s environmental misery, the New York Times article clearly distributes the blame to state agencies as well. Federal and State agencies need to step up.

As Duhigg writes: research shows that an estimated 1 in 10 Americans have been exposed to drinking water that contains dangerous chemicals or fails to meet a federal health benchmark in other ways.

Someone needs to be held accountable. Remember this next time you take a drink of water.

What do you think?

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September 16, 2009 at 4:00 pm 7 comments

Is There A Future in Civil/Structural Shweebeneering?

By Matt Barcus
President, Precision Executive Search, Inc.
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC, home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com

Wooooo Hooooo! Let's Shweeb!

Wooooo Hooooo! Let's Shweeb!

Well, you can thank this week’s blog to my new hobby of “tweeting.”  One of the other professionals that I follow made a “tweet” that led to a way cool website whose idea is worth mentioning.  The future of this “pod in the sky”  is likely “pie in the sky,” but it makes one wonder what the future of transportation could look like.

Pollution, carbon emissions, global warming, traffic congestion, green cars…these are all the industry headlines that plaster the Internet and your favorite trade publications every week.  Well, a group of engineers and designers in New Zealand have created a mode of transportation that eliminates nearly all of the environmental concerns that are under such scrutiny today.  No, it’s not a magic carpet ( how sweet would that be?).  And it’s more primitive and environmentally efficient than SkyTran.  Ladies and Gentleman, I introduce to you…

THE SHWEEB

The world’s first human powered monorail, The Shweeb is “the most efficient vehicle on earth, the most inexpensive infrastructure of any proposed urban transit and one of the highest capacity systems available – potentially delivering thousand’s of people per hour in a very small airspace. All this with zero carbon emissions and no parking worries or cost!”

Six years in the making, entrepreneur and design team leader Geoffrey Barnett finally constructed The Shweeb in 2007 ” in direct response to the transportation needs of today and the future.”   As of today, The Shweeb concept is Shweeb3 nothing more than a ride at an adventure park in New Zealand.  But  Barnett and his team are convinced that The Shweeb is the way of the  future.  This is definitely a very cool concept that on the surface would solve many of  the traffic and congestion and environmental pollution problems that  we face today.  It would also be an emerging engineering concept that possibly would challenge and excite transportation engineers of all types.

Environmentally speaking, this is a great idea, but Clearly Geoffrey and his team have their work cut out for them as they continue to push this concept of a human powered monorail system.  Personally speaking, I am skeptical at best. The “pod” itself that one drives in has little to be desired in the way of comfort and the issues are infinite- what happens if the chain or the pedals break – would Triple A (AAA) show up?  How would one travel with family or clients?  And what about ventilation? Plus, I have no desire to show up for work or a lunch meeting as a soaking wet sweat ball!  We would need Xzibit and the crew from the MTV show Pimp My Ride to develop some nice custom Shweeb vehicles to better suit our needs 🙂 !

Check out The Shweeb in action:

I read on Gizmodo.com, “Well, thank your lucky stars that the people who run our cities have at least some sense in their heads, because it would be highly doubtful for this to appear in the flesh anytime soon.”

Do you believe this engineering concept will ever come to fruition in any way, shape or form as an alternative form of transportation within our urban communities? Or is it merely a pipe dream that will never get beyond the gates of a Six Flags amusement park?

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July 29, 2009 at 4:00 am 8 comments

LEED Accreditation – Fad or Necessity?

By Carol Metzner
President, The Metzner Group, LLC
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com

View Carol’s profile & connect with her on LinkedIn

Is it really necessary to become a LEED accredited professional (LEED AP)? Can you design for sustainability without having LEED accreditation?  Is this just another acronym to put on a business card? Or, as some suggest, is this a half hearted attempt by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to exploit the demand for solutions to environmental issues and make some money along the way?

Just a few years ago only a select few individuals had LEED AP following their name.  Now more than 75,000 architects and engineers proudly display this designation to demonstrate their prowess in green building, strategies and technologies. The USGBC clearly states that the “LEED Professional Accreditation distinguishes building professionals with the knowledge and skills to successfully steward the LEED certification process.” As LEED certification becomes better defined, the LEED AP testing has become more difficult and comprehensive.

The LEED train has left the station and whether critics like it or not, it is here to stay. Therefore, having LEED AP on your resume will become a necessity and possibly valued in the future as the PE, AIA, RLA or AICP designations are now. Whether one can or has designed with an eye to sustainability in the past will no longer matter, without having the acronym after their name.  Experts concur that, for now, LEED is here to stay and one might as well get on board.

Do understand that as the U.S. increases desirability and need for green design, skeptics are becoming louder and activists more outspoken. Pete Wann’s blog on the “Fashion of LEED Bashing” suggests that the original critics were builders and developers and that today’s naysayers are those from the environmental and architectural traditionalist movements. While an Internet search turned up plenty of arguments on both sides of the recycled fence, I still think that in spite of its flaws and inadequacies, the LEED program is better than nothing when it motivates people to seriously face the future environmental challenges. And if we are going to have universally accepted guidelines (I don’t see the USGBC going away) then why not have professionals accredited? What do you think?

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civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

June 25, 2009 at 7:57 am 19 comments

Water and Air…The “New” Environmental Concerns

By Carol A. Metzner
President, The Metzner Group, LLC 
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com

The world has accepted the concept of sustainability.  That is: the need to be socially conscious, environmentally sensitive and aware. Go green, green recruiting, green design, green buildings, green initiatives, save green, green living, green products…green, green, green.  We have been saturated but, I hope, NOT desensitized.  Corporations went through branding programs and corporate logos turned green. It is reported that approximately 300,000 green trademarks were filed with the U.S. patent office in 2007.  These are all good things.  The concept of sustainability is sound, based in logic and implemented with reason.

Last year, advertising and trend watching firm JWT predicted that we will see blue replacing green as the color of environmentalism and social consciousness.  They suggest that the  “blue is the new green” concept signals a fundamental shift in the environmental movement.  I am not sure why it is a color shift…other than maybe a marketing technique. Even the Earth Day Network website has “gone blue.”  Are the new environmental concerns focusing on sky and sea –  water and air?  Are these really new concerns? Water and air quality have been in the foreground of civil and environmental engineering  projects for the 20 years I have been involved with our business.  

What do you think? 

Civil Engineering Jobs :: Civil Engineering Resumes :: Civil Engineering Blog :: Linkedin Discussion 

April 1, 2009 at 10:35 pm 4 comments

Outgoing Bush “Midnight” Environmental Legislation

By Carol Metzner, President, The Metzner Group, LLC and Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com

Tim Dickinson has written an excellent synopsis for Rolling Stone magazine on President Bush’s final legacy and good-bye gift to us for our future.  The title is somewhat rough for some of you, so I won’t put it here, but I offer to you the link:

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/24991066/bushs_final_fu

As it is expected that every outgoing president has implemented 11th hour regulations, “Bush is rolling them out at a record pace — nearly twice as many as Clinton, and five times more than Reagan.”

Here are just a FEW of his final goodbye gifts to all of us (with a few of my thoughts included!)…

Considering that my livelihood depends a great deal on infrastructure development, I read his last minute regulations with interest. “Under a rule submitted in November, federal agencies would no longer be required to have government scientists assess the impact on imperiled species before giving the go-ahead to logging, mining, drilling, highway building or other development.”  I can’t say that I have ever described myself as a live or die environmentalists, but at 47, I find this unsettling at the least! You only need to read my earlier BLOG discussing my obsession with the movie “Soylent Green” to know that this is beyond worrisome!

Typical of the Bush presidency, he has made sure that the  coal industry has no problems depositing their waste from mountaintop mining into streams and valleys.  Additionally, he has lowered air pollution regulations near our national parks, permitted for nearly 2 million acres of lands for the mining of oil shale — “an energy-intensive process that also drains precious water resources” and he has deregulated farming pollution. He has circumvented the Clean Water Act and dismissed EPA leaders dissents. This is just more of his legacy he has solidified for his future grandchildren and yours.

The Rolling Stone article details so many other last minute, little front news regulations, that I am too troubled to even list them all!

All of us will be affected by his decisions.  Involved in our industry, what do you think? Please comment!

January 15, 2009 at 12:50 pm 4 comments

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