Posts tagged ‘US Infrastructure’

What is the ASCE Grand Challenge?


The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has initiated a “Grand Challenge.” The Grand Challenge asks for a commitment from civil engineers to be innovative in all phases of project planning, design, and implementation. The Grand Challenge’s goal is to reduce infrastructure lifespan costs by 50% by 2025 and to encourage innovation and design for infrastructure sustainability. The ASCE Grand Challenge asks civil engineers from all backgrounds and at every career stage to “implement performance-based standards, resilience, innovation, and life cycle cost analysis in all projects.”

The ASCE Report Card for America’s Infrastructure estimates the investment needed for our infrastructure by 2020 is $3.6 trillion, of which $1.6 trillion is unfunded. With each passing year our bridges decay, water mains leak and our foundations crumble. Band-aids are applied and wounds stitched until the next disaster. The new administration assures us that America’s infrastructure- airports, transit/rail, etc- will lead the world. Where will that $1.6 trillion come from if we are not selling our infrastructure to other countries?   ASCE summons its members to become leaders in creating solutions to, at the least, reduce the insufficiency.

What do you think? Can this work? Why not at least try?

Download your “Outreach Toolkit” here:

Let’s us know what you think!

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Carol Metzner President, The MetznerGroup Managing Partner,

View Carol’s profile & connect with her on LinkedIn

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December 8, 2016 at 11:32 am Leave a comment

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

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 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, “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

Some Civil Tomfoolery

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

Tired of reading about the failing infrastructure?  Tired of waiting for your firm to reap the benefits of the infrastructure stimulus package?  Tired of hearing about how the civil engineering industry is struggling and that civil engineering jobs are few and far between?  Well, at this very moment in time, I certainly am.   So in light of that, I thought I would use a little history and a little humor to maybe brighten up a few minutes of your day (though the historical video may also make you chuckle).

First, take a look at the videos below which I found on youtube, GM Futurama Parts 1 & 2.  SkyTranThese videos give perspective from 1939 in regards to what our infrastructure would look like in 1960.  Bridges, highways, airports that would solve all of our problems and make life easier.  Smart RoadsThese videos are amazing, really, to see how far our infrastructure has come since then.  Now we are looking at technologies like SkyTran and SmartRoads, ideas that were surely beyond comprehension in 1939.

Following the videos are a few snapshots that have been circulating the Internet, maybe you have seen them.  Engineering and construction masterpieces they are not…just a little civil tomfoolery!


And you thought airport security was getting better...
And you thought airport security was getting better…
My clients have often complained that good rail engineers are very hard to find...
My clients have often complained that good rail engineers are very hard to find…
Clearly a case of two very stubborn engineers working in the same office...
Clearly a case of two very stubborn engineers working in the same office…
Maybe it's not just the economy effecting the housing market...
Maybe it’s not just the economy effecting the housing market…
An engineer should never go back to work after happy hour...
An engineer should never go back to work after happy hour…

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June 17, 2009 at 5:58 pm 2 comments

Questions Of The Month – Final Tallies Revealed

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

Each month at we have a Question of the Month.  This question is posted on our home page and is included in each issue of  “The LinkedIngineer” as well as our monthly e-newsletter which is sent out to nearly 10,000 members of the civil engineering community (If you would like to sign up for our monthly e-newsletter please click HERE…sorry, couldn’t pass up that free plug).   It’s been a while since we have posted the results, so in light of that (plus the fact that I have struggled to come up with anything else),  check out the results below.   If you see any surprising results in there or feel the urge to comment about any of the topics please feel free to do so.

MAY 2009


83.1%     No
16.9%     Yes

Just yesterday I was speaking with  a colleague of mine who commented on a report he had just watched on MSNBC. They were discussing the question “where did all the stimulus go?”   Most of it of course is going to construction; all those projects that we have come to love and know as…shovel ready. What seemed like a lot of money initially, when spread out over the entire United States, seems to be spread pretty thin.

APRIL 2009


67.6%     Yes
32.4%     No

It’s expensive out there folks.  Our health insurance has gone up 50% over the past four or five years…everyone is feeling the pinch here.

MARCH 2009


42.9%     Networking
25.0%     Not Knowing Where To Start
17.9%     Updating My Resume
14.3%     Nailing The Interview

The way I see it, assuming you are a talented engineer, if you are able to effectively network throughout the course of your career, that, in-and-of-itself, takes care of the the remaining three obstacles.  You see, if you are a great networker, you easily know where to start, and because you have networked so well and know so many people very well, there is no need to update your resume because they have seen you in action and your stellar reputation precedes you.  Your noticeable performance within your industry over the course of your career has coincidentally been an ongoing interview.  All that being said, a hand shake over a cocktail, beer, sparkling water or other beverage of your choice should be all that is needed to nail down your next job.  A little tongue in cheek maybe, but there is some validity to my theory.



50.0%     8 or more times per year
23.1%      Not at all
15.4%     1-3 times per year
11.5%     4-7 times per year

One half of our respondents give back to the community 8 or more time per year…that is AWESOME!



77.8%     No
22.2%     Yes

One should always be truthful on their resume, that goes without saying.  But sometimes resumes can be misleading as different titles mean different things to different companies and different people.



40.0%     Nuclear Energy
23.3%     Wind Energy
20.0%     Solar Energy
13.3%     Bio-Fuels
3.3%       U.S. Oil Digging
0.0%      Coal

I think our economy will need to stabilize and re-establish itself for a while before we begin to see any of these technologies really begin to flourish.



65.5%     No
34.5%     Yes

I think the civil engineering industry,  prior to “The Great Recession,”  had actually come accustomed to the 6/60 work week – that is Monday-Saturday/60 hours week!



49.4%     Barack O’Bama
42.9%     John McCain
6.0%       Undecided
1.2%        Other
0.6%       Ralph Nader

Not bad, not bad.  The final results in total votes for the Presidential election in November was Obama 53% / McCain 46%. Our participants were nearly dead on here…sorry I can’t say the same for the Question of the Month which we ran in August 2008; see below!



73.5%     No
26.5%     Yes

This poll was posted at the time when gas prices were averaging $3.74/gallon.  We have come a long way over the years in mass transit, but you know what?  People love their cars and it would take a lot more  than higher gas prices for them to drop their keys and take to mass transit.



30.6%     2nd Quarter of 2009
26.5%     2010 or Beyond
14.3%     3rd Quarter 2009
12.2%     4th Quarter 2008
10.2%     4th Quarter 2009
6.1%        1st Quarter 2009

As of today, just about 50% of our survey responders are wrong and there are another 26.5% who will likely end up on the wrong side of the fence as well by the end of this year.  Seems to be an ol’ case of “if I only knew then what I know now.”

I would like to thank you all for answering our Questions of the Month and look forward to your continued participation.

Got Comments? Got Questions? Got Insight? Got Speculation?  Got Inside Information?  Let us know, we would love to hear from you on any of the subjects of our recent polls.

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June 4, 2009 at 12:09 pm 1 comment

Can You Name That Highway?

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

My father and grandfather were chemical engineers, my younger brother studied civil engineering, my older sister scored over 1400 on her SAT’s.  Apparently that “smart” gene, along with the gene that provides a full head of hair, managed to bypass me.   Though I never even had the chance to be an engineer, I have always been fascinated with the final products that are churned out by architects, engineers and construction professionals.  I remember a couple of years ago when we were developing the website for Precision Executive Search and I was in search of some cool aerial photos of some crazy interchanges.  We ended up going with photos of bridges to go along with our tag line of “Bridging The Gap,”  but we found some pretty amazing photos that we ended up not using.   Besides my intrigue with long span bridges, highway tunnels, elevated highways and uniquely designed and structurally sound buildings, I am even more fascinated with the design and construction of the interchanges that can be found in some of the most traveled areas across the globe.  What our audience of civil engineering professionals is capable of accomplishing is nothing short of amazing to me.  

So, after perusing  the Internet I came across some cool videos (accompanied by music, so turn down your speakers if you are in cube world)  that blast through some of the craziest highways and interchanges around the globe.  I began to wonder,

Who within our blogosphere could identify some of these interchanges?

 Maybe you designed or built one of them, maybe you proposed or bid on one of them,  maybe you attended a conference where it was profiled, or, maybe you hit it up every day on your way to work.  Whatever the case may be, I would like to challenge you to….




Thanks for participating…we look forward to your responses!

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March 25, 2009 at 4:35 pm 4 comments

Will Our Infrastructure Ever Make Honor Roll?

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


I did a little bit of investigating (well, not that much…about 1 minutes worth!)  in regards to the American Society of Civil Engineering’s (ASCE) report card that we have all come to love so much.   Since it’s inception in 1988, there have been 5 complete report cards (at least that I have found) and one trend report.  When growing up, I wonder if I brought home a report card this poorly, time and time again, if my parents would’ve awarded me with  nice stimulus package?   Ha. The only stimulus I would’ve received would have been to my backside from the likes of a wooden spoon!  

Take a look:

  1988 1998 2001 2003 Trend 2005 2009
Aviation B- C- D D+ D
Bridges C+ C- C C C
Dams N/A D D D D
Drinking Water B- D D D- D-
Energy N/A N/A D+ D D+
Hazardous Waste D D- D+ D D
Navigable Waterways N/A N/A D+ D- D-
Public Parks & Rec N/A N/A N/A N/A C- C-
Railways N/A N/A N/A N/A C- C-
Roads C+ D- D+ D D-
Schools N/A F D- D D
Solid Waste C- C- C+ C+ C+
Transit C- C- C- D+ D
Wastewater C D+ D D- D-


I know that if my kids came home with these grades one marking period, you would be darn sure you would see improvement the next.  And then, as a parent, I would work with the teacher and school to learn the root of problem and then make the necessary changes that would breed long-term success.  Finding short term solutions and putting a band-aid over the situation does not lead to good news down the road.   Regarding our infrastructure, according to Wayne Klotz, ASCE President, we have been using band-aids, or what he refers to as  the “patch-and-pray method” for too long:

I believe ASCE and its members to be an upstanding and successful organization with a lot to offer.   But these thoughts have to cross your mind:

  • What would happen to the civil engineering industry if all these categories were given A’s & B’s? 
  • Would funding for infrastructure projects  disappear until lower grades were given?  
  • And if that was the case, would ASCE be doing their members and the industry a dis-service, by reporting anything other than a crumbling infrastructure?  
  • Would ASCE really  mislead the government and the U.S citizens by being over-dramatic with their evaluation of the infrastructure in order to spend tax-payer money on civil engineering and infrastructure projects?

I would say, ‘probably not.’  Have you seen the news lately with the bridge collapses and the water main breaks?  And of course there are all the roads and bridges and underground utilities that were built decades ago that were not meant to handle the capacity of today.  Not to mention all the new environmental issues coming into play. There is an interesting point of view on this very topic that argues,  though ASCE is a beneficial organization for issues like education and professional development, it is stepping out of its bounds by producing such abysmal reports and lobbying the U.S. Government for funding.  To read this point of view check out this blog:

I realize that we have so much money invested in our troops in the Middle East, but with such bad report cards for over 10 years now and no apparent improvement, is ASCE not doing enough to get its point across?  Or  has our government just been pre-occupied with other issues? Will we likely see this same report card every four years just to keep building and re-building for the benefit of the civil engineering industry?  Or are the roads and bridges and dams and airports really that bad?  If by chance you do agree with the commentary from the blog that you can read via the link above, who do you believe then would be best suited to produce the Infrastructure Report Card? 

What is your opinion?


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March 11, 2009 at 5:20 pm 4 comments

Civil Engineering & The Presidential Election

SO….  Earlier today we sent out an article to the civil engineering community highlighting the current stances of Barck Obama and John McCain on many of the infrastructure issues that directly effect the civil engineering industry.  This was a non-partisan article that was aimed at providing our readership relevant information from reliable sources in respect to the profession that we are all apart of, in one way or another.  The information that I was able to uncover included the opinions and policies of either Barack Obama or John McCain, one of which will become the next president of our great country.  Obama or McCain may or may not be the right person for the job, but one of them will be elected.  There are of course other candidates out there from the Boston Tea Party/Personal Choice Party, the Constitution Party, the Green Party, the American Independent Party, the Independent-Ecology Party, the Libertarian Party, the Prohibition Party, the Reform Party, the Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party; and though those candidates may have worthwhile infrastructure policy programs, my goal was to write an article, not a book.   And quite frankly, none of them have a remote chance of being elected.

I’ve received a number of phone calls and emails bringing up valid points in response to my article, but I realized that there was no real open forum to discuss the beliefs and policies of the candidates in response to the article.  Maybe you have more information to share with our readers, maybe you want to discuss one of the other candidates outside of Obama & McCain.  Or maybe I failed to note some more specific areas, as noted by one of our readers, like Off Shore Oil Drilling.  Whatever the case may be, WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!


The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) estimates that $1.6 trillion is needed to effectively and adequately fund our infrastructure over the next five years.  $1.6 trillion.  A recent report from the National Surface Transportation Policy & Revenue Study Commission indicated that an investment of somewhere in the ballpark of $300 billion dollars PER YEAR for the next 50 years is required.  $300 billion PER YEAR.

With our current economy tearing apart at the seams, oil and gas prices rising, and our continued war effort in Iraq, the issue of our existing and future infrastructure has taken a back seat with presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain.  We are only another tragic bridge collapse or devastating hurricane away from making headlines again, and it is unfortunate that neither candidate has recently considered the issue of our infrastructure head on.  With the help of some colleagues, I was able to scour the Internet for any information I could to provide you with the candidates’ current stances in relation to the United States infrastructure.  Here is what we discovered:

In Relation to Bridges & Highways:

Popular Mechanics was unable to locate any policy reports from the McCain camp regarding infrastructure. McCain did address the Minnesota Bridge Collapse, stating that it was not a matter of not having the funding to commit to the backlog of bridge inspection, repair and construction, but rather a misallocation of the funds toward wasteful earmarks.  Obama, on the other hand, supports creation of an independent entity referred to as the National Infrastructure Reinvestment bank, which plans to invest $60 billion in transportation infrastructure over the next 10 years.  This allocation of funds is on top of other federal infrastructure financing (Sofge).  The projects created by this funding will generate up to 2 million new jobs per year and will infuse $35 billion per year in economic activity (Obama).

AP reports that John McCain supports an $8 billion funding package for federal highway construction.  Some of these projects include pork barrel spending, and McCain has stated time and time again that if he becomes president, he will veto any bill that is presented to him that includes earmarks. This may be a tough pill to swallow since many construction projects are promoted and supported by individual lawmakers.  It is McCain’s goal to fight for highway funding that is not laden with pork (Espo). McCain did support a federal gas tax holiday to bring down gas prices, but critics believe that though it would lessen the financial burden on the people, it would take away the taxes that help fund highway and infrastructure projects (Crawley).

Obama proposes a $50 billion bill to fund infrastructure and emergency aid to state governments.  One half of the total funds will be allocated per state government officials; the other $25 billion will go directly toward road, bridge and other public works projects.  McCain believes this proposal to be a short-term answer, but indicated he would certainly consider signing any valid stimulus plan that Congress would set before him should he become president (Hall).

In Relation to Energy:

McCain is an avid supporter of nuclear energy and the aggressive buildout of nuclear power plants across the country, proposing to build 45 new plants by 2030.  McCain is also in support of clean-coal energy, offering up to $2 billion per year in research until the year 2024.  He also supports other alternative energies.  Obama believes in staunch investment in biofuels, renewable energy and clean coal plants, $150 billion worth over 10 years (Crawley).

In Relation to Rail & Mass Transit:

Though McCain opposes federal funding for Amtrak, he recognizes Amtrak’s importance in our country.  With that, McCain did support legislation that would back long-term capital funding for passenger rail.  Obama supports continued capital funding for Amtrak and is for the development of a high-speed corridor between major cities located within 500 miles of each other.  Obama also calls for legislation for funding for freight rail and mass transit expansion (Crawley).

In Relation to Dams & Levees:

Obama has scribed a policy paper on rebuilding the hurricane-stricken gulf coast that highlights his plans to build out and repair a significant levee and pumping system. McCain, though clearly recognizing the dire situation in the gulf coast region, has not formally prepared a flood management plan of his own.  Neither candidate has addressed a plan for the crumbling levee system in the Midwest (Sofge).

In Relation to Sustainable Communities:

Though neither candidate shows any real transparency on this topic, Obama wants to consider smart growth opportunities to build more livable and sustainable communities (Obama).

For years now we have been hearing about, reading about and witnessing firsthand the deterioration of our infrastructure across the country.  It is time for the next president and Congress to take action.

Whatever your stance is on the issues, whatever party you are a member of, make sure you get out and vote on November 4th!

Works Cited:

Sofge, Erik. “Green Tech Plans Hide Obama-McCain Disparity on Infrastructure.” Popular Mechanics  25 September 2008.  27 September 2008 <>

Obama, Barack. “Urban Policy.” 27 September 2008 <>

Espo, David. “McCain Supports Highway Bill.”  Associated Press  12 September 2008. 27 September 2008 <>

Hall, Kevin. “McCain, Obama Differ on Ways to Help Main Street.” The Kansas City Star 27 September 2008. 28 September 2008 <>

Crawley, John.  “FACTBOX:  McCain, Obama Infrastructure Priorities.” Reuters 30 June 2008. 27 September 2008 <>

October 7, 2008 at 9:11 pm 2 comments

Ready For Gustav, But Ready For Another Katrina?

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

In light of the recent hurricane that blasted through the Gulf Coast this past holiday weekend I would be remiss in doing my job if I did not comment on it as it specifically relates to the civil engineering industry.   Three years ago Hurricane Katrina came through and absolutely devastated the Gulf Coast, New Orleans in particular.  Not only was the government response (Federal, State & Local) a horrible failure, but it brought light upon the incomplete and failing levee system in that region.  Earlier this year there was the tremendous flooding that took place in the Midwest, which really brought to the surface yet another instance of our failing infrastructure.  Not only are our roads and bridges no longer meeting the needs of the population, but on top  of that, and if it did not become evident following Katrina, it certainly became evident this spring, our levee system is is not capable of handling the potential devastating effects that mother nature can unleash.  If you did not read our earlier newsletter or blog entry contributed by Adam Pitluk discussing this make sure you take a look, it is an interesting read.

This time around the City of New Orleans, the State of Louisianna, and FEMA seemed to have their act together as the coordination between the agencies and the level of preparedness was clearly the result of the Katrina debacle.  After reading reports and watching the news coverage though there is still a long way to go in regards to the levee systems, at least down there in New Orleans, but progress is being made…slowly but surely.  At the mouth of the Industrial Canal is where the biggest failure in the levee system exists and the Corps of Engineer hopes to have this $700 Million project completed by 2011.  There was also another levee on the West Bank that is of major concern to the Corps of Engineers, as it  is suspect at best, though it was able to withstand what Gustav had to offer…this time.  Ownership of levees vary from Parrish to Parrish and the allocation of funds is a political process.  I’m no politician, but this should be a pretty black and white issue.  Protect your citizens and rebuild the city; this should be the top priority, and  building and improving the current levee system needs to be the number one priority in this process.   Gustav was no Katrina, and it certainly gave that Gulf Coast region a nice test, both on the levee system and the level of preparedness.  The preparedness that we witnessed for Gustave should be commended and can be matched or exceeded with postive results when future hurricanes threaten, but will the current levee system in place be able to withstand another Katrina between now and 2011?

September 4, 2008 at 1:11 am Leave a comment

$1,500,000,000,000…Does This Get Your Attention?

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

Last week the CBS Early Show aired a segment concerning the deteriorating U.S. Infrastructure.    ASCE President David Mongan and outspoken NY Engineer “Gridlock Sam” Schwartz contributed to the discussion.

You can see the short video report here:

Yes, you are hearing correctly on the video…an estimated $1,500,000,000,000 ($1.5 trillion) over the next five years will most likely be needed to avoid large-scale disaster.  That is referring to repair and maintenance…add on new and expanding infrastructure costs!  It seems as though this is a re-occurring issue that is brought up a couple times each year, yet it keeps being brushed aside by other issues.

At least we are in a market where we are needed…but where do we get that kind of money?!?!?!  And, how did we get into this situation?!?!?!

May 21, 2008 at 1:31 pm Leave a comment

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