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Pittsburgh's Civil Engineering News Blog

  • 10 Sep 2015 1:38 PM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    From PennDOT

    Harrisburg, PA – PennDOT today announced that it has scheduled three open houses for the public and stakeholders to review the draft for the update of the Pennsylvania State Rail plan.

    The plan allows the commonwealth to identify a clear vision for the future of rail transportation, to set objectives for achieving that vision, and to document and evaluate passenger and freight rail needs over the course of the next twenty five years to guide investments. 

    “Pennsylvania is a railroad state with a long history being in the forefront of this mode of transportation,” said PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards. “Our dynamic and ever evolving long-range rail plan is intended to maintain that legacy and help direct our investments to keep both freight and passenger rail as vibrant components of our transportation network. We look to our residents and stakeholders to use these open houses to help us shape the plan.”

    The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) works with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on the update.

    Scheduled meetings are:

    • Sept. 15, Pittsburgh Amtrak Station, 1100 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222
    • Sept. 16, Centre region Council of Governments, 2643 Gateway Drive, State College, PA 16801
    • Sept. 17, Amtrak 30th Street Station, 2955 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107

    All sessions run from 6 to 8 p.m.

    The updated plan is to be submitted to FRA in November.

    The draft 2015 Pennsylvania State Rail Plan can also be reviewed and comments provided at Comments will be accepted at the Open House Public Meetings and online from August 31, 2015 to October 2, 2015.

    “The vision for Pennsylvania’s rail system is to provide safe, convenient, reliable, cost-effective connections for people and goods,” Richards said. “As a viable alternative to other transportation modes, the rail system will support economic competitiveness, smart growth, and environmental sustainability, thereby strengthening Pennsylvania’s communities.”

  • 27 Aug 2015 1:50 PM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    From ASCE-National

    9 state legislatures are currently in session and ASCE is monitoring 1249 bills and 239 pending regulatory proposals. ASCE’s state legislative and regulatory tracking service is available to all members with their normal ASCE login information at:

    Council of State Governments: As part of ASCE’s ongoing outreach to state legislators, ASCE participated this week in the Council of State Governments (CSG) Southern Legislative Conference in Savannah, GA.  Legislators and other state government officials toured the Port of Savannah, talked about net metering energy policies, how to put together P3s in their state, and even helped pack food for Second Harvest. The SLC is the largest of four regional legislative groups that operate under the Council of State Governments. It’s 15 member states stretch from West Virginia to Texas and includes Kentucky, Missouri and Oklahoma.

    In July, ASCE sponsored a Transportation Policy Academy for state legislative leaders from around the country in Denver, CO during the CSG West meeting.  Lawmakers heard from various speakers, including ASCE staff about the need for infrastructure investment at the state level.

    National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL): ASCE participated in the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) annual Legislative Summit held in Seattle from Aug 3-6.  Approximately 5,000 state legislators, legislative staffers, federal officials and others attended this week’s meeting to gain invaluable knowledge from experts and fellow legislators to take back to their respective states. Attendees participated in an array of policy-producing committee meetings, issue forums and deep-dive sessions. ASCE exhibited at the meeting, and several members of the Seattle Section also attended and interacted with lawmakers from 41 states, 1 U.S. territory and 8 countries. 

    Also of note, the conference featured a “deep-dive” session entitled “Filling Up the Tank: Funding Transportation,” which provided legislators a forum to discuss developing sound transportation plans in their states that creates sustainable revenue, prepares for the future and meets immediate transportation needs.  ASCE also sponsored the annual Bipartisan Bike Ride again this year.  

    See more on ASCE’s policy on Transportation Funding here:

    National Lt. Governors Association:  In July, ASCE government relations staff attended the National Lieutenant Governors Association Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana.   Lieutenant Governors from 23 states came together at the conference to discuss important policy challenges facing their states.  Among the highlights of the meeting, former U.S. Representative Lee Hamilton and former U.S. Senator Richard Lugar took part in a panel to discuss their experience working with members of the opposing party and the need to react civilly to each other in elected positions. Infrastructure was also emphasized in a session entitled “Roads, Rivers, and Rail” with panelists from the Soy Transportation Coalition and the Waterways Council making the case for increased investment.  Of particular note was an emphasis on the need for infrastructure investment in rural areas and the economic impact on agriculture industry.

    National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES): During the annual meeting of the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying in Williamsburg, VA, delegates voted to adopt a position statement that reiterates the NCEES stance on increased educational requirements for engineering licensure.

    The position statement identifies several future pathways by which a candidate for licensure as a professional engineer might obtain the body of knowledge needed to safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of the public. Among those pathways to be eligible for professional licensure in the future are earning an accredited bachelor’s degree in engineering followed by an engineering master’s degree, or earning an accredited bachelor’s degree and then at least 30 semester hours of appropriate upper-level undergraduate or graduate-level coursework in engineering inside or outside the university environment.

    The concept of increased-education requirements for future licensure is in line with a key goal of the ASCE-backed Raise the Bar initiative, intended to better prepare civil engineers of the 21st century for a changing world.
    See ASCE’s policy in increased educational requirements for engineering licensure:

  • 17 Aug 2015 8:37 PM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Article from ASCE Pipelines Conference

    ASCE Pipelines 2015 provides a forum for pipeline pioneers and practitioners from all around the world to share their experiences in meeting the challenges of today’s pipeline infrastructure. The theme of this year’s conference is “Recent Advances in Underground Pipeline Engineering and Construction.”

    The conference takes place August 23-26 at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel in historic downtown Baltimore, Maryland. It will provide a dynamic and inspiring venue for attendees to share and gain valuable knowledge and experience through 200 papers and poster presentations within seven tracks covering topics such as: Trenchless Installations; Design & Construction; Analysis & Design; Assessment & Rehabilitation; Operation, Maintenance, Risk & Safety; and Asset Management.

    In addition to the presentation tracks, Pipelines 2015 is offering three panel discussions, which is new to the technical program. The panel discussions cover “Energy Generation in Pipelines” and “Fiber Optics in Pipelines,” as well as the always important “ASCE Ethics.”

    A new feature at this year’s conference is a one-day Large Diameter Pipeline Forum that will replace the PCCP Forum. Additionally, attendees will have the opportunity to attend several informative pre-conference workshops on pressure pipelines design, asbestos cement pipe bursting, AWWA manuals, corrugated HDPE, CIPP and manhole rehabilitation.

    The Opening Plenary session will feature ASCE President Dr. Robert D. Stevens, Ph.D., P.E., F.ASCE and DC Water General Manager George Hawkins. The Tuesday luncheon will feature Charles Cook, Political Analyst, “the man who knows more about everything political than anyone else.” The Bechtel Award will be presented at the Tuesday Awards Luncheon and the winner will speak immediately following. The Closing Keynote will feature Ed Croteau, Business Excellence Specialist, Black & Veatch Corp., who will speak on “Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FEMA)”.

    There are many networking opportunities during receptions, dinner, breaks and exhibit hours. The exhibition hall – featuring more than 80 companies – will showcase the latest innovations in pipelines technology. The Tuesday Special Event will be an exciting evening on the waterfront. On Wednesday afternoon - after the conference adjourns – there is a golf tournament, to be held at the Mountain Branch, and a technical tour to the Structural Technologies facility.

    Baltimore is also an attractive destination for companions and families. The city’s waterfront and Inner Harbor are home to the best crab cakes you’ll ever have, hundreds of restaurants, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the world-class National Aquarium, Little Italy, Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum, American Visionary Art Museum, Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum, and so much more. Take a cruise around the harbor in a water taxi as you visit various neighborhoods. For the history enthusiast, tour the USS Constellation or nearby Fort McHenry, which, during the Battle of Baltimore in 1814, inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

    Visit the conference website at to register, get the most up-to-date program information, and learn about the networking and social events.

    Contact Information:

    Jim Rush

    ASCE Pipelines 2015 Planning Committee


    Phone: 330.315.2160

  • 13 Jul 2015 6:40 PM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Article by Nathaniel Hayes

    The Highway Trust Fund is set to expire again, and ASCE needs your help.  Congress hasn’t raised the Federal Gas Tax since 1993 – before this year’s graduating class of engineers was even born! 

    By Congressional inaction, we have lost a generation of buying power due to the inflationary rise of labor and materials, and have formed a backlog of deferred maintenance and capital improvements to thousands of miles of federally funded highways and bridges. The two-month extension of the Highway Trust Fund is set to expire at the end of July, and USDOT will be forced to implement cash management strategies by approving and disbursing project funding at a slower rate.  Meanwhile State DOTs will defer projects where federal funding is not committed.

    On June 25, 2015 ASCE members joined the Membership-wide Key Contact Call, with Delaware Senator Thomas Carper.  Here, members heard how Congressional negotiations over America’s federal highway system are proceeding and how they can help #FixtheTrustFund before the clock runs out on July 31, 2015.

    You can learn more about future Key Contact calls, what you can do to advocate for the Highway Trust Fund, and become a Key Contact yourself at  By joining, you will be provided the tools and opportunities to develop relationships with your local, state, and federal elected officials, and have meaningful conversations about issues important to our profession.

    And finally, we urge you to contact your elected official in Congress and ask that they pass a long-term surface transportation funding bill before it expires July 31, 2015.  Let them know that without guaranteed long-term funding, we are merely providing a 21st century economy a rehabilitated path on 20th century infrastructure.

  • 09 Jul 2015 8:18 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Article by Sam Shamsi

    Starting June 2015, ASCE-Pittsburgh, in collaboration with the ASCE-National, is bringing hundreds of live and on-demand webinars to Pittsburgh section members at preferred rates.

    ASCE’s webinars provide a convenient and effective method to earn PDHs/CEUs and gain practical, real-world knowledge. The webinars are developed by industry experts and cover a wide variety of technical and management topics. The ASCE-Pittsburgh Continuing Education Committee Page at <> provides links to the extensive selection of Webinars available. Use promo code WEBPISEC to register at the Pittsburgh Section preferred rate!

    One of the many benefits of utilizing the ASCE webinars is the free access to ASCE’s streamlined continuing education management system “myLearning“ –  myLearning has been designed to fulfill and manage your professional development and license renewal requirements.  Convenient myLearning features include:

    • Ability to track all your PDHs/CEUs, including those from other providers.
    • Printing and saving of professional development transcripts in case of a licensing agency audit of PDH records.
    • Certificates of completion.
    • Ability to find your records need in one location, including handouts, exams, and more.
    • Means to easily identify the appropriate programs to meet your professional development needs.

    For additional information or suggestions, please contact:

    Sam Shamsi, PhD, PE, F.ASCE
    Chair, Continuing Education Committee

  • 06 Jul 2015 8:03 PM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Article by Gregory Scott

    Much of the work that civil engineers engage in is influenced by public policy on a local, state or federal level.  Knowledge of public policy and developments in regulations, funding and legislation is an important tool for engineers in their careers and one that is often overlooked.  Learning about a world not centered on hard science can be intimidating, but ASCE has many resources that can help you. 

    First, join the Key Contact program at’ll begin to receive Government Relations communication, like This Week In Washington on Fridays, and also Key Alerts on legislation civil engineers are supporting both nationally and in Pennsylvania. Also, put the new Save America’s Infrastructure app for iPhone and Android on your phone so you can keep up to date on pressing issues. As you become more engaged, Key Contacts can influence the policy process at the state and federal levels by developing relationships with elected officials and become a trusted advisor when bills are drafted or considered. Here are just a few of the other ways you might become involved:

    • Meet with your elected officials close to home by requesting a Back Home Visit.
    • Attend the annual Legislative Fly-in in DC to learn about the latest issues affecting the profession and lobby your Members of Congress directly.
    • Listen to Key Contact Briefing Conference Calls on a political issue currently affecting the civil engineering profession.

    The investment of your time to become an engineering advocate can help you become a better engineer with better public relations skills and a broader understanding of the role public policy plays in the profession and your career.

    Join the Key Contact program today!

    Greg Scott, PE M.ASCE


    Pittsburgh Section Government Relations Committee

  • 25 Jun 2015 8:28 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    From ASCE-National

    ASCE is proud to host U.S. Senator Thomas Carper (D-DE) at the next Key Contact Call, Finding the Fix for the Highway Trust Fund, on Thursday, June 25 at 3:00 P.M. EDT. Senator Carper, has been an ardent supporter of finding a long-term solution to fixing the Highway Trust Fund and serves on both the Senate Committee on Finance and Committee on Environment and Public Works, two key instruments for shaping policy and securing a long-term transportation bill. ASCE encourages all members in the transportation sector (and anyone who uses the roads!) to call in and hear how Congressional negotiations over America’s federal highway system are going and how you can help #FixtheTrustFund before the clock runs out on July 31st. To participate in this Key Contact Call, please RSVP here-; the dial in for the call will be 1-800-832-0736*2342642#

    For the latest information on America's infrastructure issues, visit

  • 24 Jun 2015 7:33 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Article by Sam Shamsi

    Continuing education and lifelong learning are important parts of a Civil Engineer's career development and licensing requirements. Canon 7 of ASCE's Code of Ethics states that:  

    "Engineers shall continue their professional development throughout their careers, and shall provide opportunities for the professional development of those engineers under their supervision."  

    "Engineers should keep current in their specialty fields by engaging in professional practice, participating in continuing education courses, reading in the technical literature, and attending professional meetings and seminars." 

    The November 2014 issue of ASCE Civil Engineering Magazine published an interview with Hatch Mott MacDonald CEO Nick DeNichilo, P.E., M.ASCE, on the importance of continuing education.  (7 Questions by David Hill).  In this interview, Mr. DeNichilo stated that:

    "With so many technical changes occurring at such an accelerated rate, engineers who don’t keep pace and don’t take continuing education seriously will, quite frankly, become obsolete."

    "Engineers who are committed to continuing education and lifelong learning will be far more successful than those who are not."

    ASCE-Pittsburgh is a strong advocate of continuing education and offers ample continuing education opportunities to its members at a discounted price.  ASCE-Pittsburgh Continuing Education Committee offers 3 continuing education seminars each year for approximately 12 professional development hours (PDH).  Other ASCE-Pittsburgh committees and institutes offer additional continuing education opportunities throughout the year.   All events are advertised via email to Section members and are posted on the “Calendar of Events” on the Pittsburgh Section Website  These events easily exceed the 12-15 PDH per year requirements.  Please make sure we have your correct email address and visit the Pittsburgh Section Web site regularly to benefit from our continuing education opportunities.

    ASCE-Pittsburg Continuing Education Committee Page provides links to various ASCE Webinars.  Use promo code WEBPISEC to get the Pittsburgh Section preferred rate!

    For information on PDH requirements for Pennsylvania professional engineers, visit ASCE-Pittsburg Continuing Education Committee Page at and select the link for “Continuing Education Made Easy Article Series.”

    For additional information or to get involved in ASCE-Pittsburgh Continuing Education, please contact:

    Sam Shamsi, PhD, PE, F.ASCE
    Chair, Continuing Education Committee

  • 18 Jun 2015 9:51 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Article by Djuna Gulliver

    Mayor Fetterman welcomes conference attendeesOn May 5, 2015, the Environmental Water Resource Institute Chapter (EWRI) of ASCE-Pittsburgh and Sustainable Pittsburgh came together for the 7th Annual Sustainability Conference.  The conference was a series of seminars focused on “Practical and Innovative Solutions for Creating Sustainable Communities.”  The theme of the day was how Pittsburgh could revitalize its efforts to promote a sustainable future.

    What better place to hold a conference about city revitalization than the nearby neighborhood of Braddock. Braddock was once a vibrant city of 20,000 residents that has since fallen to 2,500 residents after the collapse of the steel industry. But with the motto “Reinvention is the only option,” Braddock is on a revival, led by public figures, such as Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, and innovative local companies, such as Braddock Farms and Fossil Free Fuel.

    Councilman O'Connor presenting on plans for his districtThe all-day conference was held in Mayor Fetterman’s residence, and had a line-up of engineers, educators, and policy makers presenting forward-thinking initiatives. In the opening seminar, Councilman Corey O’Connor discussed city plans that would benefit his diverse district, from Squirrel Hill to Greenfield to Hazelwood. Plans include an outdoor grocery store, new library, and spray park in Hazelwood. Councilman O’Connor discussed his strong support for linking the Pittsburgh communities, and called the new Bike Share program, “A great way for the public to get around our city.” And, of course, there was mention of the much talked about demolition and rebuilding of the Greenfield Bridge, or as Councilman O’Connor called it, “The bridge that catches the crumbling bridge.”

    The keynote speaker, Erin Molchany, Southwest Director for Governor Tom Wolf, presented on the new budget proposal for the Commonwealth. “This budget is bold, this budget is risky,” she stated. “It’s really an exciting proposition.” The budget focuses on community and economic development, aiming to rebuild the middle class by investing in education, decreasing the tax burden of homeowners, and developing jobs that pay. The budget accounts for incoming funds by removing about 35 sales tax exemptions. The budget also calls for a severance tax on the Marcellus Shale industry, as Pennsylvania is the only state that does not currently collect such a tax. “This budget really does invest in the people and the commonwealth,” said Molchany.

    Amy McCrae-Kessler, EVP and Head of Environmental and Regulatory Affairs for Turning Earth, LLC, spoke about a novel process that utilizes organic waste to create both methane for energy and compost for agriculture. Organics, which represent around 30% of municipal waste streams, are integrated into a single reactor that first undergoes anaerobic digestion for methane production, followed by aerobic composting. The addition of composting in the same reactor reduces odor issues. Kessler states that implementing this type of technology will result in four sustainable jobs for every one job in a landfill.  “Those are high quality jobs that aren’t going anywhere,” says Kessler. “You can create businesses and opportunities by doing the right thing for the environment.”

    Dr. Walker presenting on the sustainable Eden Hall campusDr. Peter Walker from Chatham University, presented on the new Eden Hall Campus in Richland Township. The self-sustaining campus is powered by geothermal and solar energy, recycles stormwater and utilized water, and plans to provide food that is entirely onsite-farm-to-table. All campus buildings meet LEED-platinum standards, and built below the treeline to ensure a grand view of the 388-acre plot of land atop a bluff. “If you think in a place with big views, you think big ideas,” says Dr. Walker. The campus is currently home to the Falk School of Sustainability. Dr. Walker claims that building the physical campus was the easy part; the tough part will be building a social structure and developing a vibrant campus community. “The first group of students are really going to be pioneers,” he says.

    The 7th Annual Sustainability Conference closed with a panel discussion with Michele Acitelli of PennDOT, Natasha Ozybko of FORTA Corp, Chris Sandvig of Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group (PCRG), and led by Gregory Scott of Buchart Horn.  This diverse panel group discussed a range of infrastructure challenges, such as incorporating equals amounts of design and engineering to ensure optimal benefit for the overall public.

    Sina Arjmand presenting his student posterStudents from Carnegie Mellon University, Howard University and the University of Pittsburgh had the opportunity to display their research posters during breaks. A total of five posters were displayed ranging in topics from modeling of urban water demands in Los Angeles, California to potential environmental impacts of Shale Gas wastewater treatment. 

    Breakfast and lunch was catered by Kaleidoscope Café, and after the conference, attendees were treated to beer from Brew Gentlemen. Conference attendees were encouraged to bring a donated item for Freestore 15104, a Braddock non-profit that redistributes everyday goods to neighbors in need.  Mayor Fetterman thanked conference-goers for the “Christmas pile” of donations that crowded one side of the room.

  • 15 Jun 2015 6:53 PM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    From ASCE This Week in Washington

    Members from around the country visited ASCE’s Washington, D.C. office this week as part of the official launch of the State Advocacy Captains program. A total of 13 members from 11 states attended a day-long training session to learn in-depth information about the government relations program at ASCE and the efforts on ASCE’s strategic priorities at the state level. Region 9 State Government Relations Committee member Ken Rosenfield and Region 5 State Government Relations Committee Corresponding Member Nedra Davis assisted in the training program. State Advocacy Captains are meant to build a bridge between action at the state capitals and ASCE’s State Government Relations Staff as well as promote Section and Branch advocacy activities at the state level. 

    Pictured left to right: Shane Binder (WA), Ken Rosenfield (CA), Andrew Feranda (NJ), Mojgan Hashemi (CA), Tonya Mellen (FL), Ernesto Longoria (KS), Maria Matthews (ASCE Staff), Patrick Lach (IL), Gabby Briffa (PA), Ravi Shah (CA), Caleb Hing (TX), Seth Spychala (MN), Kat Gurd (GA), Nedra Davis (LA), and Aaron Castelo (ASCE Staff)


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