Rocks Roads Ripples N'At: 

Pittsburgh's Civil Engineering News Blog

  • 11 Jun 2015 8:37 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Article by Leanne McConnell

    This past April, students from the South Hills Interfaith Ministries (SHIM) participated in a Civil Engineering Professional Mentoring session with the Pittsburgh ASCE Section at the SHIM facility in Brentwood, PA.  The session explained and demonstrated fundamentals of civil engineering. ASCE members recommended what students should do to work towards entering the civil engineering field.

    The discussions were then followed by a hands-on activity called "The Cardboard Beam."  This activity included having the students break into groups and produce a cardboard beam that had to be designed following certain parameters. The beam to be long enough to span across a paint bucket, but students were only allowed a specific amount of material.  Each beam was tested by attaching a water jug with string to the center of the beam and adding water. Once the water jug connected to the beam hit the bottom of the bucket, the beam failed and the amount of water in the jug was recorded.

    The teams worked together to conceptualize a design and then make it a reality. At the end of the activity, the students had an open discussion stating their successes and things they could improve next time.

    The students who attended this session are the first from their families to consider pursuing professions that require a college degree or continued education. The mentoring program aims at offering opportunities to students that their parents and grandparents never had. The students use these sessions as a resource to understand unfamiliar professions and requirements. The mentoring program also gives students the opportunity to ask professionals questions and for advice. Together, ASCE and SHIM were able to provide exposure to civil engineering as a viable career option and offer resources to obtain further professional development in the field of engineering.

  • 08 Jun 2015 8:04 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Article from EWRI-National

    Image from shows hydraulic fracturing activities have not led to widespread, systemic impacts to drinking water resources and identifies important vulnerabilities to drinking water resources.

     WASHINGTON—The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is releasing a draft assessment today on the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing activities on drinking water resources in the United States. The assessment, done at the request of Congress, shows that while hydraulic fracturing activities  in the U.S. are carried out in a way that have not led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources, there are potential vulnerabilities in the water lifecycle that could impact drinking water. The assessment follows the water used for hydraulic fracturing from water acquisition, chemical mixing at the well pad site, well injection of fracking fluids, the collection of hydraulic fracturing wastewater (including flowback and produced water), and wastewater treatment and disposal [].

    “EPA’s draft assessment will give state regulators, tribes and local communities and industry around the country a critical resource to identify how best to protect public health and their drinking water resources,” said Dr. Thomas A. Burke, EPA’s Science Advisor and Deputy Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “It is the most complete compilation of scientific data to date, including over 950 sources of information, published papers, numerous technical reports, information from stakeholders and peer-reviewed EPA scientific reports.”

    EPA’s review of data sources available to the agency found specific instances where well integrity and waste water management related to hydraulic fracturing activities impacted drinking water resources, but they were small compared to the large number of hydraulically fractured wells across the country. The report provides valuable information about potential vulnerabilities, some of which are not unique to hydraulic fracturing, to drinking water resources, but was not designed to be a list of documented impacts. 

    These vulnerabilities to drinking water resources include:

    • Water withdrawals in areas with low water availability;
    • Hydraulic fracturing conducted directly into formations containing drinking water resources;
    • Inadequately cased or cemented wells resulting in below ground migration of gases and liquids;
    • Inadequately treated wastewater discharged into drinking water resources;
    • Spills of hydraulic fluids and hydraulic fracturing wastewater, including flowback and produced water.

    Also released today were nine peer-reviewed EPA scientific reports (  These reports were a part of EPA’s overall hydraulic fracturing drinking water study and contributed to the findings outlined in the draft assessment.   Over 20 peer-reviewed articles or reports were published as part of this study []. 

    States play a primary role in regulating most natural gas and oil development. EPA’s authority is limited by statutory or regulatory exemptions under the Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Where EPA’s exemptions exist, states may have authority to regulate unconventional oil and gas extraction activities under their own state laws.

    EPA’s draft assessment benefited from extensive stakeholder engagement conducted across the country with states, tribes, industry, non-governmental organizations, the scientific community and the public to ensure that the draft assessment reflects current practices in hydraulic fracturing and utilizes all data and information available to the agency.

    The study will be finalized after review by the Science Advisory Board and public review and comment. The Federal Register Notice with information on the SAB review and how to comment on the draft assessment will be published on Friday June 5, 2015.

     For a copy of the study, visit  

     To submit comments on the report, see

  • 04 Jun 2015 10:14 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Article by Emily Feenstra, ASCE-National

    Now in its 3rd year, Infrastructure Week is a national week of high-profile events, media coverage, focused advocacy, and other efforts around the country to build momentum for revitalization of America’s economic competitiveness through rebuilding American infrastructure. Led by groups representing America’s business, labor, and policy-making leadership, Infrastructure Week convened an unprecedented, broad, non-partisan, coalition united around the message that investing in infrastructure is Investing in America’s Economy.

    Monday kicked off with Vice President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, the heads of the AFL-CIO and U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and others addressing business and policy leaders at Bloomberg Government in Washington, D.C., hosted by the Infrastructure Week Steering Committee. The day included discussions on infrastructure financing, and events in Pennsylvania and Ohio. On Tuesday the discussion continued with events on public-private partnerships and regional planning, but the message of Infrastructure Week took on an unexpected urgency after an Amtrak train derailed outside of Philadelphia

    Wednesday morning, scores of advocates, mayors, state legislators, labor and manufacturing leaders gathered in front of the Capitol and held a press conference demanding Congress take action. Former Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood reminded the crowd that Congress is failing to display vision and courage, and we shouldn’t wait for another bridge to collapse or transportation catastrophe. National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO delivered the perspective of American manufacturing, and LiUNA General President Terry O’Sullivan echoed that messaging from labor’s perspective. Throughout the week, advocates, mayors, state legislators held more than 300 meetings with congressional offices about the need for long-term infrastructure investment. With non-stop coverage of the Amtrak accident, media attention for Infrastructure Week spiked. As Infrastructure Week events across the country continued on Thursday and Friday, the media story became about more than the specific Amtrak derailment. Outlets from CNN and NPR to the Daily News and New Yorker started covering the broader lacking infrastructure investment in the country. 60 Minutes, the number one rated news program in the U.S., even announced that it will re-air its segment “Falling Apart,” which originally ran in 2014.

    The message of Infrastructure Week was always about addressing challenges facing U.S. infrastructure, to demand we move beyond short-term fixes and deferred maintenance. But just a day after the fatal Amtrak derailment, Congress still voted to slash funding for Amtrak. Meanwhile we inch closer to a bankrupt Highway Trust Fund and Congress is poised to pass the 34th short term extension of highway funding in six years. We need to move beyond the “patch and pray” funding that we’ve accepted for far too long. It is time for innovative solutions, technologies, policies and investments that will bring America’s aging infrastructure into the 21st century.

    The core Steering Committee of Infrastructure Week is comprised of the following organizations:

    • AFL-CIO
    • American Society of Civil Engineers
    • Brookings Institution
    • Building America’s Future
    • National Association of Manufacturers
    • U.S. Chamber of Commerce

    Quick Stats and Summary:

    • 92 Affiliate organizations spanning the public and private sectors, manufacturers and financial services firms, labor groups and planning organizations, trade associations and local chambers of commerce. (IW14 had 30)
    • 47 events around America, including 25 events in Washington, D.C., and ~20 events in states and on the web.
    • 27 Mayors flew in to Washington, D.C. to take the issue to Members of Congress – including Mayors Bill De Blasio (New York City), Mick Cornett (Oklahoma City), Ralph Becker (Salt Lake City), Tom Tait (Anaheim), Frank Cownie (Des Moines, IA)
    • 80 mayors participated in district
    • Infrastructure Week hill efforts achieved more than 300 meetings with House/Senate Members/offices
    • Engagement on twitter established 41 million impressions using #RebuildRenew and #InfrastructureWeek
    • Participation from the Vice President of the United States (launch event), U.S. Secretary of Transportation (launch event and multiple events across the country throughout the week), Deputy Secretary of Transportation Victor Mendez (multiple events), Senate and House leadership, House T&I committee leadership, Senate EPW Committee leadership, and more.

    Cities/States with IWeek events (multiple events in some cities)

    • Phoenix, AZ
    • Los Angeles, CA
    • San Francisco, CA
    • Sacramento, CA
    • Atlanta, GA
    • Chicago, IL
    • Indianapolis, IN

    • New Orleans, LA
    • Boston, MA
    • Minneapolis, MN
    • Las Vegas, NV
    • New York, NY
    • Harrisburg, PA

    • Philadelphia, PA
    • Pittsburgh, PA
    • Memphis, TN
    • Arlington, VA
    • Seattle, WA
    • Cleveland, OH

    Social Media Summary

    #RebuildRenew 4,871 Twitter mentions by 2,385 users, leading to 22 million impressions

    #InfrastructureWeek 4,081 Twitter mentions by 2,239 users, leading to 19 million impressions

    Wednesday’s online Rally to Rebuild America reached more than 800,000 impressions on Facebook

    Word cloud of what people were talking about using each hashtag:

    Geographic Engagement

    Map of IWeek Events (multiple events in some states)

    Map of Mayoral Participation Red = 27 Mayors flying into Washington, D.C. Blue = 80 Mayors participating in District 

    Infrastructure Week 2015 Affiliates

    • 1776
    • Airports Council International
    • All Aboard Florida
    • Allegheny Conference on Community Development
    • Alliance for American Manufacturing
    • Alliance for Innovation and Infrastructure
    • America’s Natural Gas Alliance
    • American Action Forum
    • American Association of Port Authorities
    • American Association of Retired Persons
    • American Automobile Association
    • American Concrete Pavement Association
    • American Highway Users Alliance
    • American Institute of Architects
    • American Iron and Steel Institute
    • American Planning Association
    • American Public Transit Association
    • American Traffic Safety Services Association
    • American Trucking Associations
    • Association for Commuter Transportation
    • Association for the Improvement of American Infrastructure
    • Association of American Railroads
    • Baker McKenzie
    • Bipartisan Policy Center
    • Bloomberg Government
    • Business Forward
    • Carnegie Mellon University
    • Capital Region Water
    • CDOTS
    • Center for American Progress
    • Center for Transportation Excellence

    • City of Philadelphia Water Department
    • Cleveland Water Department
    • Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors
    • Colorado Contractors Association
    • Colorado Municipal League
    • Common Good
    • Competitive Enterprise Institute
    • Council of State Governments
    • Covington and Burling
    • DC Pace
    • Dow Water and Process Solutions
    • Eastern Panhandle Transit Authority
    • ENO Center for Transportation
    • George Mason Center for Transportation P3 Policy
    • Georgia Transportation Alliance
    • The Hamilton Project
    • HNTB Companies
    • Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress
    • Infrastructure USA
    • International Bridge, Tunnel, and Tolling Association
    • Innovation NewsBriefs
    • LiUNA
    • Los Angeles Metro
    • McGraw Hill Financial Global Institute
    • Metropolitan Planning Council
    • Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments
    • Miller Center at the University of Virginia
    • Minnesota Transportation Alliance
    • National Association of Counties
    • National Association of Railroad Passengers
    • National Association of Regional Councils

    • National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors
    • National Center for Public Private Partnerships
    • National Council of State Legislatures
    • National Electrical Contractors Association
    • National Governor’s Association
    • National League of Cities
    • National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association
    • NationSwell
    • New Jersey Future
    • The Northeast Maglev
    • Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District
    • Nossaman LLP
    • Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce
    • Parsons Brinkerhoff
    • Regional Plan Association
    • San Francisco Public Utilities Commission
    • Siemens
    • Smart Cities Council
    • Squire Patton Boggs
    • Transportation For America
    • Trucking Moves America Forward
    • Traffic21
    • U.S. Travel Association
    • University of California Luskin School of Public Affairs
    • University of Pittsburgh Institute of Politics
    • Urban Ingenuity
    • Value of Water Coalition
    • Vision Long Island
    • West Coast Infrastructure Exchange
    • Young Professionals in Transportation

  • 19 May 2015 7:23 PM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    From SAI Consulting Engineers, Inc.

    SAI Consulting Engineers, Inc. is the recipient of a highway industry award from The American Society of Highway Engineers Mid-Allegheny Section -- the 2014 Outstanding Highway Engineering Award (projects greater than $2,500,000) for the S.R. 0028-164 Slabtown Bridge Replacement and Baum Curve Improvements for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, District 10-0.  The award will be presented to SAI, the contractor, and the owner at the association’s annual awards presentation on May 14, 2015.

    SAI is a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based civil and structural consulting/engineering firm that specializes in the design, inspection, and construction management of transportation projects for state, county, and local governments as well as private clients.

  • 14 May 2015 8:29 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    2015-2018 DIRECTORS

    William Confair, PE

    Bill is a Structural Engineer in AECOM’s Pittsburgh office. Bill has been dedicated to serving the Pittsburgh Section since 2006 when he was a student at the University of Pittsburgh in Johnstown where he served on the ASCE Student Chapter Board for two years. He has been an active member of the Pittsburgh Section Younger Member Forum (YMF) as Treasurerand received National ASCE recognition as the winner of the Practitioner Advisor of the Year Award for 2014. 

    Linda Kaplan, PE

    Linda is a Bridge Engineer in Gannett Fleming’s Pittsburgh office. She has been very active in numerous aspects of the Pittsburgh Section beginning with her student days at Carnegie-Mellon University (CMU), where she served on the Student Chapter Board, through her most recent role as President of YMF. She has served as Practitioner Advisor since 2010, and was recognized by Eastern Regional Younger Member Council (ERYMC). She has chaired the Section Communications Committee and most recently volunteered to serve as Section Webmaster, a role that helped move the Section from paper to electronic communications.

    Matthew Castiglia, PE

    Matt is a Project Engineer at Buchart Horn’s Pittsburgh office. He served the Pittsburgh Section as Chair of the 2010 YMF Fundraising Committee and is currently serving as the University of Pittsburgh Student Practitioner Advisor, a position that he has held for the past four years. Under his leadership the Student Chapter selected a new faculty advisor and together they led the Chapter back to prominence, winning the 2013 ASCE Outstanding Student Chapter award

    DIRECTOR FOR 2015-2017 (to fill Patrick Sullivan’s position)        

    Sam Shamsi, PhD, PE

    Sam is a Wet Weather Practice Leader with Jacobs Engineering in the Pittsburgh area. He has chaired the Continuing Education Committee for the past two years, revitalizing that group and organizing several informative and well-attended seminars. He is currently exploring a partnership with Red Vector to offer even greater CEU opportunities to section members. He was recognized as the Distinguished Civil Engineer of the Pittsburgh Section in 2012 and conducted a web-based seminar on Green Infrastructure Mapping and Modeling Tools for CSO and Stormwater in 2013. He was Civil Engineer of the Year, ASCE, Pittsburgh, 2007, and became an ASCE Fellow in 2005.

    2015-16 OFFICERS

    PRESIDENT ELECT – Patrick Sullivan, PE

    Pat is a Principle at Civil and Environmental Consultants in Pittsburgh. He has served the Pittsburgh Section as Chair of the Program Committee for the past two years. In that role he organized and coordinated the program for the Fall Kick-off Banquet in 2014, and the programs, speakers and awards for the 2014 and 2015 Engineers Week Banquets. As Master of Ceremonies for these events, Pat kept the programs lively and on schedule, engaging the audience throughout. Pat has shown the level of commitment to the Pittsburgh Section that makes him an ideal candidate for President Elect.

    PRESIDENT – Cathy Bazan-Arias, PhD, PE

    Cathy is a Senior Engineer at DiGioia, Gray & Associates in Monroeville, PA. She has served the Pittsburgh Section as Section Newsletter Editor, Geotechnical Institute Chair, the Education Committee Chair, and was liaison to Engineers Without Borders mentoring a project in Mali. She has also served on the ASCE National Board of Directors, served as Geo-Strata Lead Editor and is completing her term as President Elect of the Pittsburgh Section.  She is a past ASCE National Diversity Champion and Pittsburgh Section Young Civil Engineer of the Year Awardee.

    SECRETARY – Coreen M. Casadei, PE

    Coreen is a Principal with Collective Efforts, Civil and Environmental Engineers, in Pittsburgh. She has served as Section Executive Secretary since 2011 and has accepted the nomination to continue to serve in this crucial recording and correspondence position for another term.

    TREASURER – Robert W. Dengler, II, PE

    Bob is a Project Manager in Gannett Fleming’s Municipal Services Group in Pittsburgh. He has served as Section Treasurer since 2011 and has accepted the nomination to continue to serve in this position for another term.  Among his duties he continues to maintain and disburse the Section’s funds.

  • 07 May 2015 7:43 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Article by ASCE-PGH Awards Committee

    Robert J. Christian, P.E., BCEE is the 2014 ASCE-Pittsburgh Government Civil Engineer of the Year. Mr. Christian holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, a Master’s degree in Civil & Environmental Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh, and a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business. He is a Board Certified Environmental Engineer (BCEE) as recognized by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers specializing in Water Supply and Wastewater.

    Agua Fria River DistrictMr. Christian was previously employed by USFilter/Veolia Water performing industrial wastewater treatment service. He later joined Arizona American Water as an Engineering Project Manager, where he was responsible for capital projects for Arizona’s Agua Fria Water District. In 2008, he was promoted to the position of the Operations Support Manager.

    Mr. Christian joined the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) in 2013, where he is currently the Director of Engineering and Construction. He has twenty years of experience in the water/wastewater industry, both in consulting and utility management. His most notable accomplishments include:

    • “UNSUNG HERO” Award recipient for outstanding performance as project engineer while with USFilter, for a project involving chemical recovery and industrial wastewater treatment.
    • Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) implementation while with Arizona American Water. Arizona was the first State within the American Water Family to complete the implementation of the CMMS program for all water/wastewater districts.
    • Finalist for the Arizona Furnace Accelerator Program pitching for venture capital to establish the company “Ultratrace.” Ultratrace was a startup concept licensing technology from the Arizona State University to commercialize a product that provides in-situ continuous groundwater sampling.
    • Member of Senior Management Team implementing change at the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority.

    Mr. Christian resides in Squirrel Hill with his wife Paula and their children Amber, Lauren, Grace, and little Bob. He also is an active member of the Greater Pittsburgh Aquarium Society, which he originally joined as a teenager. Returning to Western Pennsylvania, Mr. Christian once again enjoys rooting for the Steelers, Pirates and Penguins, plus the great local fishing, boating, and hunting.

  • 03 May 2015 9:09 PM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Press Release from Student Award Foundation

    The Student Award Foundation (SAF) of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Pittsburgh Section, is proud to announce the naming of its primary student achievement award, which is presented annually in February at its Engineers’ Week Awards Banquet. This prestigious award will now and perpetually be known as the “SAF Italo V. (Ody) Mackin Achievement Award.” SAF student awards are given to outstanding students of civil engineering who reside in or attend an engineering school within the bounds of the ASCE, Pittsburgh Section.

    It is the goal of SAF and the Mackin Engineering Company to make this award one of the most prominent and prestigious awards a student of engineering can receive (second only to the SAF American Bridge Leadership Award). 

    This year, the amount of the SAF American Bridge Leadership Award was $6,000, and the amount of the Primary Achievement Award, now known as the “SAF Italo V. (Ody) Mackin Achievement Award,” was $1,500.

    Ody Mackin was born in the Friuli region in the northeastern Italian Alps in the village of Pesariis, about 10 miles from the Austrian border. He migrated to the United States as a tot and has resided in Pennsylvania for all but five years of his life. Almost three of those years were service in the U.S. Army during World War II, 27 months of which were served in the Pacific Theater of Operations. Upon his discharge, Ody took advantage of the G.I. Bill to attend the Carnegie Institute of Technology, now Carnegie Mellon University, where he received his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering. 

    Ody, an icon in the engineering field, is the ideal person to have his name associated with this achievement award because of all that he has achieved over his 62 years (and still counting) as a professional engineer. Ody has been a Registered Professional Engineer since 1953, having reached that distinction when he worked for Richardson Gordon Associates (RGA) in its Pittsburgh office. He served in various capacities in his 10-year tenure with RGA, where he worked in both the bridge and highway departments. Ody served as project engineer on the Point Park Portal Bridge (the only one of its kind in the United States) and the Delaware River Turnpike Bridge, which connects Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He also gained experience on both the Ohio and Indiana Turnpikes as well as with the Pennsylvania Department of Highways (PDH), now the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). 

    It was because of this wealth of experience, enhanced by his field surveying exposure, that Ody decided, together with a colleague (George Davic), to form a partnership to provide bridge, highway, and surveying services, a partnership that lasted three years. The partnership was dissolved and Ody decided to provide those services as Mackin Engineering Company, a Subchapter S corporation. The date of that transformation was May 1963.

    In 50 plus years of operation, Mackin Engineering has served a diverse set of clients, namely, PennDOT (all 11 engineering districts), the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, the County of Allegheny, the City of Pittsburgh, several municipal governments throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and a litany of public and private clients. 

    Ody served as President of the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC/PA) in 1980, and he received the Distinguished Award of Merit, the most prestigious award of the organization, in 1999. He also received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Airport Corridor Transportation Association (ACTA) in 2012 and the Distinguished Service Award from the Pennsylvania Society of Professional Engineers (PSPE), Pittsburgh Chapter, in 2014.


    Nationally founded in 1852, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) represents more than 145,000 members of the civil engineering profession worldwide and is America's oldest national engineering society. ASCE's vision is to position engineers as global leaders, building a better quality of life.

    The National organization, headquartered in Reston, VA has three strategic initiatives:

    • Infrastructure – Propose practical solutions to maintain and modernize our nation’s deteriorating infrastructure
    • Raise the Bar – Increase education requirements for engineering licensure to better protect the public in the future
    • Sustainability – Embrace and encourage civil engineers’ role as contributors to a sustainable world

    For additional information, please contact:

    Mr. James J. Lombardi

    SAI Consulting Engineers

    Tel: 412.392.8763

  • 30 Apr 2015 8:52 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Article by ASCE-PGH Awards Committee and ASCE-PGH Blog Editor

    Dr. Mitchell J. Small is the recipient of the 2014 ASCE-Pittsburgh Professor of the Year Award.  Dr. Small is jointly appointed in the Departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CMU-CEE), and Engineering and Public Policy (CMU-EPP) at Carnegie Mellon University.

    Dr. Small was born and raised in Pittsburgh, where he earned a BS in Civil Engineering at Carnegie Mellon in 1975.  After graduation, he worked at the New Jersey consulting firm, Hydroscience, Inc., and later went on to earn an MS (1979) and a Ph. D. (1982) in Environmental and Water Resources Engineering at the University of Michigan.

    In 1982, Dr. Small returned to Pittsburgh, where he has been teaching at Carnegie Mellon University ever since. 

    Dr. Small’s success in research may be attributed to his ability to turn chaos into insight.  “Working with Mitch is never a dull moment!” says CMU-CEE professor, Dr. Jeanne VanBriesen. “The very first time I met with Mitch to ask for his help with a problem, he listened intently, suggested a new direction, and casually mentioned he thought there was a journal article from several decades ago that would help on this.  Then he spun in his chair, rummaged in a pile of what looked like totally disorganized paper, and produced a copy of that article.  I thought I’d just seen a conjuring trick.” 

    Dr. Small has made numerous contributions to advancing knowledge in civil and environmental engineering, and related areas of public health and public policy. He is widely recognized as a national leader in integrated assessment for civil engineering decision-making. His path-breaking research has focused on building and applying models that link contaminant fate and transport, human behavior, exposure, and risk to inform engineering decisions.

    “Mitch is a unique, dynamic thinker. His perspective is often unusual, always on point, and insightful in ways that change the structure of the problem, creating new solution approaches,” says Dr. VanBriesen.  

    Dr. Small is also recognized for his unique teaching style, for which he consistently receives high marks from his students. “Mitch Small is an outstanding educator who has influenced and inspired generations of civil and environmental engineering students at Carnegie Mellon,” says CMU-CEE professor and department head, Dr. Dave Dzombak.  “He combines his powerful intellect, knowledge of engineering and statistics, creativity, and comedic skills to be a very engaging lecturer.”  A hallmark of Dr. Small’s teaching is his ability keep his students engaged while learning about complex quantitative analysis in engineering, design, and policy.

     “One thing most people know about Mitch is that he is witty and very good at telling jokes, which creates good atmosphere,” says former Ph. D. student, Dr. Ya-Mei Yang. “His clever and hilarious teaching style melt downs the gap between him and the students.”  

    Through Dr. Small’s teaching, students are equipped with quantitative tools in statistical and process modeling that enables them to excel in practice, academia, and government.  Dr. Small advises an average of 10 undergraduates and 10 graduate students each year. He has been a highly successful advisor of 50 Ph. D. and thesis-MS students; his students have gone on to careers in professional practice, academics, and government.

    In 2005, Dr. Small completed a textbook, entitled Integrated Environmental Modeling: Pollutant Transport, Fate and Risk in the Environment, with two of his former PhD students, Dr. Anu Ramaswami and Dr. Jana Milford.  The book has been adopted by instructors in environmental engineering and science programs across the U.S. It defines the discipline of multimedia environmental modeling with a bridge to human exposure assessment, health effects, and regulatory decision support.

    “Mitch is one of the brightest people I know, and you might think that would be intimidating.  But, Mitch goes out of his way to make everyone feel his or her contribution is important and valued,” says Dr. VanBriesen. “He gives away ideas like there will always be more of them, which I’m sure is true for him.”

    But perhaps Dr. Small’s most recognized trait is his compassion for his collaborators and students. “In all of his work, Mitch always puts student development and well-being first.  He is a model for civil and environmental engineering educators everywhere,” says Dr. Dzombak.

    “He is a very compassionate professor,” adds Dr. Yang. “He encourages students not only through the good times but also through bad times.  His warmth and support to students is always in our hearts.”

  • 27 Apr 2015 8:25 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Article by ASCE-PGH Awards Committee

    The 4225’ rock-bored Squirrel Hill Tunnel in the east end of Pittsburgh, PA is key element of I-376, the primary travel corridor from the East to and from the city. Although the tunnel has held up well over time, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) determined that many of the structural, electrical, ventilation, control, and fire life safety systems were in need of repair or replacement.

    In 2010, PennDOT hired Gannett Fleming, Inc. to prepare rehabilitation contract documents for the 60+ year old tunnel. The resulting design modernized most of the existing tunnel systems to current AASHTO and National Fire Protection Association 502 “Standards for Road Tunnels, Bridges, and Other Limited Access Highways”. This construction involved full retrofit of multiple tunnel structural systems, upgrade of the fire life safety system, rehabilitation of the ventilation system (including removal of the tunnel slab ceiling), full replacement of the electrical and lighting systems, and other specialized upgrades.

    This project had many challenges, specifically addressing aging structural systems, fire/life safety systems, the removal of the tunnel ceiling throughout the tunnel’s entire length, slab replacement retrofit of the “hidden bridge” at the West Portal of the tunnel, upgrade of the tunnel electrical systems, and other structural/architectural repairs required to extend the service of the tunnel. Much of the construction was performed during night-time, single lane closures and limited weekend shut-downs, adding more complexity to an already challenging project.

    Gannett Fleming, Inc., operating out of its Pittsburgh, PA, office, was the prime consulting engineer on a team with URS Corp. and Tri State Design and Development. The project contractors were Wash Construction Corp., Sargent Electric, Independence Excavation, and W.G. Tomko.

  • 20 Apr 2015 8:21 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    From Geoprofessional Business Association

    Silver Spring, MD:  Earth, Inc., a geotechnical-engineering firm headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA, has completed a Geoprofessional Business Association (GBA) Peer Review, a rigorous, voluntary, quality-enhancement process.

    “Participation in GBA Peer Review demonstrates a firm’s commitment to improving quality,” said GBA President Steven D. Thorne, P.E., D.GE, F.ASCE. "While we cannot say that Peer-Reviewed firms are better than their competitors, we can say that a firm is better for having completed a Peer Review.”

    Through GBA Peer Review, client representatives, employees, and a team of expert peers evaluate policies affecting the quality of a firm’s services and the effectiveness with which the firm implements those policies. The Peer-Review team identifies opportunities for improvement and suggests specific actions the firm can apply to turn opportunities into achievement.

    “GBA Peer Review is not for the faint of heart,” said GBA Executive Vice President John P. Bachner. “A firm’s leadership has to be so committed to providing quality to its clients and employees that it’s willing to give unfettered access to outsiders who provide a ‘warts-and-all’ evaluation. Frankly, relatively few firms are willing to do that. It takes a genuine commitment to professional ideals and not just a little bit of courage.”

    Established in 1983, Earth, Inc. employs ten people at its office in Pittsburgh, PA. The firm provides geotechnical-engineering and construction-materials engineering and testing (CoMET) services.

    According to Earth, Inc. CEO Michael J. “Mike” Sydlik, P.E., “We’ve gained some excellent insights as a result of the Peer Review. We’re extremely pleased by the extent of the positive findings, and, just as we hoped, the Peer-Review Team identified several opportunities for improvement, and gave us some marvelous suggestions for making the firm even better. We’re already looking forward to our next Peer Review.”

    For more information about Earth, Inc., visit its website (http://www.earthincorp.comor contact Mr. Sydlik by telephone (412-327-1749) or e-mail (

    GBA established Peer Review in 1977, with the assistance of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). In October 1999, celebrating its 125th anniversary, McGraw-Hill’s Engineering News-Record magazine lauded GBA Peer Review as one of the 125 most significant construction-industry innovations of the prior 125 years. Peer Review was the only association program cited.

    More information about GBA and its Peer Review program is available at, or by contacting the group by e-mail ( or telephone (301/565-2733).


 © ASCE Pittsburgh Section. All Rights Reserved.
Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software