Over the last two articles, I introduced you to the Ohio River Basin Alliance (ORBA) and presented ORBA’s strategies to make sure we continue to have abundant clean water. In this article, I’m going to discuss ORBA’s plans to maintain the basin’s healthy and productive ecosystems.
First, let’s talk about how diverse our ecosystems are in the Ohio River Basin. Did you know the Ohio River and its tributaries are home to 164 species of fish and over 100 species of mussels? The Ohio River Basin is very large and covers an area of 200,000 square miles with about 7,000 miles of waterfront along the Ohio River and its main tributaries. The Basin is nationally and internationally renowned for its diversity of ecoregions that distinguishes it from other basins within the United States. As shown on the map below, portions of 16 different ecoregions are found within the Basin making it one of the most diverse and productive regions in the nation. In fact, the Green, Tennessee, and Cumberland River sub-basins are among the richest ecological regions in the world based on species diversity.
Although rich in diversity, human activity has led to the loss of wildlife habitat that negatively impacts native wildlife populations. Of the 127 mussel species once found in the Ohio River, 11 are now extinct and 46 others are threatened, endangered or a species of concern.
Also, unfortunately, non-native invasive species are moving into the basin every year and threatening our native species. Invasive species already present in the basin include Asian carp, zebra mussels, emerald ash borer, and kudzu. These invasive species are capable of outcompeting native species for resources, altering ecosystem functions, and causing disease, and remarkably their impacts cost billions of dollars to the nation’s economy each year. Typically, invasive species often grow faster, disperse over larger areas, and have few natural predators so they can outcompete native species, reduce biodiversity, degrade water quality, and negatively affect our recreational, commercial, and agricultural activities.
The condition of our soil also has a profound impact on our ecosystems as well as water quality. Presently, our soils along with their nutrients are being eroded from farmlands at a greater rate than it can be replenished. Improving the health of our basin’s soil for water infiltration is an effective way to decrease runoff and improve moisture content and nutrient retention for healthy crops.
One of my last projects with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was a pilot study that evaluated the impacts of climate change on the Ohio River Basin. According to the climate change models conducted during the study by the National Weather Service, the average temperature is expected to rise a half-degree per decade from 2011-2040 and a full degree from 2041 to 2099. This rise in temperature causes changes in precipitation, which of course, impacts flows. The changing patterns in our precipitation will create more challenges for not only maintaining our ecosystems but also for agriculture, industries, and communities that need reliable water sources.
So How Do We Maintain Healthy and Productive Ecosystems?
As part of the strategic plan for the Ohio River Basin, there are three main objectives for maintaining and enhancing our ecosystems.
Objective 1: By 2022, basin states, conservation organizations, the USEPA, ORSANCO, and other stakeholders will work together to develop a plan to improve the basin’s ecosystem through the identification of at-risk ecosystems and the threats to them such as acid mine drainage and emerging toxic contamination.
Strategic actions that ORBA stakeholders plan to take to meet this objective would be to facilitate coordination among The Nature Conservancy, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Wildlife Federation, the Ohio River Basin Fish Habitat Partnership, the Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership, and other stakeholders to develop and restore the basin’s aquatic ecosystem.
Objective 2: By 2025, secure funding to initiate a federal geographic program to restore the basin that meets the needs of the states, the USEPA, ORSANCO, and other stakeholders.
Basin stakeholders would establish an Ohio River Basin Restoration Initiative using guidance from similar restoration initiatives such as the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Program, the Columbia River Restoration Program, and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. They would also work to restore floodplains and protect existing high-quality habitats and native aquatic populations. In addition, they would expand upon the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s existing Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative to pursue a healthy soil initiative to protect farmlands and improve erosion control, water retention, and fish and wildlife habitat.
Objective 3: Implement strategies to eradicate, control, and manage invasive species utilizing sound scientific data and effective control methods. Also develop and implement education and outreach programs to increase the understanding of the negative impacts of invasive species.
ORBA will advocate for existing organizations like the Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force to develop and implement a basin-specific program to study, monitor, and control invasive species. It will also advocate for basin funding in 2021 for the Asian Carp National Plan.
Next time we’ll look at the 3rd goal – performing research and improving education so the public and decision-makers can make informed decisions. If you’d like to join ORBA, contact Dr. Harry Stone at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the first Ohio River Basin blog series, I shared an overview of the Ohio River Basin Alliance (ORBA). ORBA is a volunteer group of more than 130 organizations that are working together to sustain healthy ecosystems along the Ohio River and its tributaries and to improve our water-dependent economies.
Since the first Ohio River Basin Summit in 2009, in Covington, Kentucky, there have been 11 summits in 5 states where ORBA members worked to develop goals for the Basin to ensure the quality and quantity of our water will support our environment and local economy. Recently, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District released a study entitled, “Plan for the Ohio River Basin 2020 – 2025”. The purpose of the study was to create a basin-wide strategy that identifies goals, objectives, and actions for improving the ecological well-being, economic health, and quality of life for residents throughout the basin.
In this blog, I will focus on the first goal – ensuring we have abundant clean water.
Fortunately, we who live in the Ohio River Basin live in a water-rich region. Talk to residents in the southwestern states and you’ll understand what an environmental, and economic asset that is. NOAA’s recent drought projection shows extreme and exceptional drought projections for most of the southwest for the coming year.
The categories shown along the bottom of the map reflect how much water is available in streams, lakes, and soils compared to normal amounts for this same time of year. The darker the shade on the map, the more intense the drought conditions. You will notice that the Ohio River Basin is not expected to have drought conditions this year, so we should have enough water to sustain our ecosystems, agricultural industry, and local economies that depend on it. That may not be the case for many of the southwestern states.
Abundant Clean Water
Federal, state, and local agencies have made significant progress in improving water quality in the Basin since the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972; however, much work still remains to address non-point source pollution, legacy contamination, and contaminants of emerging concern. Water quality and water quantity monitoring are critical in making informed decisions. Expanding the number of gaging stations throughout the Basin will be an important step in managing our water resources in the future. Already realizing this, the USGS has been increasing the number of its gaging stations in the basin over the last ten years.
On the bright side, collectively, ORBA stakeholders have the expertise and experience required to address these water quality and water quantity challenges. The strategic plan lays out a plan for them to work together to accomplish the following five objectives by 2025.
Objective 1: Organizations will work together to increase the number of water bodies in the Basin that meet the Clean Water Act’s standard in 2030 compared to 2020.
Strategic actions that ORBA stakeholders would like to take to meet this objective would be to develop a comprehensive GIS database to support Clean Water Act initiatives and inventory acid mine sites, coal ash ponds, and underground mine pools. Once these sites are inventoried, stakeholders would develop a reclamation strategy to clean up ten high-priority sites. Other steps would be to support agencies’ efforts to implement Clean Water Act requirements through improved water quality standards as well as supporting agencies’ efforts to monitor and assess health risks due to contaminants of concern. Another action would be to expand the number of USGS gages to improve water quality and water flow information.
Objective 2: Develop strategies to enhance current source water protection programs to meet the Safe Drinking Water Act requirements and support organizations that currently do not have source water protection programs.
Actions that ORBA can take to meet this objective are developing a GIS platform to map source water protection areas, listing contaminant source inventories and contaminant spill locations, and other water protection risk zones. It can also expand ORSANCO’s Ohio River Organics Detection System to respond to spills that may impact the Ohio River and its tributaries. Furthermore, it can work with ORSANCO to build water protection strategies for all water bodies in the Basin that serve as a drinking or industrial water source.
Objective 3: Identify water bodies in the Basin with high incidences of harmful algal blooms (HABs) and help stakeholders develop responses to reduce the number of occurrences between 2020 and 2030.
To address this objective, ORBA can develop a GIS platform to map waters that have HAB occurrences in an effort to achieve a reduction in HAB events. They can also support monitoring and response strategies of other organizations to maintain safe recreation and drinking water. In addition, ORBA can identify and inventory point and non-point nutrient sources and work to reduce nutrient contributions into the Ohio River Basin waters.
Objective 4: The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) will assemble water quantity managers from across the basin to identify problems affecting water quantity and recommend strategies to address water shortages.
ORBA can develop a GIS platform to map flood risk areas, drought mitigation planning areas, and water supply deficit or surplus areas. Other actions would be to expand the USGS stream gage network to measure flows in the Basin’s streams more accurately and improve hydrologic and hydraulic models to see how our infrastructure will handle expected climate changes.
Objective 5: Inventory drinking and wastewater system infrastructure needs across the Basin and develop a strategy to maintain these systems.
For this objective, ORBA could develop a GIS platform to inventory drinking and wastewater infrastructure needs in the Basin and work with the USEPA to address these aging assets.
Of course, to do all this work requires funding, so securing the financial resources to take these actions is paramount. Next week we’ll look at the 2nd goal – how we can enhance the Basin’s ecosystems to support the natural habitats and fish and wildlife that depend on them.
The Ohio River Basin Alliance (ORBA) is a volunteer group of stakeholders who work together to set water resource priorities for the Ohio River Basin to sustain healthy ecosystems and communities and improve our water-dependent economies.
ORBA provides a forum for addressing water resource issues in the Ohio River Basin in today’s changing environment. ORBA includes members from over 130 organizations, including local, state, and federal agencies, commissions, industry, academia, and not-for-profit organizations.
How It All Started
That is where I came in.
I worked at the Huntington District Corps of Engineers and served as the Corps’ Liaison to the State of Ohio and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory. Because of my experience in building collaborative relationships, I was asked to establish a stakeholders’ group for the Ohio River Basin in Cincinnati. The basin is large, which many people don’t realize. It covers over 204,000 square miles, is home to 25 million people, and includes 15 states stretching from New York to Alabama.
Our first meeting, called “The Ohio River Basin Summit,” was held in 2009 in Covington, Kentucky, across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. Sitting in a conference room overlooking the river, a group of nearly 100 stakeholders agreed to form a volunteer group and work together to set priorities to improve the basin’s environment and economy. This group came to be known as the Ohio River Basin Alliance, or ORBA.
Initially, ORBA was co-led by the Corps of Engineers, the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Some stakeholders were unsure of the purpose of ORBA. Many thought it was a Corps of Engineers’ effort to gain more power over water resources in the basin. But over time, the parties built mutual trust and worked together to complete the first study to create a basin-wide strategy in a report “Plan for the Ohio River Basin 2020-2025.”
ORBA has established six main goals to ensure the quality and quantity of our water will support the environment and the economy.
- Abundant Clean Water: Ensure the quality and quantity of water in the Ohio River Basin is adequate to support the economic, social, and environmental functions that are dependent on it.
- Healthy and Productive Ecosystems: Conserve, enhance, and restore ecosystems within the Ohio River Basin to support natural habitats and the fish and wildlife resources that depend upon them.
- Knowledge and Education to Inform Decisions: Ensure that research and education adequately inform Ohio River Basin-wide economic, social, and environmental decisions; enhance the profile of education organizations in the Basin that synergize efforts to garner effective public involvement in the stewardship and management of the Basin’s resources.
- Nation’s Most Valuable River Transportation and Commerce Corridor: Provide for safe, efficient, and dependable commercial navigation within the Ohio River Basin to ensure a competitive advantage for our goods in global and regional markets; sustain a water use system to efficiently and effectively support agricultural, industrial, and energy productivity.
- Reliable Flood Risk Management: Provide reliable flood risk management through well-managed and maintained infrastructure, including appropriate floodplain connections for water conveyance and ecosystem benefits, and management of surface and stormwater runoff to protect life, property, and economies better.
- World-class Nature-based Recreation Opportunities: Enrich the quality of life for people and recreation-based economies by maintaining and enhancing riverine, lake, and wetland-associated recreation within the Basin.
Plan for the Ohio River Basin
Recently, the Corps’ Louisville District, in collaboration with ORSANCO and ORBA, released the first basin-wide strategy to create a blueprint of goals, objectives, and actions through 2025 for improvements in economic health, ecological well-being, and quality of life for those of us living in the basin.
In this blog series, I’ll describe ORBA’s strategies and action steps to meet the goals. Next week I’ll present ways we can work together to achieve the first goal of ensuring we continue to have abundant clean water.
Traffic simulation can be applied to roadway design, transportation operations, and roadway construction projects. It demonstrates how well the project works realistically.
Microscopic traffic simulation models simulate traffic systems on a vehicle-by-vehicle basis by updating vehicle position, speed, lane position, and other variables on time steps, like a split second, while the vehicles interact with the roadway geometrics, traffic signals, pedestrians, other vehicles, and any operation situations. Each vehicle model is based on driver behaviors in car-following and lane changing. Traffic simulation models effectively evaluate heavily congested situations, complex geometric configurations, and system-level impacts of proposed transportation improvements.
In the past, we have used simulation software – VISSIM, VisWalk, SimTraffic, and CorSim, to name a few – in projects such as:
Highway design and interchange designs
This includes all types of interchanges. Take I-290 and I-390 interchange design projects as an example to illustrate how the simulation model is a helper. The interchange has a few close-spaced interchanges before and after this interchange. The design team had a preliminary design. They then developed VISSIM models to simulate the designed geometry and the forecast traffic for the design year. The simulation model visually shows the long queues on some of the on-ramps. With this result, the design team created a new iteration. The new design, modeled in VISSIM, showed smoother traffic. Another issue the VISSIM model discovered with the original design was the acceleration lane length at WB I-390 to SB I-290 ramp. The new design resolved this issue as well. Putting the design into a simulation is like “seeing” the future. The models help foresee any potential problems before it’s too late.
Transportation operation simulation
Simulation models can help to evaluate the effectiveness of any transportation operation plan. For example, Active Traffic Management, including ramp metering, dynamic speed limits, etc. The example project we did was the signal control at a roundabout. We developed a VISSIM model to simulate the red/green/black signal at one leg of the roundabout to control the flow entering the roundabout, leaving enough space for the traffic to enter from the upstream leg. The simulation model came up with the recommended optimal timings.
Work zone mobility analysis
For construction projects covering a larger area, the simulation models are best in estimating the additional user travel times due to construction conditions and detours. For example, we developed Synchro/SimTraffic simulation models for US-127 and US-127 BR construction projects. The model covered 5 miles of US-127 and 6 miles of US-127 BR and the intersection/interchanges along with them. The travel routes’ comparisons were made using the simulation models, and the user costs were calculated for detour and base conditions.
Multimodal transportation system
When the transportation system includes public transportation, private auto, trucks, pedestrians, and bicycles, it becomes complicated, especially the different modes’ interactions. Simulation models can simulate all different modes and their interactions to show the results of the mixed traffic. For example, the Mackinac Island transportation modes include ferries, horse-drawn carriages, bicycles, and pedestrians. VISSIM/VisWalk models were developed to simulate all these different modes and traffic, including passengers coming out of the ferries onto the street, bicycles coming out of the bike rental and entering the street, and horse-drawn carriages traveling on the street and pulling into the ferry dock waiting area. The models were used to evaluate the ferry departing and arriving on different docks and the impact on the streets.
In conclusion, simulation models have a wide range of applications. Used properly, it helps better evaluate the designed transportation system and create convincing findings.
GIS (Geographic Information Systems) has been around for some time now, and most communities use it every day for various procedures. If you’re new to GIS, it is a computer system cable of capturing, storing, analyzing, manipulating, and updating spatial data as vector data (Points, Line and Polygons). It’s often used to identify relationships between vector data, scheduling upkeep to certain vector data, and making future for expansion, just to name a few. DLZ also uses GIS to enhance plans, proposals, surveying, and other practices.
DLZ has a wide-open field for assisting local communities with “Maintenance of Assets”. So, what am I talking about?
“Maintenance of Assets” can be many different things. In this instance, we’ll focus on Inventorying of Community Data. Most local communities, either by State mandate or local Governments, must inventory and keep up to date information on assets such as signs, signals, etc.
These municipalities must project useful life for all roads, bridges, signage, signals, safety features, and other assets under their jurisdiction and report assets and asset depreciation.
The communities often use this inventory to determine if an asset needs replaced (e.g., sign or signal needs replacing). DLZ has the people and infrastructure to gather data, create a database, and map the data for potential community clients to assist these communities.Scheduling a kickoff meeting with the client very early is a good idea. Together, outline a detailed proposal. To get a better understanding, we may ask the following:
- What data should be gathered (e.g., signs, road quality, etc.)?
- What is the boundary area of the data to be acquired?
- Are photos required?
- What additional data is necessary for the database?
- What coordinate system and delivery format is desired?
These are just a few questions, but aids in determining the first stage of the data gathering. Also, you may want to start gathering data within a “Sample Site” location.
Visually presenting a GIS map with a client’s “Sample Site” data can show them what data they will get, how the database information is presented, and help them update anything at the data-gathering stage. Additional database information such as extra columns for further details within the database, scans of surveyed manholes and photo hyperlinks for visual information are just a few items that a client may want to have for future use.
Likewise, during the first stage of data gathering, you may want to determine with the client if there is to be a numbering system setup for any points (e.g., Manholes, Signs, etc.) and if a grid system for aiding in quickly locating the point is necessary. A numbering system will assist with present and future item identification. If a numbering system is initially structured when gathering field data, the field personnel can set an automated numbering system in the database. This can then be renumbered or enhanced with additional characters within the database during processing.
Once a GIS map with the database is created, reviewed both “in house” and by the client and accepted by the client, DLZ can deliver the data to them in the format of their choice.
But the new working relationship doesn’t end there! The client may have additional questions on how to use the database and keep it up.
Furthermore, they may also want help with a new project. You never know when a potential GIS opportunity will come around.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Gary Bowen for DLZ’s Executive Spotlight, a blog showcasing DLZ leadership to get to know team members personally and discover a hidden talent. While Gary is an accomplished Vice President with more than 22 years of experience, he also dedicates himself to children’s causes. A particularly urgent cause around the holiday season is that many organizations depend on the generous spirit of volunteers.
We talked about his passion for philanthropy, and how his volunteer work complements his professional life. We started off by discussing his early years. Gary reminisced, “I’ve been part of the DLZ family for 22 years, and it was my first “real job.” I was a recent college graduate who painted houses until I could find an opportunity to start a career. One of my first interviews was with DLZ, and Barry Wong made me an offer on the spot. I accepted the position, not really knowing what to expect. Barry took me under his wing and provided the kind of mentorship that is part of why DLZ is so successful. Like so many people at DLZ, Barry took the time to develop the people on his team and ultimately makes everyone more successful. In a lot of ways, I have grown up at DLZ, starting in the field and the lab as a technician and then progressing through several positions within our Field Services discipline. I have loved every minute of it and always enjoy the challenges of the job.
One of my favorite aspects of my time at DLZ has been working on hundreds of projects that have made a real difference in the community. I’ve enjoyed getting to know our clients and building teams that can solve their problems no matter how complex. I hope I have been able to pay it forward by mentoring others along the way.
I was born in Maryland, grew up in Central Kentucky, and have lived in Columbus, Ohio, for over 20 years.
I’ve always loved the outdoors, whether it is boating on the Chesapeake Bay or hiking in the Red River Gorge, and I think this made it easy to be passionate about construction and sustainability. I met my wife, Maura, while attending Centre College in Danville, KY, and I moved to Columbus after graduation to start our life together in her hometown. Maura works for the Abbott Nutrition Health Institute and is a great writer, successful podcaster, and loves music.
We have two sons: Henry, who is 15, and Ollie, who is 13. Henry is a great drummer, has started investing, and loves to cook. Ollie loves football, baseball, basketball and is always up on the news and current events. I’ve been fortunate to coach their teams and volunteer for a lot of their other activities. As a family, we love to travel. We’ve been to Ireland, Canada, Mexico, France, Italy, and Spain and hope to make a trip to Japan. We also love hiking, camping, fishing, and boating.
I’ve always had an interest in philanthropy and have sought out opportunities to donate my time and energy to causes in the community. While at Centre College, I found several opportunities to give back, including being the philanthropy chair for my fraternity, coordinating campus blood drives, volunteering at the local hospital, and organizing Fall yard cleanups for elderly community members. Fast forward to moving to Columbus, joining DLZ, and marrying my college sweetheart, both our boys dealt with severe respiratory issues as infants. They received world-class care at Nationwide Children’s Hospital (NCH). Maura and I were so grateful for the care our boys received. We were so impressed with the hospital staff and capabilities but experienced firsthand the fear, uncertainty, and heartache of watching our asthmatic children unable to breathe. We had the experience of having one of our sons tested for cystic fibrosis and remembered the anxiety of waiting for the results, knowing that the news is not good for families in many cases. We were fortunate to receive good news and ultimately have two healthy children but realized not everyone is that fortunate, and we’ve seen how critical NCH is to the community.
Our experiences with NCH motivated me to find a way to give back. In 2009, I discovered the Development Board, which is a dynamic group of philanthropic-minded business professionals who give generously of their time, talent, and resources to further the life-saving mission of Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Founded in 1971 to enhance the relationship between Nationwide Children’s and the local business community, the Board has grown to more than 175 active and life members representing a wide variety of companies and industries throughout central Ohio.
The funds the Development Board has raised over the years have benefited annual needs as well as long term and critical needs identified by the hospital. The Development Board has been instrumental in funding:
- $1.5 million endowment fund for Child Abuse Prevention at Nationwide Children’s Hospital (1999)
- $1.0 million endowment fund for the hospital with the goal of reaching $1 million by 2000 (1997)
- $1.5 million Endowed Chair in Critical Care Medicine (2008)
- $2.5 million gift agreement benefiting the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the Center for Family Safety and Healing. (2018)
- $200,000 gift to the Lawyers for Kids program at Nationwide Children’s Hospital (2020)
In an effort to raise money throughout the community, the Development Board hosts several city-wide events. These include the Woody Hayes Celebrity Classic, Pay It Forward Party, Rock ‘N Bowl, Columbus Duck Race and Slice of Columbus. These fundraisers have raised more than $18 million since the creation of the board to support the good work of Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
Since 2009, I had the honor of serving on several event committees, founding/chairing the Columbus Duck Race, and serving as the Secretary, Treasurer, Vice President, and the President of the Board. It was an honor to lead an organization that makes such a significant impact on the community and the world through fundraising for treatment and research. I’ve always encouraged DLZ staff to get involved in the community and find something they are passionate about. The relationships you develop volunteering are meaningful in the business world, and you get opportunities to develop skills that may also be beneficial in your career. I found opportunities to lead diverse groups of volunteers, plan large scale fundraisers, manage event logistics, develop corporate fundraising strategies; all while developing my leadership style, and making lifelong friends.
I also gained a better understanding of the role Nationwide Children’s plays in our community.
The patient care portion was evident to me the first time I walked into the hospital. I quickly learned through the Development Board that the hospital also provides advocacy for children and families, pediatric research, education, and behavioral health services. While all of this is important, pediatric research became a focus for the board and me as an individual. The ability to improve children’s outcomes locally and globally through research will always be something I am passionate about and I hope others will be too.
As we finished our time together, Gary was headed off to meet with his team on a current project. To learn more about the Development Board or if you would like to donate, click here.
2020 will long be remembered for a variety of things, most of which we would just as soon forget! The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in changes to our normal way of life, both personally and professionally. The shutdown of many facilities early in the pandemic, both public and private, altered the way we shopped, worked, and interacted with friends and family. The essential workers in the private and public sector, some with health conditions of their own or with family members at home with health conditions, were not able to pivot to some of the changes others could. They had to go to work to serve others and we appreciate them all. Similarly, the operations of most governmental entities had to continue, with several local governments scrambling to figure out how to continue their operations safely and in compliance with open meeting laws that vary by state. Most used technology to hold online virtual meetings, which have a unique set of accessibility requirements to ensure persons with disabilities can participate in online meetings. In the midst of the pandemic, DLZ sponsored a webinar on ways to provide accessible online meetings. You can watch it here.
The 2020 General Election was also a notable event. All the rhetoric and reporting on various voting issues – from mail-in ballots to voter suppression allegations – have been all over the media. Yet very little attention was focused on ensuring voting access for the disabled. Nearly 20% of the U.S. population has one or more disabilities, many of which could impact their ability to access polling places that have engineering or architectural barriers. Most states have polling place checklists for accessibility to ensure that facilities that sponsor these one day events meet the minimum access needs for the disabled.
Simple issues that most of us take for granted, such as convenient parking, good sidewalks, and doors that are easy to open, can be a significant barrier to the disabled to even get into a facility that is being used for voting. There are stories following elections about disabled people that were denied their right to vote because they were not able to access the building for reasons that can easily be fixed, though at a cost. Election officials should understand the importance of their selection of polling locations, which are often churches, schools, and other non-municipal buildings, but also ensuring the accessibility of those facilities. This needs to be done well before an election so that accommodations or physical changes can be made to ensure accessibility for disabled voters. Expansion of absentee balloting is an excellent accommodation, but voters that want to personally visit the polling place and cast their ballot cannot be denied. It’s their right as an American.
Today, 30 years after the adoption of the Americans with Disabilities Act, many government entities have facilities that have various accessibility issues. These physical facility barriers can be identified through an ADA self-evaluation, which DLZ can assist you with by providing experienced professionals to perform inspections or train your staff on how to complete them. Government programs and the policies and procedures in place to implement them is an accessibility need often overlooked. Only through an evaluation of these potential non-physical barriers can a comprehensive ADA Transition Plan be developed to map out a strategy to ensure accessibility to all government programs.
As we see much more emphasis on the technology side of accessibility needs, including websites and access to the virtual meetings, I would anticipate this topic to be more prominent this year. As we settle into 2021, there will likely be new Federal guidance provided for access to technology for the disabled, especially websites, given the increase in use of the internet for so many of our normal day-to-day activities.
We urge all public and private entities out there to consider the accessibility needs of their customers before it becomes an issue and results in complaints, whether formal or not, or loss of business. Like most things, fixing something before it becomes an issue is typically much less costly than after it becomes a problem. We’re here when you need us. We can help you understand your accessibility obligations.
DLZ’s landscape architects carefully select plant species on each of our projects to meet clients’ specific needs, and these selections frequently include native plants. Let’s talk about four great reasons for utilizing native plants on your next project.
#1 – Lower Maintenance and Increased Sustainability.
The number one request we hear from clients is for low maintenance landscapes. One of the best ways we can accommodate this is by specifying native plants. These plant species are acclimated to the soil, temperature, and rainfall conditions of the project area. This means they are likely to utilize less fertilizer and pesticides and require less irrigation throughout their lives, which conveniently may translate into lower annual costs for your organization.
#2 – Avoid Contributing to Degradation of Natural Resources.
We have all seen the lovely white blooms of the Callery pear along roadsides in the spring or the bright hues of purple loosestrife along ditches and streams. Beautiful, right? WRONG. These plants and others like them are taking over natural areas, putting native species at risk of endangerment and lowering the biodiversity within our landscapes. Invasive plants are not only degrading our plant ecosystems, but they also contribute to maintenance issues both on traditional commercial, municipal, and residential project sites and within our natural areas such as state parks. The costs of removal, chemical treatments, and revegetation can really add up; Invasive species cost the U.S. over $120 billion in damages every year, according to publications from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Unfortunately, many species that are considered invasive are still for sale in the nursery industry, such as barberry, wintercreeper, English ivy, and Norway maples. To increase your knowledge before your next project review or your next trip to the home improvement center, check out the available resources listed below and know what to avoid.
#3 – Meet Permitting Requirements.
Permit agencies such as the Indiana Department of Natural Resources require native species for mitigation on projects. Most agencies can provide a list of preferred plants that are native to your state and region. It is important to note that frequently ‘straight species’ natives are required. ‘Cultivars’ (a plant selected for desirable characteristics that can be maintained by propagation) are often restricted as they do not provide the same genetic diversity as a straight species. They may also lack features of the straight species such as seed, nectar, and pollen production.
#4 – Increase Wildlife Habitat.
Birdwatching in Spring 2020 may have enjoyed more popularity than ever before. Using native plants can attract wildlife to your backyard by providing food and shelter. Certain species have greater wildlife value based on fruit and seed timing and supply as well as plant structure for shelter and nesting. Native flowering plants can help attract pollinators. Reducing lawn areas and replacing this with native plantings promotes biodiversity, reduces chemical use and air pollution, and increases the opportunity for habitat.
The Indiana Native Plant Society (indiananativeplants.org) provides information on landscape worthy native plants, buying resources, Indiana’s invasive plant list, and many more educational materials.
The Center for Invasive species and Ecosystem Health (invasive.org) is a governmental and university partnership that provides invasive species lists, maps, and photos.
Many state natural resources departments also publish lists of invasive plants.
The Audubon Society provides a native plant database at https://www.audubon.org/native-plants.
The U.S. Forest Service provides information on plant hardiness zones, landscaping for wildlife, and other topics at https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/Native_Plant_Materials/Native_Gardening/index.shtml
Penn State Extension offers many resources on landscaping for wildlife such as this article https://extension.psu.edu/landscaping-for-wildlife-trees-shrubs-and-vines
DLZ is expanding its’ conventional drilling capabilities with a compact, multi-function Geoprobe drill rig. Our new, all-terrain mounted drill rig, a Geoprobe 3126GT, broadens our subsurface investigation abilities. Although small in size and weight, the new rig allows us to access locations our larger and heavier rigs could not easily reach. Its articulated mast gives us the ability to drill on uneven terrain or at odd angles, which would typically be difficult with a conventional rig. Equipped with numerous safety features, including an inline drilling system to eliminate aligning the automatic hammer over the drill rod, a common pinch point, the Geoprobe 3216GT comes packed with all the capabilities of our larger, conventional geotechnical rigs, but in a small package.
CONE PENETRATION TESTING
For over 50 years, DLZ has offered traditional auger and mud rotary with standard penetration test (SPT), undisturbed tube sampling, piston, and Dennison sampling, as well as NQ, HQ, PQ wireline, and conventional rock coring. We are delighted to bring state-of-the-art, wireless Cone Penetration Testing (CPT) (ASTM D5778) to our subsurface investigation offerings. The CPT system is used in conjunction with our conventional drilling to rapidly characterize subsurface conditions and estimate the geotechnical parameters of the materials in the subsurface. The rig is factory equipped with integrated CPT head-feed rate controls and cone overload protection. It has a maximum of 36,000 pounds of downforce and 48,000 pounds of retraction force. The operator uses a laptop computer to monitor and collect the CPT data, including cone tip pressure, sleeve friction, pore pressure, and tilt angle from the CPT tool string. The rig can also add sensors like seismic or other geo-environmental logging tools.
A MAINSTAY OF ENVIRONMENTAL SAMPLING
After 20 years, we are very excited to announce that Direct Push (ASTM D6282) sampling is back at DLZ. This drilling method is a mainstay of environmental sample collection. Fast and efficient, Direct Push sampling has a small borehole diameter and generates no waste soil cuttings for later disposal. Plastic liners inside the tooling capture the soil and minimize the potential for cross-contamination of the sample. Additional capabilities include in situ discrete water sampling used to profile a groundwater aquifer and installing conventional monitoring wells and prepacked monitoring well screens through the tool string. We have several experienced Direct Push operators on our staff, including our first operator from 25 years ago.
After 20 years, we are very excited to announce that Direct Push (ASTM D6282) sampling is back at DLZ. This drilling method is a mainstay of environmental sample collection. Fast and efficient, Direct Push sampling has a small borehole diameter and generates no waste soil cuttings for later disposal. Plastic liners inside the tooling capture the soil and minimize the potential for cross-contamination of the sample. Additional capabilities include in situ discrete water sampling used to profile a groundwater aquifer and installing conventional monitoring wells and prepacked monitoring well screens through the tool string. We have several experienced Direct Push operators on our staff, including our first operator from 25 years ago.
DECADES OF DRILLING SERVICES
DLZ has provided geotechnical drilling services for a wide range of structures. With this new Geoprobe drill rig, we now maintain 11 drill rigs, various support vehicles, and equipment capable of providing most types of rotary, coring, and auger drilling throughout the Midwest.
We all know the importance of collaboration. Completing projects successfully in the fields of architecture and engineering requires working directly with other disciplines. Before COVID that was as simple as scheduling a face-to-face meeting with clients and disciplinary representatives.
COVID has changed the way we do things, ranging from mask-wearing and social distancing to no longer meeting in person. How do we maintain the same quality standards and collaboration levels as we saw before the outbreak started?
Within DLZ’s Architecture department, we deploy the following methods:
Even before COVID, Zoom was making waves. This virtual meeting and collaboration tool features functionality for video conferencing, screen sharing, instant messaging, and audio calls. Many meetings that used to be face-to-face can now be coordinated through Zoom video conferencing. This still allows for speaker visualization using web cameras.
For non-meeting discussions between individuals, instant messaging provides a reliable form of communication. The quick screenshot tool allows users to take a quick shot of what they’re discussing for visual reference. Additionally, it provides a log of conversations that can be looked back at later.
One of the biggest accomplishments of Zoom is the ability to use it for remote teaching purposes. With offices spread throughout the Midwest, in-person teaching isn’t always an option, and with COVID it isn’t advised. Zoom allows experienced staff to work with younger staff members via video conferencing and screen sharing. This includes the ability to request and take control of someone else’s screen, minimizing the confusion of audio directives.
Zoom has become the primary replacement for in-person meetings during these times. Other software, such as GoTo Meeting, provide similar functions.
Microsoft’s version of meeting and collaboration software allows users to create teams of individuals. These teams then have access to group chats and the ability to have meetings through the software. Much like Zoom, it’s possible to do calls and share your screen with other users.
Teams has other functions, such as a shared wiki, which is useful for project milestone tracking. This function also allows for the ease of tracking of team roles. There’s also a file share function that allows files to be shared solely with the team members. This is especially great for project coordination when files need to be shared with team members outside of the company.
A service of Autodesk, BIM360 uses cloud hosting to store Revit models and other project-related files. This service allows members of outside companies to collaborate on the same file without outside partners needing access to a company server. The service is specific to the people added to the project, so other than administrators, no one else can access the file system, which keeps sensitive projects secure.
The benefits of working in BIM360 are numerous. First and foremost, it allows for direct collaboration between the disciplines as work is updated in real time. Conflict errors between disciplines are rarer regardless of whether a single file is being used or a system of files for each discipline is being used. Additional benefits include a faster workflow as everyone’s data is directly in front of you, and users can work from any location instead of having to be in an office with access to a company server.
BIM360 also allows outside users to view the 3-Dimensional version of files in a web browser, which is great for sharing progress with the owner. Another useful tool is the ability to use web software to track changes between versions. This is extremely helpful when a design change needs to be made to the plan, and the change requires additional work from other disciplines.
In today’s technologically advanced age, quality through collaboration does not have to go by the wayside. With the tools outlined here we can continue to function at the same high standards as we did before the COVID outbreak. These new changes, while different from what we’re used to, still allow the level of interaction necessary for punctual completion of projects with a focus on quality.
Executive Spotlight Tom Hessler – Beyond the Zoom
I had the opportunity to interview Tom Hessler for DLZ’s “Executive Spotlight”, a regular blog that goes behind the scenes to showcase DLZ leadership. While Tom is an accomplished Director in DLZ’s water practice, with more than 25 years of experience, he is also a talented musician.
We talked about his love of music and how his hobby continues to compliment his professional life. Tom reminisced about his early years, “My Dad worked for Firestone as a real estate manager and we moved several times while I was growing up. I was born in Syracuse NY, then moved to Boston MA, then to Upstate NY near NYC, Green Twp. near Akron, Ohio then finally landing in high school in Medina. Nothing was more “fun” than moving as a freshman in high school….that was a bit rough. Fast forward, I studied at the University of Akron and graduated with a BS in Civil Engineering in 1990.” Tom said.
When I asked Tom if music has always been a part of his life he shared, “I was fortunate to grow up with three older brothers, so I was exposed to a lot of classic rock greats like the Beatles, Stones, Led Zeppelin, the Who and Black Sabbath. I continue to love this era the most, but several 90’s bands like Soundgarden, Alice and Chains and System of a Down are also at the top of my playlist.”
“I started playing in a serious band back in Akron during college and have been playing for over 30 years. The current band “DT and the Shakes” has been together almost seven years and the lead guitarist is my best friend who started with me in 1989. I also played six years in the alternative rock band Trainwreck Radio with my neighbor who in a past life opened for Green Day and Urge Overkill.”
Tom grew up in a family that was not afraid to sing, he commented “I’ve always liked singing and my parents sounded pretty good when they did it so I figured I would give it a try. A couple of drinks to get started usually does the trick!” he added.
Recently, the virus has interrupted the Hessler DT and the Shakes performance schedule, but they are eager to get back at it. Before coronavirus, they got together every other week for a few hours. “It’s been hit and miss since March” Tom shared, “When you play with good musicians, we usually have a new song down after a couple takes. It’s a great way to relax after working all day.”
So when I asked Tom, “what is your best story as a member of a band?” he laughed. “Well, I can’t tell the best story in detail — but it was witnessed by several people from the Akron and Cleveland offices at the Highland Tavern……let’s just say there was an over enthusiastic dancer enjoying our rendition of “Schools Out”. Happy anniversary Tom and Marla Sisley!”
What venues do you play at? “We play at local clubs in the Cleveland, Akron and Kent area about once a month. We have only played once since the pandemic. It was an outdoor show which I like to call “Coronafest”, since over 200 people showed up and did not behave and follow the rules. I would say our best venue had to be the 2016 DLZ 100th Anniversary Party which was a blast. Thanks again DLZ for that!”
Are you married? Children? “I have been married to Elaine for 25 years this December (not sure why she puts up with me!). She is a professor at Cuyahoga Community College. I have one daughter Erin who is currently trying to attend Ohio University as a sophomore studying Environmental Geology. When I asked if Erin inherited his music gene he shared, “Elaine used to play trumpet and was a member of the Ohio State jazz band as an undergrad student. Erin not so much……” Other hobbies? “I enjoy playing golf, biking, skiing, kayaking, hiking with my dog Rosie, and travelling with my family. We have been lucky enough to travel to Australia, Iceland, Alaska, and most of Western Europe and the US over the years.”
“Lately there is no real typical weekend. The most excitement is having social distance parties with the neighbors. If a cornhole game breaks out, that’s living! Hopefully, the Browns will provide something to look forward to on Sunday this fall.”
As we wrapped up our time together, I asked, “what would you like your professional community to know about you?” He paused and went on, “Working for DLZ for over 25 years, I have been fortunate enough to work for several different design disciplines working on CSO tunnels and near surface connection structures, sanitary and storm sewers, major water distribution mains, local water lines, condition assessment and pipe rehabilitation, site improvements, roadway and bike trails, highway and pedestrian bridges, and construction administration and inspection. DLZ has provided excellent opportunities to grow as a professional engineer. Currently, I am the Northeast Ohio Director of Water Practice and really enjoy working for our water and wastewater clients. Along with being a Professional Engineer in several states, I am a licensed Surveyor in the State of Ohio.” And the curtain dropped.…..Tom was headed off to meet with his team on a current project.
Nearly 200 feet directly beneath downtown Columbus, Ohio is a massive new 4-1/2 mile, 20-foot diameter tunnel that collects storm water during heavy rainfall. As with Columbus, years ago storm water systems for most of the nation’s cities were designed to collect runoff from a 2-year event. So, when heavy rains occur, water collects in the streets and often strands vehicles, causes power outages and damages homes and businesses.
UNDERSIZED STORM WATER SYSTEMS
Columbus’ downtown main combined storm water and wastewater sewer system was built in the early 1930s with 13 combined sewer overflow points that discharged sewage into the Scioto River during heavy rainfall events. In 2004, the Ohio EPA issued a Consent Order requiring the combined sewer overflows to be adequately controlled by 2025. To address the order, the city originally planned to construct traditional, shallow open-cut sewer projects throughout the downtown in four phases from 2015 to 2025. However, DLZ came up with another solution – a massive tunnel beneath the city to collect the runoff and transport it to the city’s wastewater treatment plant. The tunnel would be large enough to meet the Consent Order by reducing combined sewer overflows up to a 10-year level of wet weather flow protection and would also be operational 8 years earlier than the original plan’s completion date of 2025. Columbus hired DLZ to develop the conceptual plans, design reports and construction plans and specifications for the tunnel. In addition, DLZ managed the design team, communicated with all the project stakeholders, and provided technical support during construction.
Named the Olentangy-Scioto River Augmentation and Relief Sewer Tunnel or OARS Tunnel, the massive tunnel passes under downtown Columbus, below buildings, bridges, interstate highways, railroads and the Scioto River.
ENGINEERING & CONSTRUCTION CHALLENGES
Building the tunnel was the best alternative but there were two significant project challenges that had to be addressed to be successful. First, a surge analysis study determined that rapid filling events could cause surge waves to propagate into the upstream collection systems, either causing overflows into the streets or causing damage to the existing system. Typical practice to correct these surges is to use gates to control inflows or to provide additional surge storage. However, DLZ took an innovative approach to design surge control storage directly into the six drop shaft structures that lead down to the tunnel.
Massive surge relief chambers and ventilation outlet structures were designed into the inlet shafts to protect the sewer system from pressure waves and air entrapment during tunnel filling that could lead to sewage geysers. A surge analysis helped to define the size and configuration of the relief structures at each of the six drop shaft locations. This method of eliminating surge waves had never been done before. Also, by designing the tunnel system to flow while fully surcharged maximizes the storage and flow capacity, and subsequently, maximizes the amount of storm water that flows to the wastewater treatment plant for purification.
The second challenge was related to construction. The tunnel was mined in karstic limestone with 50’ of rock cover. A positive feature of having the rock cover is that it prevented surface settlement; however, it was a very difficult geotechnical setting to mine due to the large quantities of groundwater flowing through the rock. In some cases, high pressure groundwater inflows exceeded 5,000 gallons per minute. Even more problematic was the fact the Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) did not encounter isolated pockets of high groundwater inflow, but rather, almost continuous groundwater inflow along most of the tunnel alignment. Tunneling in this type of condition has only been performed on a few projects throughout the world.
To address this issue, muck handling was accomplished by pumping the rock slurry during the drilling process. And to cut off groundwater in order to gain access to the cutter face for maintenance and replacement of the rock cutters the contractor, Kenny/Obayashi Joint Venture, developed a “reverse-flow grout procedure”. Essentially, this procedure pumped feed water out of the front excavation chamber until the flow of water through the rock was going away from the TBM. Then, grout was introduced which naturally flowed into the openings and fissures in the rock where it sealed off the inflow of groundwater.
Another thing that made this project unique was that it was very rare that a TBM mining in rock would require the use of a pressurized cutting chamber. And even more rare was the fact the TBM had to mine in a slurry pressure-balanced environment. So, several features were designed into the TBM to give it as much flexibility as possible to increase production rates and successfully mine through rock that had near continuous, high-pressure groundwater inflows.
One major social benefit this tunnel project provides is the ability for Columbus to continue developing and growing its downtown area while protecting the Scioto River and the environment. In fact, most people working or living in the area of the project were not aware the tunnel was being constructing directly beneath them. The project also benefits a community of over 1 million people by addressing the Consent Order and bringing Columbus into compliance with the Clean Water Act. It’s estimated the new tunnel will redirect nearly 2 billion gallons of combined sewage overflows from the Scioto River to Columbus’ wastewater treatment plant annually. However, this estimate may be low. Last year alone, nearly 16 billion gallons of combined sewage was redirected through the tunnel and treated at the wastewater plant instead of overflowing to the Scioto River.
In addition, the project essentially eliminated the city’s 13 downtown combined sewer overflows and has allowed for the development of greenways and parks within the downtown area and helped transform the old riverfront area into vital public green space. The additional storage volume provided by the tunnel also eliminated the need for above ground storage for runoff and a future high-rate wastewater treatment system saving the city an estimated $175 million.
Completed in July 2017, the OARS tunnel is now the backbone of the Columbus Wet Weather Management Plan. At a cost of over $370 million, it is the largest capital improvement project in the city’s history. Designing the downstream shafts to be open to the atmosphere and using odor control facilities at the upstream shafts allow for fresh air to flow through the tunnel. This allows the city to control odors and protects the concrete tunnel lining from corrosive gases that would otherwise build up in the sewer. Consequently, the expected design life for the tunnel exceeds 100 years.
Just two weeks after the tunnel was completed a major rain event hit Columbus filling the OARS tunnel and shafts to its maximum capacity and the system worked beautifully. The project also allows the city to implement a more robust storm water control system and connect future sewer extensions to the tunnel enabling the city to grow and develop.
As other cities address this same issue of undersized storm sewers and congested business districts, massive tunnels hidden beneath the cities are becoming a more and more feasible approach to collecting stormwater and complying with the Clean Water Act.
During this pandemic, the wellness of employees and building occupants are a top priority for everyone. At DLZ, our architects and engineers are using evidence-based design to develop strategies that most effectively address the spread of SARS-CoV-2 virus and the associated COVID-19 disease.
To understand strategies for prevention, it is essential to first understand how this virus is spreading. While the scientific community still has much to learn about this virus, there is critical evidence that indicates how transmission is happening. Much like other airborne viruses, SARS-CoV-2 spreads in three ways: through droplets, aerosols, and on surfaces (fomite transmission). Of these, the most common transmission method is from droplets or aerosols as a result of direct person-to-person contact.
The most effective methods to prevent the spread of this disease are to self-quarantine when sick, wear a mask, maintain social distancing, and keep interactions outdoors, when possible. These options are not always available when working or living in buildings, so further steps are necessary to increase health safety for building occupants.
At DLZ, we believe in practical and cost-effective methods that reduce the spread of COVID-19. Rather than implementing new and untested methods, our approach is to use tried and true techniques that build off existing systems and retain value after the pandemic is over. To that end, we have identified several solutions that target certain methods of COVID-19 spread:
COVID-19: By diluting an indoor environment with outside air, the density of the virus decreases, reducing the chance that occupants will receive an infective dose.
Post-Pandemic: Many studies have found that increasing outdoor air improves wellness and employee productivity.
COVID-19: This virus survives on small aerosolized water droplets that typical building filters cannot remove. By providing a MERV-13+ filter, the quantity of the virus in recirculated air is significantly reduced.
Post-Pandemic: Many diseases, including the seasonal flu and the common cold, spread through aerosolized water droplets. Filtering recirculated air can help reduce future disease spread.
3. AIR FLOW
COVID-19: Strategic airflow can reduce the spread of the virus from an infected person to others in the area.
Post-Pandemic: In addition to the spread of other airborne diseases, this also increases workplace comfort by removing smells such as strong perfumes or food.
Based on years of experience and current research, DLZ’s architects and engineers are working to advance building designs. We look forward to continuing collaborating with our clients as we fight this pandemic and prepare for a future free of COVID-19.
In the United States construction industry, falls are the leading cause of worker injuries and fatalities. In 2018, 338 out of 1,008 total deaths in construction were from falls (33.5%), according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The standard for fall protection deals with both the human and equipment-related issues in protecting workers from fall hazards.
The OSHA standard (29 CFR 1926.501(b))(1)) states: “Each employee on a walking/working surface (horizontal and vertical surface) with an unprotected side or edge which is 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above a lower level shall be protected from falling by the use of guardrail systems, safety net systems or personal fall arrest systems.”
The risk for falls is virtually present in every single workplace. However, the factors that can lead to a fall varies. There are specific unsafe acts by employees as well as unsafe conditions that can lead to fall incidents. Moreover, falls often result from a series of contributing factors. At times, they are the result of unsafe conditions and actions combined. It is important to look at both unsafe conditions as well as unsafe actions to recognize hazardous situations.
Unsafe Conditions that Lead to Falls
- Unguarded leading edges
- Open holes
- Improper guardrails
- Damaged equipment (ladders, stairs, safety equipment, etc.)
- Slippery conditions
- Unmarked elevation changes
Unsafe Actions that Lead to Falls
- Working at heights without fall protection or fall prevention methods like handrails
- Improper use of ladders
- Leaning over guardrails
Best Practices to Avoid Falls in the Workplace
A few safeguards can mitigate the risk of falling.
- Engineering controls such as physical barriers and guardrails are two fall protection systems that are effective in preventing falls from heights.
- Use approved and tagged scaffolding if a guardrail is not feasible.
- Use a proper fall arrest system such as a full body harness, self-retracting lanyard, and approved anchor point with 100% tie-off (required when working at heights 6ft or greater unless client policy is 4ft).
- Proper use of a ladder. This includes using three points of contact when climbing, not leaning to one side while on the ladder, setting the ladder at the proper angle, securing the ladder, etc.
- Proper housekeeping in work areas.
- Warning signs and other methods of communicating fall hazards to nearby workers.
- Inspect fall protection equipment before every use. Make this inspection a part of your daily safety checks prior to wearing.
- Never use equipment that is not rated or made for fall protection. Only approved fall protection equipment should be used. If you are unsure, stop and ask.
“You and I come by road or rail, but economists travel on infrastructure,” was one of the opening lines Margaret Thatcher used during a conference in 1985. Thirty-five years later, this quote is more relevant than ever and very inspirational to Right-of-Way professionals. I have always believed that as a Relocation Agent our work is vital, and at times complicated. It would be difficult to complete any infrastructure project on time without our full dedication. In many instances, ROW professionals wear several hats and must be the bridge of communication between the Acquiring Agency and the Relocatees. For a relocation process to be successful, the relocation agent must complete the following steps:
The Relocation Agent should keep track of the facts as well as any conversations with all the parties. Before meeting with Relocatees, an agent should have a scoping meeting with the Acquiring Agency to retrieve any information on the project and the affected occupants. Such meetings are crucial, as there could be existing issues or relationships within the project residents or between the agency and the Relocatees. The agent should have a good working relationship with the appraisers and ask them to clarify any questions or items that were not adequately addressed during the valuation process.
The agent should also familiarize themselves with the local real estate market and building codes. Creating relationships with local officials and realtors can often help. Attorneys are another group that agents may need to educate to ensure each client receives their full benefits in a timely fashion. It is beneficial to view landowners’ attorneys as a partner in this process and not an obstacle to overcome. After all, you both want their client to receive every benefit entitled to them.
Agents need to ask questions and probe deeper to ensure they are fully aware of their Relocatees situation, wants, and needs. Through this information gathering, an agent can best assess the situation and bring resources to bear in getting their Relocatees successfully relocated.
There’s a reason we have two ears and one mouth, and when it comes to providing relocation assistance, it is always best to use them in that ratio. In other words, listen twice as much as you speak. This simple strategy allows you to provide valuable advisory services and thoroughly explain the benefits that best suit your Relocatees’ needs.
Throughout a relocation process, there is one common denominator, communication. The Relocation Agent is responsible for creating relationships and maintaining them throughout the entire relocation process. With effective communication, the project will move more smoothly and, ultimately restore economic vitality and stability to the project corridor.
Parks serve several important purposes within a community. They provide access to programs such as sports and education, health benefits from exercise and access to nature, and an opportunity for socialization and community involvement. Frequently though, accessibility for persons with disabilities is overlooked or does not meet current standards, limiting the enjoyment of park benefits for some members of our communities. However, there are many opportunities to improve accessibility. These opportunities may be ideal for local community groups wishing to sponsor park improvement on limited funding, park maintenance staff work, or integration with larger park projects.
Opportunity 1 – Create Accessible Routes: Accessible routes are a critical component to providing access for park users. These routes are required to be firm, stable, and slip resistant and should provide connection between all areas of activity, such as parking, ball fields, trail heads, shelters, etc. Projects could include installation of sidewalks, asphalt paths, or pathways of select compacted stabilized aggregates. Additionally, exterior ramps with handrails and landings can be constructed to improve access to raised areas currently served by stairs, such as shelters and performance platforms.
Opportunity 2 – Improve Athletic Facility Access: Accessible routes should connect to the boundaries of fields and courts. (Note that the actual area of sport activity itself is exempt from a number of requirements so as to not change the nature of the activity.) Wheelchair seating is required in player seating areas. This can be as simple as adding the appropriate size paved space within an existing unpaved seating area or removing segments of fixed benches to accommodate space needed for a person’s wheelchair. At bleacher seating, wheelchair spaces, aisle seats, and connections to accessible routes are also required based on the seating capacity. If you have a public announcement/audio amplification system, consider providing assistive listening devices for park users with hearing impairments. These simple fixes allow everyone to be included in the park programming and share the experiences!
Opportunity 3 – Ensure Site Furnishings are Accessible: Nearly every park has some type of site furnishings, such as benches, picnic tables, grills, trash cans, and drinking fountains. Related projects could include connecting them to the nearest accessible route, providing clear, level ground spaces at picnic tables, grills, ends of benches, and at approaches to trash cans and drinking fountains. Upgrade old drinking fountains; a minimum of 2 are required to provide access to both standing persons and wheelchair users, with different heights and dimensional requirements for each.
Opportunity 4 – Provide Clear and Concise Information through Signage: The International Symbol of Accessibility (ISA) is easily recognizable and communicates which areas of your facility are compliant. The ISA can be used to identify dedicated parking spaces and accessible restrooms. This symbol also provides direction to accessible routes and building entrances, making it easier for persons with disabilities to find the most convenient and useable areas of your park or facility. Trail signage can be added to identify trail conditions and level of difficulty so users may make informed decisions on how to recreate safely. Most signage is subject to requirements for mounting heights, font types, sizes, and contrast, so be sure to check the guidelines when designing new signage.
In addition to utilizing experienced design professionals on your projects, the U.S. Access Board is a great resource for your community. As stated on their website, the Access Board is an independent federal agency that promotes equality for people with disabilities through leadership in accessible design and the development of accessibility guidelines and standards. Their website (https://www.access-board.gov/) provides many avenues to get clarification and specific technical requirements of the items above, such as complete texts of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards and guidelines, webinars, animations, research data, newsletters on accessibility topics, and more.
A key point to remember is that better accessibility expands the park experience for all. It improves ease of physical access, whether you are a person using a wheelchair or other mobility device, parents with strollers, or those of us just loaded down with kids’ sports gear and picnic supplies. Most importantly, increased accessibility fosters inclusion and equality for persons of all ages and abilities.
It’s a bird… it’s a plane… it’s a… yeah it is a plane. For Chicagoans, it’s that time of year where we get to enjoy some of the most amazing and stunning mechanical, aerial acrobatics around; the Chicago Air and Water Show. This year marks the shows 60th anniversary. In honor of the occasion, DLZ is showcasing its own aeronautical spectacle, UAV usage in industrial environments.
A Brief History of UAV Flight
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have been around since the early 20th century, however usage for commercial purposes and governing regulations are in their infancy. Prior to 2014/2015, UAVs were mostly a novelty for enthusiasts, tinkerers, and researchers. In 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) decided to allow commercial companies to use UAVs to conduct business. Since that time, UAV usage in the United States has grown exponentially even though the framework created by the FAA was restricting and required a difficult exemption process to sell UAV services. Meanwhile, the consumer side of UAVs, commonly referred to as drones, did not operate under the same regulatory restrictions and as such saw an even faster adoption of technology and rise in total sales.
The Chicago Air and Water Show features planes of all eras and styles from the modern F-35 to the iconic F/A-18 flown by the Blue Angels to the P-51 Mustang made famous by its role in World War II. That same level of aeronautical innovation has occurred with UAVs in a short span of time. The relaxation of regulations brought with it more enthusiasts that drove the price of components down and the innovation of new technology. Modern UAV platforms come with advanced gyro stabilization, GPS tracking, anti-collision sensors, and many other safety features to allow our pilots to collect flight data quickly and efficiently.
The Rise of UAV Demand in Industrial Settings
The first uses of UAVs in industrial environments were to measure raw materials, transmission lines, and aerial mapping primarily for cost savings and lack of an alternative method. This introduced clients to the idea of UAVs and eventually led to wider adoption throughout the process. While those projects continue to makeup a large portion of UAV services, they are only a small amount of the full capability possible. One of biggest drivers of current adoption has been safety. Over that past few decades, large industrial operations have continued to increase safety regulations forcing the innovation of practices and procedures that can do a job safer, faster, and with less chance of harm to human life. That evolution in safety culture has led to the usage of UAVs in non-traditional roles. A few examples of projects that UAVs have made safer:
- Confined space entry: Whether on a blast furnace or a tank vessel, mechanical rotors do not need breathable air.
- Structural inspection: Rather than use a manlift or have humans tied off to lifelines, UAVs have utilized higher resolution video and still pictures to find structural deficiencies without putting a person in harm’s way.
- Raw material surveys: At one time the only way to topographically map a pile of ore, coal or other material was to physically climb on top of it and measure it. Now UAVs can map acres of land and all material on that land in a matter of a few hours rather than days.
- High Hazard Areas: If an area is known to have caustic elements, high temperature, or even radiation, UAVs provide a safe way to gather information without risking life.
The Future of UAVs in Industrial Operations
One of the most exciting emerging technologies for UAVs is LIDAR. LIDAR itself is not a new technology but adaptation for the UAV platform and its non-stop accuracy improvements make for an exciting future. Currently, ground-based LIDAR is used for a plethora of applications in all settings with modern high-definition laser scanners able to measure as accurate as a millimeter. Current UAV-based LIDAR systems have an accuracy of several centimeters but we’re starting to see that accuracy improve. Over time, those technologies will overlap and UAV-based LIDAR may even replace ground-based in the not-so-distant future.
Wrapping It Up
UAV technology and usage in industrial applications is not only here to stay but is continuing to become a more vital part of our day-to-day operations. While I personally see the modern usage of UAVs daily, I still find wonder and awe once a year watching the Chicago Air and Water Show thinking of how flight, whether UAV or pilot-based, has evolved and dreaming of the future yet to come.
Water is becoming more of a precious resource every year. From the ability to handle storm runoff, store water for public and private use, manage areas for recreation, and even assist in navigation, the necessity to accurately determine water volume and depth has become a growing project requirement throughout the Midwest.
The methods survey firms use to meet these project requirements has also grown thanks to today’s technology. The days of row boats and manual sounding chains have given way to single and multi-beam echo sounders on regular watercraft and even remote-controlled watercraft – which at times is a better and safer solution.
This remote-controlled method is possible thanks to Teledyne Marine’s Z-boat technology. DLZ has incorporated this technology for years. The Z-Boat performs hydrographic survey work in bodies of water where access and shallow depth can cause major issues in watercraft mobilization. It is a safe and many times faster solution in troubled waters.
The Z-Boat is approximately 3ft x 5ft, made of plastic, has two electric outboard motors and weighs 150lbs once loaded with batteries and equipment. Using dual frequency beam echo sounders to allow for readings on both hard and soft surfaces, survey data is transmitted to an on-shore field computer in real time using a radio link. Through GPS antennas and radios, field personnel can control the Z-Boat and monitor the data safely in real time.
Due to its small size and large variety of potential operating environments, the Z-Boat can be placed in the water either directly with a dolly or a crane and sling, as long as the water is at least 1ft deep.
The Z-Boat is often the safest option. In shallow bodies of water with a soft sediment bottom, it can be very hazardous for a person to walk out and get stuck. In some cases, the water may be contaminated. To reduce the potential of personnel exposure to hazardous materials, DLZ uses the Z-Boat which can be/ or which is then decontaminated afterwards. The Z-Boat can go up to 6mph and is a suitable choice for fast moving streams and rivers that may be more precarious on foot or in manned vessels. At times, there may not be an appropriate location to launch a larger survey vessel, in which case the Z-Boat is again the safer option.
A versatile boat, the Z-boat can meet a range of challenging hydrographic survey environments. With the capability to survey in conditions that could be hazardous to personnel, collect quality data, and keep our employees safe, the Z-Boat positions DLZ to safely deliver cutting edge solutions to our clients’ surveying needs.
DLZ realizes that serious efforts must be made to mitigate the effects of climate change and the reduction of our environmental footprint, which is why we have made sustainability part of our way of life in our offices and through our projects.
Through our projects we have contributed to:
- The reduction of energy, water, and greenhouse gases through our Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) designed buildings
- The reduction of harmful emissions such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides through our Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) stations. In addition to the environmental benefits of CNG, it also displaces petroleum fuels, saving taxpayer dollars and reducing dependency on foreign produced oil
- The reduction of raw sewage overflows into the environment during rain events through our Combined Sewer Overflow projects
- The increase of alternative methods of transportation through our bike path projects
- The restoration of ecosystems and improvements to communities through river restoration and dam removals
- The reduction of non-renewable resources through hydroelectric power on our dam projects
We will continue making strides towards reducing our carbon footprint in our offices as well as through our projects. Together we can make a difference!
Every year the Association for Iron and Steel Technology (AIST) hosts a large trade show featuring industry professionals from all over the world, technical papers, discussion panels, and a vendor fair. This year, the trade show was hosted by the city of brotherly love at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in the heart of downtown Philadelphia. Three of DLZ’s project managers from our Burns Harbor, Indiana office attended to man a booth—and unexpectedly had an amazing time. They discovered nine ways to have fun while at the conference.
1. Business First
To have fun on a business trip, you first must make sure your business goals are achieved. I highly recommend meticulous planning for the event, especially the logistics of getting people and equipment to and from the venue. Establish goals before attending and ensure that you meet those goals during the conference. For example, our goal was to meet face-to-face with specific clients we would otherwise rarely be able to see, such as those from California or Canada.
2. Ask Questions
Even though I have been to Philadelphia in the past, I really enjoyed being a clueless tourist this go around. Instead of trying to look something up online we would ask a local where to find the best cheesesteak. By the way, in Philadelphia it is JUST a cheesesteak. If you ask for a Philadelphia cheesesteak, you will get made fun of pretty quickly. I tried Jim’s on South Street and the sandwich was phenomenal. More about food later. Asking questions is not just about recommendations; it helps you meet some good people. Asking questions also conveys your interest in someone else. I found that just asking simple questions and shutting my mouth often led to hearing incredible personal stories and learning interesting things about the city.
3. Find Good People
Networking is a central activity at a tradeshow, so it is not hard to meet interesting people. On the first night of the convention, we were able to round up about 10 people to go out to dinner. It is amazing what you will learn from normally shy engineers—I can say that, I am one!—over a single bottle of wine (my boss is reading…). I must say, engineers are focused and passionate about what they do and if you talk about a subject they are interested in, hang on to your hat. Did you know an average tackle by an NFL player can reach 1600-lbs of force?
Good people come in all shapes and sizes. Stopping to have a conversation with someone you don’t know can be scary at first but eventually it becomes natural. Never pass up the opportunity to talk with people.
4. Embrace Your Inner Foodie
Travel has its ups and downs but even a bad trip can be saved by some good, regional food. When you describe a trip what do you describe? You talk about where you stayed, what you did, and what you ATE. This trip was filled with amazing food. Every meal was decided by someone we met or recommended by a local. My two favorite meals:
Jim’s cheesesteak on South Street. We went with the traditional fare: steak, onions, and cheese whiz on an Italian roll. The sandwich was messy and gooey but oh so yummy. The beef was tender with a deep, savory flavor. While we waited for our order, we chatted with the cook about attending punk concerts.
Pearl’s Oyster Bar in the Reading Terminal Market, conveniently located across the street from the convention center. The best part of Pearl’s may have been our server, Brian, who was born in Philadelphia. When I asked for his recommendation between a crab cake or shrimp po’ boy, he simply said, “order the Vietnamese Roll.” He had an obvious passion for the finer details of oysters. While I cannot tell you the difference between a long brine or an ocean salt soak, I can say the oysters were incredibly fresh and left me wanting another half dozen. The Vietnamese roll was a bit tangy with some heat that was complimented by perfectly cooked shrimp and thinly-cut carrots. Thanks for the recommendation Brian.
5. Have an Open Mind
I have had the privilege of traveling all over the world for work. At the end of the day, I just want to relax. My colleagues and I made a conscious choice that we would try new things during our trip to Philly. We took suggestions. Whether listening to new music or trying a small, out of the way diner or just strolling the streets to look at street art, having an open mind served us well. Philadelphia is a rich city with an incredible history. What I did not expect was the dedication to art of all mediums. From painted mailboxes to an entire alley that creates a flowing, ever-changing mural, the city itself becomes the display case.
6. Plan Ahead
There are endless opportunities in a major city. During the convention, there were concerts, a 10-mile run, NBA playoffs, NHL playoffs, and countless smaller events to suit everyone. Find what you may enjoy, but at the same time, don’t lock yourself into a rigid plan. We chose a single scheduled event, a punk concert the night before the vendor fair started. Nothing contrasts with hardcore technical discussion quite like a night of moshing in a sweat-filled concert venue.
7. Don’t Over Plan
Do not take the previous point about searching for events too far. You can over prepare and miss out on good times. Originally, we thought about purchasing tickets to the Philadelphia vs. Boston NBA playoff game. While that would have been fun, we would have missed the dinner with engineers in point 3.
When in a new city, there is nothing like the feeling of discovery that comes from the spontaneity of unscheduled, directionless walking. There is just something exciting about coming across the unexpected; like a community garden surrounded by commercial buildings or group of new graduates that decided to set up a dance competition on a random street corner complete with a wireless speaker.
8. Don’t Be Afraid of Being Silly
When I first decided to blog about the conference, I had no idea what to expect or even what to do. We decided to just take pictures… of everything. From selfies at 6am walking through the airport to posing with statues around the city—every turn we took the camera was ready. As time went on, we did more and more silly things. Eventually, the people at the conference started to join in. When people see you having fun, they inevitably want to join in. This also works to break the ice and introduce yourself (and your company) to potential clients.
9. Write a Blog!
Seriously! As we were taking silly pictures or asking weird questions, we received some odd looks. Once we shared that we were taking pictures for our company blog, people shifted from curiosity to wanting to participate. We even got the President of DLZ Industrial to take a picture with a band that looked straight out of Mardi Gras. People who were strangers 10-seconds before were standing shoulder-to-shoulder with wide smiles as long as it was “for the blog.” Some of the most serious people we met opened up and allowed their caricature to be drawn or give a piggy back ride in the name of fun. Who knew those things were a blog away?
My biggest take away from our week at the Iron and Steel conference is that work is serious business, but you do not have to be serious to do work. Sometimes, it is okay to loosen the tie and allow yourself to enjoy life for a while.