Transportation Engineers: What are their roles?

Transportation Engineers: What are their roles?

In the vast world of architecture and engineering, there are dozens of disciplines that play an integral part in making sure projects are safe, efficient, and beautifully designed. You'll find Transportation Engineers where the rubber meets the road, the bridge meets the bank and all areas in between.

Meet our Transportation Engineers

As it turns out, Adam, Alex, and Tyler won't introduce themselves as transportation engineers. They're technically civil engineers. They describe their focus as being a transportation engineer. "From a national perspective, in our careers, we're all licensed professional engineers. Our job title is more so related to what we actually do. If I met somebody on the street, I would just tell them I'm a civil engineer," said Alex Roth.

What kind of projects do Transportation Engineers work on?

It depends, really. Tyler Lerdahl tends to focus on more local-level projects for cities and counties. "My group tends to focus on some smaller type projects. We've done some trails and a little bit of storm sewer work. Within the urban, it could be a small widening project where you're making the road a little wider or adding a turn lane," he said.

Adam Sleeper does some of the same work as Tyler but also helps with the bidding process for winning projects. "I have a hand in trying to get a project from concept, winning projects, and anything related to environmental or right of way impacts," he said.

Alex says he's the drainage guy before anything else. "Any project that tends to have complicated drainage, I'm going to get pulled into that," he said. Alex also focuses on bridge hydraulics which involves anything built over water.

What are their roles in project design?

As mentioned above, Alex focuses a lot on how the movement of water is going to impact a project. In fact, part of his job is to build models to show the risk of flooding and how to mitigate those risks for any road or bridge Schemmer designs.

"We were designing a brand new road in Fremont, NE right before the 2019 floods hit. The whole project is in a floodplain. We had to prove that putting a road where they wanted to put it wouldn't make flooding any worse than it was. Well, my model predicted a significant flood potential. My model was 1/10th of a foot off from what actually happened. The flood happened before the road was built, but luckily we had a ton of box culverts already in the design to mitigate that flood risk," he explained.

They also focus on what they call "the 3 R's." "Restoration, resurfacing, and rehabilitation," said Adam.

The way the three describe their role is to ensure that a project is safe and efficient. "It's a mixture of safety, dollars, and reliability. How can we achieve the safest roadway at the best cost in the most reliable way," said Lerdahl.

What are their favorite types of projects?

They all agree: new projects are more fun than trying to work on an existing road. "Yeah, old stuff is hard. There are a lot more restraints on how you can tie everything in. There's a lot more existing infrastructure. You have to make sure that any change you make isn't perceived as worse than before," the group said.

Tyler and Adam say they like working with 3D models of their projects. "You get to see what the project will actually look like and then you kind of spiral down a rabbit hole of a million little tweaks to get it to be perfect," said Lerdahl.

"It's so cool. I can get pretty caught up in it, too. I show my boys all the time," Sleeper said about 3D modeling.

Alex really enjoys building flood models. "It shows the designed road and houses and shows where water could go. They always freak people out," said Roth with a smile.

While they all got a kick out of Alex's joke, they all emphasize the importance of their job and what they do. They want to make sure the public has the safest roads and bridges to drive on while also protecting the surrounding environment.


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