Q&A – Andi Moffat

Andi Moffatt is our vice president of Environmental Services. She has been with WSB since nearly the beginning and has had the opportunity to watch the firm grow throughout the past two decades. In this Q&A, Andi shares her insightful reflections and offers her perspective on the future.

Q: You’ve been with WSB for nearly 23 years. How has the company changed since the early days?

A: Well, we all used to fit in the same room for a meeting! We’ve grown so rapidly. During our first hiring boom, I remember looking around and thinking there were so many new faces. Something that I realize now, but maybe didn’t know back then, was that every time we had this influx of significant growth, the leaders acted. These seasons of growth spurred positive changes for our firm – like the WSB Way. I saw this again in our rebranding process, where we updated our values, but still stayed true to who we were. Our growth has positively forced us to take an introspective look at ourselves. 

Q: What has been one of your favorite memories in your tenure at WSB?

A: I can’t just pick one. I have two – one lighthearted and one serious where I truly learned the impact of the work we did. For the fun one, WSB’s original running club signed up for the Reindeer Run around Lake Harriet. When race day came, Pete Willenbring, one of the founders of WSB, was Santa and a group of us were his reindeer. We had to run and carry a very heavy wooden sleigh around the lake. The sleigh wasn’t very light or streamlined for being designed by an engineer!

On a more serious note, the I-35W bridge collapse and what it meant for infrastructure throughout the nation was a touchstone moment. We were all hands-on deck until that project was completed, with staff being on the project 24/7. If you weren’t out in the field on that project, you were back in the office holding down the fort. It’s moments like these that show who we are as a firm – a group of people who will pull together when faced with a challenge. 

Q: You lead our firm’s environmental services – what about this work excites you and keeps you coming through the door every day?

A: I love that we are here to help our clients and communities solve complicated issues. Whether it’s cleaning up a contaminated redevelopment site, solving a flooding problem as we manage significant rain events, or restoring a trout stream to its original state – we’re working with our clients and partners to solve these complicated problems and it’s very fulfilling.

Q: We’re very client-focused at WSB, but we’re also very staff focused.  Why do you think this is important?

A: At our core, we were founded to be a company that can be better. If I look back to how we’ve grown, we’re still in many ways living this belief.  It’s how we show our authenticity – in the way we treat each other, treat our clients, and the way we do our work. We hire authentic, driven and collaborative staff to continue to drive this mission forward.

Q: In your opinion, what is one of the biggest disruptors on the horizon for our industry? 

A:  This one was tough for me to answer, but I think it will be about adjusting our approaches for some of the big infrastructure issues that are on the horizon. We’ve experienced more 100-year rain events, more flooding, and more invasive species infiltrating our waterways. Some of the tried and true techniques that we use to solve infrastructure issues aren’t going to be relevant in the future. It’s going to take some creativity and innovation to determine the best approach and what’s going to make the most sense for the environment that we’re living in. The future is unpredictable, but it’s important to start having these conversations now. 

Q: How do you position your teams to be at the forefront of some of these disruptors?

A: I think fostering an atmosphere where questions and creativity is encouraged is important. Giving space to ask questions and creating a safe environment where it’s okay to fail helps us to create resiliency. Resiliency is going to better position us to tackle these big disruptors. Recently, I asked some of the young professionals we have on staff for some ideas on projects. They had great ideas I had not considered. It’s so important to leverage all the knowledge that’s available throughout our company.

Q: We were founded on the understanding that culture drives results – how do you think that translates to WSB today, nearly 25 years later?

A: Culture truly drives results and if you don’t tend and care for your culture it can change in ways that can hinder your results. When we have discussions at the leadership level it ultimately comes down to deciding what’s best for the staff and company. Businessman Richard Branson said it best, “The way you treat your employees is how they will treat your customers.”

Q: What do you wish you could tell your younger self when you first started your career?

A: I’d tell my younger self to soak it all up – soak up every opportunity and know that mistakes are okay and inevitable. I remember being so worried about messing up to the point that I wouldn’t take any chances. It’s okay to make mistakes if you own it and you learn from it. I would also tell myself not to feel intimidated by upper management. At the end of the day, we’re all just people.

Q: You’re seen as a mentor to many in WSB – why is mentorship important?

A: I just did an informational interview with a young gentleman who is currently in college. He was so thankful for having an opportunity to ask career questions. He asked how he could thank me, and I told him to pay it forward. When he’s been in his career for 20 years, take the time to sit down with someone on the cusp of their career and answer their questions. I think no matter where we are in our careers, we all still need guidance. Connecting with a mentee helps me learn and be better in my career too. It’s hard to know what’s going on with your team unless you’re really connecting with them.

Q: What does WSB look like in 5 years? 10 years?

A: We look like change. That’s what we’ve always focused on. We will continue to focus on our staff because that’s the core of who we are, and we want WSB to be a great place for everyone who works here. We’re always reaching, striving and changing. In five years or ten years, we’re still changing and innovating and it’s exciting to think about. 

25 stories for 25 years | Emily Brown

On October 5, 2020, WSB will celebrate our 25th year in business. Since 1995, we’ve added new service areas, expanded our reach and served our communities.  Throughout our tenure, our dedicated staff has been a constant.

In honor of our 25th year, we’ll be highlighting 25 stories of the people behind the projects.

Story 5 of 25

Emily Brown, Municipal Project Manager | Joined WSB in 2015

What do you think is special about celebrating 25 years as a company? 

What is impressive about 25 years is that in many ways WSB still feels like a young company. There is such a focus staying nimble and finding ways to improve our business. I think that focus on not just hitting milestones but continuing to improve and seek out new opportunities is what makes WSB special and makes me excited for the next 25 years.

In what ways have you been able to grow professional at WSB?

Part of the reason I came to this company five years ago was to find more opportunities to lead projects and work directly with clients. Since I’ve been here, I’ve been encouraged to take the lead on projects and have been supported when new challenges have come along. WSB has given me a home where I have and continue to expand my expertise and reach new goals.

What WSB value do you connect most with? (Bold, Visionary, Authentic, Passionate, Optimistic)

I really connect with our commitment to authenticity at this company. I think trust is such an important aspect of our interactions with clients, other companies, our industry and the public. We build trust by being authentic to who we are, what we know and how we commit to the work.

What about your work gives you energy?

I am very fortunate to be able to directly see my work come to life on a project. I get to see every step in the project life cycle and see how it supports the lives of those in the community. Working closely with city staff, contractors and residents gives me an opportunity to resolve issues on the fly and think creatively. I love being able to have a direct effect on the success of a project.

WSB hires Christie Saenz to growing right-of-way team

Saenz will lead the firm’s right-of-way efforts in Texas

Austin, Texas – Engineering and consulting firm WSB announced today that Christie Saenz is joining the organization as a senior right-of-way specialist. Saenz joins the firm’s Austin office where she will lead WSB’s right-of-way efforts throughout Texas.

“I am thrilled to welcome Christie to WSB,” said Jay Kennedy, WSB’s vice president of Texas operations. “In the last year, we’ve been working to expand our expertise in the Texas market and the addition of Christie will continue to drive momentum.”

Saenz joins WSB with over 25 years of experience in the right-of-way industry. Throughout her career, she’s managed the acquisition of over 1,000 parcels for the Texas Department of Transportation and central counties and cities. Most notably, Saenz worked on the SH 99 Grand Parkway, Segments F-2, G-1 & G-2 for Texas Department of Transportation in Harris and Montgomery Counties, SH 36 for Texas Department of Transportation in Brazoria and Fort Bend Counties, the Bell Boulevard Realignment for the city of Cedar Park and Dacy Lane Phase II for Hays County in Kyle, Texas.

“I am really looking forward to joining WSB’s fast-growing Texas team and expanding the firm’s right-of-way services,” said Saenz. “Investment in infrastructure and development is strong throughout the state and I see many opportunities to support our client’s right-of-way needs.”

As part of WSB’s right-of-way team, Saenz will support clients with their right-of-way projects by providing project management, acquisition and relocation services. As a consulting engineering firm, WSB provides transportation planning and design, water/wastewater utility work and community planning services throughout the state of Texas.

Bret Weiss, WSB president & CEO, appointed to Governor’s Council on Connected and Automated Vehicles

Bret Weiss, WSB president & CEO, was appointed to the Governor’s Council on Connected and Automated Vehicles. Formed in 2019, the Council studies, prepares and assesses the opportunities and challenges associated with the widespread adoption of connected and automated vehicles and other intelligent and emerging transportation technologies.

Weiss joins 13 appointed members, twenty ex-officio members and co-chairs Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) commissioner and VSI Labs President, Phil Magney. Each appointed member must have relevant experience in the automotive industry, technology, cybersecurity and data privacy, business and finance, transit, higher education, workforce training, insurance, mobility, freight, labor, public safety, bicycle and pedestrian advocacy, elder care, or tort liability.

“I am thrilled to join such an esteemed group of innovators and trailblazers that will help advance Minnesota’s connected and autonomous vehicle efforts,” said Weiss. “The future of intelligent transportation systems is much closer than we think. As a state, we’re at the forefront of developing strategic solutions that will only help strengthen Minnesota’s infrastructure.”

Weiss’ experience with infrastructure-related engineering and transit systems will assist the Council as they work together to review connected and automated vehicle development and trends, explore partnership opportunities, propose policies to safely test and deploy connected and automated vehicles and consult with communities experiencing transportation barriers.

As a firm, WSB has partnered with MnDOT on several initiatives related to connected and automated vehicles including the current CAV Strategic Communications, Engagement, and Relationship Building Framework Plan, the Minnesota CAV Strategic Plan and the 2017/2018 testing of connected and automated vehicles in winter conditions.

Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan announced the appointments in a press release earlier this month. The full announcement is available at https://mn.gov/governor/news/?id=1055-442968.

Warning: Sharp Curves Ahead

By Andrew Plowman, Director of Transportation Design, WSB

Exploring the why behind the twists and turns of road design.

Throughout the COVID-19 era, many Americans have opted out of air travel and are instead packing up their cars and hitting the road for an old-fashioned road trip. A survey conducted by Farmers Insurance found that more than 60% of people are planning to travel by car or RV over the next few months.  But as we weave and wind our way through the mountains or travel over the hilly plains, our minds can wander into the why behind the infrastructure that’s bringing us to our destination. We ask, why do roads curve?

There may seem like there is no rhyme or reason to the sharp curves or slight turns along interstates or highways, but there are many reasons roadways curve.

Right of Way

If you’re a rancher, you certainly wouldn’t want a highway slicing down the center of your land. In many cases, Right of Way causes a road to curve around a piece of property rather than through.

Subgrade Conditions

The subgrade is the existing soil located below the pavement and aggregate layer of the roadway.  At times, the existing subgrade is made up of organic material or clays that will continue to settle. As the roadway settles it can crack causing damage over time. Rather than dig very deep to remove this material, a roadway alignment may curve out of the way to miss the bad soil conditions.

Profile Considerations

Profile considerations become increasingly important in states where roads need to climb to different elevations.  To maintain a grade that isn’t too steep, a road will curve from Point A to Point B to gain distance which flattens the slope. 

There are many reasons a road may curve that extend beyond this list. The technical aspects of roadway design are vast. As you make your way to your next destination, see if you can spot the reason a road may curve.

Andrew is a transportation project manager and lead design engineer with over 17 years of experience who has designed more than 80 roundabouts. He is involved in all aspects of roundabout design, including geometrics, traffic operations, staging, and adhering to ADA standards. He has educated communities on the benefits of roundabouts and their safety for managing traffic. Andrew has also shared his professional knowledge nationally at international roundabout conferences.

[email protected] | 763.287.7149

Tips for Managing Back-To-School Traffic this Fall

By Alyson Fauske, Sr. Project Manager, WSB

COVID-19 has changed the way we do so many things in life and our children returning to school will be no exception. The school districts have designed five different scenarios to chose from for teaching our children in the 2020-2021 school year, based on the number of reported local COVID cases. Proposed options include full-time, in-person learning and hybrid learning, which have students attending in-person class two days a week. There will be challenges around getting students to school safely and efficiently. Here are five ways to help you facilitate the return of students.

Vehicle traffic to schools will likely increase due to physical distancing requirements limiting bus capacities and parents may elect to drive their student to minimize the student’s physical interaction with others. Estimate how many additional vehicles will be dropping-off/picking-up and what streets they will likely travel. Communicate with your municipality if you believe any of the nearby streets may experience increased congestion. 

Shuttle busses can be used to reduce the vehicle traffic to the school by providing shorter, more frequent trips, between the school and a nearby facility. Large commercial sites, office buildings, or parks may be good candidates for a shuttle site; be sure to check with the property owner first.  Many counties have property information mapping available on their website that can be used to determine who owns the property.

Encourage alternative modes of transportation to the school such as walking, biking, or other non-motorized methods. An added benefit is a little exercise and fresh air. 

Multi-modal transportation is an option for students that live too far from the school to walk or bike the entire way.  Parents can drive to a nearby park or place of business and the remainder of the trip to school can be on foot, bike, scooter, or other non-motorized method. 

Site circulation through the parking lot should be evaluated to determine if there is enough space for vehicles to line up for the student drop-off/pick-up location. If the need for on-site parking is reduced, consider using traffic cones and signage to mark space for additional lanes during vehicle queuing. Identify locations where students who walk or bike may encounter vehicle traffic once they are on campus and develop a plan to get them through the area as safely as possible. Ideas include using traffic cones to designate a pedestrian lane or having a staff member in a safety vest assist students into the school.

Alyson is a Senior Project Manager in WSB’s Municipal Group and the City Engineer for the City of Minnetrista. With 20 years of engineering experience in the municipal industry, Alyson Fauske has built her career providing municipal engineering services throughout the Twin Cities.

[email protected] | 763.512.5244

How to leverage technology and streamline environmental compliance inspection

By Zach Kolsum, Environmental Compliance Specialist, WSB

Conducting inspections on infrastructure projects can be daunting, especially when they require extensive reporting and legwork to comply with local, state and federal regulations. Fortunately, there are technological tools available to assist environmental compliance and construction inspection, which streamline the arduous process of data collection and reporting for clients. Using standardized software, WSB provides the necessary equipment and materials to conduct a variety of inspections, enhanced reporting and automated data collection.

Enhanced reporting

Electronic inspections offer an effective way for teams to visualize the work being done onsite. Data is collected and compiledusing a software application to generate a list of report leads. Project partners can share critical information instantly using the visual media tool.

Share project information quickly

Depending on the project, problems that arise during inspection can be costly and take valuable time away from clients and shareholders as they work to find a solution. WSB provides automated reporting and digital photo sharing with the click of a button to the entire project team. Reporting is tracked through an online database and clients can save documents and project findings in the application archive. Sharing project reporting instantly between team members is an easy way to monitor and ensure work is progressing on schedule.

Manage your data

Leveraging the use of mobile devices for inspection improves the effectiveness of field data collection by integrating mapping and field technologies into a single workflow. This methodology also minimizes the possibility of human error which increases the quality of data overall. Collected information is analyzed using a powerful search engine that identifies trends and future forecasting.

Use Datafi for Environmental Compliance inspection

WSB’s Environmental Compliance and GIS groups worked together to develop Datafi, a mobile-friendly mapping and workflow tool to improve the environmental compliance inspection process. Datafi is a field-to-office data management solution that has allowed multiple groups within WSB to actively and efficiently inspect numerous project sites to ensure compliance. Datafi is used on small and large-scale projects including housing and land developments. Our team of inspectors have benefited from Datafi’s enhanced reporting, efficiency and improved data management in the field.

As tedious as documentation management may feel at times, it is an essential part of any program development. Discovering new ways to refine processes is paramount for keeping information as reliable and accessible as possible. We believe utilizing technology allows project teams to focus more heavily on the technical aspects of the work and bringing their client’s vision to life.

Zach is an Environmental Compliance Specialist dedicated to improving his community. He has a strong understanding of federal and state regulations, providing technical, administrative, and operational support for a variety of clients concerning NPDES regulations (MS4, construction, industrial permitting) and compliance with the Clean Water Act. Zach is committed to improving his community through environmental and conservation services, including soil erosion and stormwater management.

[email protected] / 612.201.6809

Play along with WSB | Road Trip BINGO

Play along with WSB | Road Trip BINGO

Is your family hitting the road this summer? Learn about the places, spaces and systems that support our lives along the way. Public infrastructure is all around us, so much that sometimes we don’t realize the impact that it has on our communities. View our printable BINGO cards below and try your hand at filling your card. Keep your eyes peeled! Some infrastructure is above and below us.


10 benefits of having an experienced right of way professional on your project

By Penny Rolf, Director of Right of Way, WSB

​Enlisting the help of a licensed right of way professional to manage planning, design and land acquisition processes can keep project development moving forward. Right of way experts bring the knowledge and understanding to ensure each phase of development remains in compliance with federal and state regulations. Reviewing current regulations and keeping clients informed can prevent costly schedule delays and contractual or legal issues. Identifying opportunities for grant funding, meeting with property owners to review title information and streamlined data management are ways right of way staff can support project deliverables. Through building strong partnerships and communicating important updates throughout development, they ensure a compliant, equitable approach to navigate the complexities of any right of way project.

Here are ten reasons why you should have an experienced right of way professional on your team.

  1. Team player from start to finish
  2. Thorough understanding of federal and state-level regulations for land acquisition and project funding
  3. Expertise of the right of way industry, planning, design and property owner management
  4. Experience in preparing minimum damage acquisition reports (MDA) – an alternative to the standard appraisal process
  5. Preparation of field title reports to verify ownership interests and identify design issues and owner concerns related to the impacts on the property: small design changes during this time can alleviate several owner issues or concerns
  6. Leveraging technology via Datafi software to manage data in the office and field
  7. Providing relocation services for residential and non-residential owners and tenants
  8. Acquiring right of way for:
    • Road and trail projects for cities, counties and Departments of Transportation
    • Utility easements for high voltage electric transmission lines, pipeline, sanitary sewer, and drainage
    • Renewable energy easements for solar gardens and wind farms
  9. Obtaining crossing permits for county and state roadways, trails, utility projects and railroads
  10. Communication experts who will facilitate building strong partnerships with property owners to ensure an equitable process while keeping the project on time and on budget

Penny has over 29 years of real estate experience and 21 years providing project management, relocation services and right of way acquisition for MnDOT, WisDOT and many city and county clients in Minnesota and North Dakota. Penny values cultivating trust and understanding with property owners to ensure settlement negotiations are legally compliant and equitable for all parties involved. She is a licensed broker in Minnesota, Iowa and North and South Dakota. Penny is a certified IRWA CLIMB instructor for both acquisition and relocation courses. 

[email protected] / 763.231.4868

25 stories for 25 years | Chuck Kochmann

On October 5, 2020, WSB will celebrate our 25th year in business. Since 1995, we’ve added new service areas, expanded our reach and served our communities.  Throughout our tenure, our dedicated staff has been a constant.

In honor of our 25th year, we’ll be highlighting 25 stories of the people behind the projects.

Story 4 of 25

Chuck Kochmann, Transportation Engineering Specialist | Joined WSB in 1995

What do you think is special about celebrating 25 years as a company?

I’ve been lucky to have worked at WSB since the very beginning. I’ve seen many people come and go over the years and maybe it’s just a job to them, but to me it’s more as a commitment to this company. It doesn’t seem like people stay at a company for 25 years anymore.  We started small and we’ve evolved into something much bigger. I really like what I do and the people I work with. I’ve had great opportunities to build my skills and relationships and I think that’s something special you can gain when you’ve worked somewhere for 25 years.

What has been the most memorable moment in your career at WSB?

One of my most memorable moments to-date happened recently. I was able to attend the ribbon cutting for the Rockford Road Bridge in Plymouth, Minn. This was an important and fast-paced project for a longstanding client. Going to the event and listening to people talk about how much this project meant to their community was gratifying. I am proud to have been part of that project.

What about your work gives you energy?

I really enjoy solving challenging problems. When there’s a complicated situation or a tight timeline it makes you dig a bit deeper and be more focused. I feel accomplished when we work together through a challenging project and doesn’t appear to work the way it should. It’s rewarding to find a design solution that fits seamlessly into the community.

How has WSB supported your career goals?

I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to mentor and teach new staff.  It’s fun to watch our staff evolve and grow. We try to erase the mistakes of the past before they happen. We all learn from the past while incorporating new ideas and our newest staff members get to take full advantage of the lessons we’ve learned while helping to shape the future.

Why do our clients continue to work with us?

I think our ability to consistently deliver solid designs and projects sets us apart. I think our clients depend on us to get the job done well. We are professionals in our project delivery, materials and how we manage things. Our projects reflect that.