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WSB promotes Ben Barker to director of Right of Way

Ben Barker has been promoted to WSB’s Director of Right of Way. Barker has been with WSB for over seven years as a Right of Way Specialist. He has over 15 years of experience in real estate and 10 years in acquisitions and relocations. He has extensive experience in land rights for government entities, renewable energy companies and utility companies. He is an active member of the International Right of Way Association and serves on the Executive Board for Chapter 20.

Since joining WSB in 2014, Barker has managed a variety of complex projects, including Rice Street, I-694, Minnesota Southwest Light Rail Transit, and White Bear Ave Reconstruction. He has proven himself as an effective negotiator, strong leader, and consistently helps clients, design staff, and landowners to reach fair settlements for all parties.

In his role as Director of Right of Way, Barker will lead the Minneapolis Right of Way team and continue oversight of WSB’s Right of Way services across the United States. His focus will remain on supporting WSB’s Right of Way clients across the firm’s government, commercial and energy markets.

WSB’s Right of Way team works with closely with clients in the government, commercial and energy markets throughout the United States. The staff of real estate specialists and surveyors specialize in right-of-way issues and services including project scoping, cost estimates, relocation, eminent domain, appraisals and acquisitions.

WSB adds to Texas leadership with transportation industry professionals Rob Bailey, Bryan Hodges and Steve Lindsey

Bailey, Hodges and Lindsey join the firm from Atkins North America

Engineering and consulting firm WSB announced today that Rob Bailey, Bryan Hodges and Steve Lindsey have joined their firm. Most recently with Atkins North America, an international design, engineering and project management consultant, the trio brings a wealth of experience to WSB and helps solidify the firm’s transportation presence in the Texas market.

“Rob, Bryan and Steve joining WSB is very exciting for the future of our transportation team,” said Jay Kennedy, WSB’s vice president of Texas operations. “Since 2017, we’ve been very intentional about our growth, specifically by hiring the industry’s top talent. Rob, Bryan and Steve are well-known throughout Texas and their experience will be invaluable to our staff and clients.”

Bailey will oversee WSB’s transportation growth in the Texas market and will support strategic pursuits as vice president of transportation. He has over three decades of engineering experience in design, construction and maintenance of transportation facilities. Most recently he was the transportation GEC/program division manager at Atkins North America.

Hodges and Lindsey, both directors of transportation, will support the firm’s work with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and will lead business development efforts. Hodges is known for his planning, design and project management experience. He was mostly recently a project director at Atkins North America and previously served as TxDOT’s district design engineer. Lindsey’s experience extends through all phases of project development from feasibility studies to maintenance. He was most recently a project director with Atkins North America focusing on planning studies as well as schematic and environmental projects.

“I’m thrilled to be joining the incredible team at WSB and to help shape how we position ourselves in the Texas transportation industry,” said Bailey. “I’ve worked alongside Bryan and Steve for many years and am honored that they’ve chosen to pursue this new adventure with me. WSB’s approach to project delivery is industry-leading and I’m looking forward to supporting our clients’ infrastructure needs with new tools, resources and a commitment to collaboration.”

WSB entered the Texas market in 2017. The firm has made two key acquisitions in the Texas marketplace over the past three years, first acquiring Austin-based Rogers Design Services (RDS) in 2018, followed by Houston-based Nathelyne A. Kennedy & Associates, In (NAK) in 2019. WSB has established brick-and-mortar office locations in Austin, Dallas and Houston, but provides engineering, planning, environmental and construction services throughout the state to the public and private sector. Recently, WSB delivered the final design for Williamson County’s Ronald Reagan Intersections Improvement Project near Sun City, the Multimodal Transportation Improvement Project at Texas Southern University and the Sam Rayburn Tollway Sign Replacement Project for the North Texas Tollway Authority.


Annual Minnesota Transportation Funding Opportunites

There are many recurring transportation funding opportunities in Minnesota that are open for applications now and into early 2022. The list below provides additional details on each of the funds. Now is the time consider if your community has transportation projects that fit these programs. If you believe that your community qualifies and would like help with the application or if you’re not sure your project is a good fit, contact Bart Fischer ([email protected] or 651.286.8484) to learn more.

  • MnDOT’s Greater MN (Non-Metro) Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) – This program aims to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries involving vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians on all public roads. It is open for applications September 3, 2021 – November 24, 2021. Eligible projects are categorized as proactive – projects that address known risk factors; and reactive – projects that address a sustained crash location.
  • MnDOT’s Metro Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) – The HSIP solicitation for metro area counties will occur in spring of 2022. Like the Greater Minnesota HSIP, this program aims to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries involving vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians on all public roads. Eligible projects are categorized as proactive – projects that address known risk factors; and reactive – projects that address a sustained crash location.
  • MnDOT’s Safe Route to School (SRTS) Infrastructure – Applications will be accepted October 4, 2021 – January 7, 2022; letters of intent are due by October 29th, 2021. The program funds capital projects that promote and encourage more students to walk or bike to school by making routes to schools safer and more accessible. $7.5M is available, with minimum awards of $50k and maximum awards of $500k. There is no matching requirement.
  • State Park Road Account Solicitation – This MnDNR solicitation is open now through November 1, 2021. Funds are intended to improve local access roads to state parks, state campgrounds, public water access points, and other eligible recreational areas. Projects awarded funding must follow applicable state aid construction project requirements.
  • Federal Land Access Program (FLAP) Funds – This program funds construction projects on public highways, roads, bridges, trails or transit systems that are located on, adjacent to, or provide access to federal lands for which title or maintenance responsibility is vested in a state, county, town, township, tribal, municipal, or local government. A 20 percent match is required. Applications are due by December 15th, 2021. A preliminary review of applications is available for draft applications submitted prior to November 19, 2021.
  • Metropolitan Council’s Regional Solicitation – The next round of applications for the Metropolitan Council’s Regional Solicitation process will take place in the spring of 2022 to fund projects in 2026 and 2027. This solicitation, which is open for counties and communities within the seven-county Twin Cities metropolitan area, seeks applications for: roadways including multimodal elements; transit and travel demand management projects; and bicycle and pedestrian facilities. During the last round of the Regional Solicitation in 2020, approximately $200 million in federal transportation funds were awarded to 56 projects in 36 different cities and townships. 

The ABC’s of Bridge Safety

By Paul Kivisto, P.E., Senior Structural Engineer, WSB

Did you know that the average life span of a bridge is 60 – 70 years? There are a number of ways to reach or exceed that average. Newer materials like high performance concrete and epoxy/stainless steel rebars certainly improve the quality and longevity of a bridge. Regular bridge inspections are not only legally required, but by inspecting and documenting issues with your bridges you can hopefully slow the expected deterioration and make repairs early which often costs less.

MnDOT, counties, cities, townships, and tribal governments are all responsible for managing bridge assets within their jurisdiction. Many of these entities have inspectors on staff to perform inspections, while others contract out that work to private firms like WSB. Maintaining regular and accurate inspection data is necessary to ensure public safety, reduce liability, maintain accurate budgeting, and comply with state laws and regulations.

Five important aspects of bridge inspections

About Documents, Frequency, and Inspection process

MnDOT releases the Bridge and Structure Inspection Program Manual (BSIPM) which summarizes inspection guidelines. In Minnesota, all bridges and culverts over 10’ long and carry traffic or are over roadways must be inspected. An initial inspection is required within 3 months of opening to traffic. The typical inspection frequency is 24 months, with shorter time periods for bridges in poor condition. The bridge owner can request longer than 24-month cycle for culverts. The latest version is May 2021 and can be viewed here:  

Bridge Condition Codes

BSIPM Chapter B – Bridge Inspection Field Manual and Chapter D – Recording and Coding Guide should be used by inspectors during all inspections. Physical condition and geometric properties of each bridge are recorded on inspection and inventory forms.

  • Overall condition codes from the National Bridge Inventory (NBI) range from 9 (new) to 0 (closed) and track the overall condition of the superstructure, substructure, deck, culvert, and other elements.
  • More detailed element level inspections record percentages of elements in conditions ranging from 1 (new) to 4 (severe deterioration).

The owner must report inspection and inventory data through the Structure Information Management System (SIMS) database to MnDOT every year.  MnDOT in turn provides the data to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

Channel Inspections/Waterway/Scour

One of the leading causes of bridge failures is scour or undermining of the substructures in, or adjacent to, water. Scour is the term used to describe the erosion of soil surrounding a bridge’s foundation. When fast-moving water moves sediment from around the foundation, it creates scour holes adjacent to substructures that must be identified and monitored. Degradation of channels can cause shifts in the channel and may increase the risk of undermining. Bridges that cannot be inspected by wading and probing must be included in the statewide underwater inspection program on a 48-month cycle. Channel cross-sections are required for scour critical bridges and recommended for unknown foundations and scour susceptible bridges.

Additional causes of bridge deterioration to be aware of include:

  • Rebar and steel corrosion due to chlorides
  • Delamination and spalling on concrete members
  • Shrinkage cracking in concrete
  • Fatigue cracking on steel beams
  • Vehicle impacts to members
  • Leaking expansion joints
  • Bearings moved out of position
  • Timber decay

Drone Inspections

Increasingly, drones are used to provide access to hard-to-reach portions of bridges. They have photographic and video capabilities that allow them to identify cracking, spalling, and other deterioration that is otherwise challenging to document. Drones have the additional benefit of using Infrared (IR) cameras to identify delamination and distress below the surface.

Engaging with the Inspection Data

Agencies should use inspection data to help identify maintenance, preservation, improvement, and replacement projects. It is critical that accurate inspection data be maintained to track deterioration over time and prioritize maintenance work. Additional detailed inspections may be needed to help put together a system-wide scoping analysis or bridge management plan (BMP).  A thorough BMP can help identify funding needs over a given budgetary cycle.

Paul has more than 36 years of experience in bridge construction, bridge management, bridge inspection, and bridge design. In his role as Metro Region Bridge Construction Engineer for MnDOT’s Bridge Office, Paul was responsible for writing foundation recommendations, bridge preservation and improvement recommendations, constructability reviews, recommended repairs, and identified projects for inclusion in MnDOT’s bridge preservation program.

[email protected] | 612.201.9163

Keeping Projects in Compliance During Times of Drought

Meghan Litsey, Director of Environmental Compliance, WSB

Minnesota has experienced drought before, but this year is unique. Drought conditions began earlier than normal and are anticipated to continue through October. Despite recent rainfall, it will take much more precipitation to ease drought impacts as we head into fall. Although drought has major impacts on many facets of municipal infrastructure, it can also have many impacts on ongoing construction projects.

NPDES Construction Stormwater Permit impacts

Vegetation is key to closing out any ongoing project. As construction season begins to come to an end and projects begin close-out activities, the ongoing drought presents several challenges. The NPDES Construction Stormwater General Permit requires permanent uniform perennial vegetation with a density of 70% of its final growth. Given the challenging conditions this year, some projects may need to consider delaying permanent seeding until conditions improve. 

Alternatives to consider

Rather than applying permanent seed mixtures and risking failure, waiting until conditions improve is worth considering. Another option to think about is dormant seeding. Dormant seeding can be an effective method of maximizing growth in the spring, especially when native species are involved.

Five ways to stay in compliance

  1. Always be ready for the next rain event. Continue to install and maintain erosion and sediment control best practices and stabilize exposed soils within permit timeframes.
  2. Control dust with water or chemical application, as needed.
  3. If delaying permanent seeding, use stabilization placeholders, such as straw mulch, erosion control blanket, or hydraulic mulch, to cover exposed soils until permanent turf can be completed.
  4. Continue to perform weed control to prevent excessive weed growth. This may include tilling, mowing, and/or herbicide applications.
  5. If permanent vegetation has been established and there are bare areas that need to be supplemented, use interseeding and overseeding to obtain uniform coverage.

Although vegetation may be minimized when looking at a project’s big picture, it has considerable impacts on stormwater runoff. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 20 to 150 tons of soil per acres are lost every year to stormwater runoff from construction sites. The NPDES Construction Stormwater General Permit monitors stormwater runoff during and after construction, protecting many of Minnesota’s natural and water resources. Establishing quality vegetation, even during a drought, can be a challenging feat but is necessary to maintain compliance and protect our water resources.

Meghan Litsey is director of our Environmental Compliance team and has over eight years of experience. She specializes in providing environmental compliance services in construction site permitting, SWPPP design and inspection, and MS4 program development. 

[email protected] | 763.287.7155

Solving Complicated Water Issues

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently released their $700 million plan for improving the drinking water supply in 14 communities that are currently dealing with unsafe levels of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in their water. The government’s plan includes building or expanding:

  • Six new water treatment plants
  • Treating 33 municipal wells
  • Connecting 296 homes to municipal water systems
  • Providing home water filtration systems to homeowners with private wells

WSB was fortunate to be involved with the city of St. Paul Park to help them find a solution to increasingly dangerous PFAS levels in their community. In June of 2018, the Minnesota Department of Health informed St. Paul Park that the PFAS levels in two of its three water wells was exceeding the recommended levels that are safe for public consumption. WSB partnered with the city to design a water treatment facility and remove PFAS from the community drinking water and surrounding environment.

PFAS are a family of manmade chemicals that do not naturally decompose due to their heat and water-resistant structure. Studies have found that consuming drinking water with elevated levels of PFAS, overtime, can be associated with high cholesterol, reduced immune response, thyroid disease, kidney cancer and other distressing health problems.

After completing a rapid column filtration pilot study, acid-washed granular activated carbon filtration was selected as the most feasible, long term solution to treat PFAS in the city’s drinking water.

  1. Steel pressure filtration vessels contain granular activated carbon filter media that facilitate the transfer of contaminants onto the media as the liquid stream passes through the vessels.
  2. When the contaminant level in the carbon bed reaches the saturation point, the carbon is removed and regenerated at an off-site facility or disposed.
  3. After the media becomes fully absorbed with PFAS, the media is removed from the vessel and refilled with high quality activated carbon.

The project utilized an innovative modeling software, Matterport, to video scan the interior of the plant and provide a three-dimensional layout. This model allows city staff to provide accurate virtual tours of the plant remotely. Matterport also serves as an asset management tool for storing critical operations and maintenance data for each piece of equipment inside the plant. This innovative tool allows staff supervisors to reference and provide instructions to their teams from a remote location. Leveraging Matterport software ensures important equipment data, plant drawings, and schematics can be accessed from any location with Wi-Fi or internet connection.

Great emphasis was placed on the design to protect the environment and provide a sustainable facility. The plant produces almost no emissions that affect the environment other than space heating during the winter months. Nearly no wastewater will be emitted from the plant in the long term other than discharging backwash wastewater into the sanitary sewer system about once every two to three years when the filter media is exchanged for new media. On site, a large oak tree situated about 20 feet from the plant was preserved during construction. Since the plant was constructed in a city park, all areas that were affected by construction were restored with landscaping and grass that creates a natural flow to the surrounding athletic fields.

Since the plant was placed into service, no PFAS contaminants have been detected in the effluent water that is distributed to city customers. The quality of the drinking water has been excellent and exceeds all drinking water and health standards.

Brad Hamilton named WSB’s Director of Public Engagement

Brad Hamilton has been named WSB’s Director of Public Engagement.  Hamilton joined WSB as Strategy Manager in 2020 after over two decades in the public sector. Brad’s tenure in the public sector has shaped his understanding of the importance of inclusive and intentional engagement in infrastructure projects. He brings a strong foundation of the Architecture, Construction and Engineering industry to the position, as well as tactical experience in communications and engagement.

In his role as Director of Public Engagement, Brad will lead WSB’s public engagement efforts across the government, energy, and commercial markets.  His comprehensive, strategic approach to public engagement will support WSB’s clients on both large and small projects throughout Minnesota.

Prior to his time at WSB, Brad led Liaison Services for the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) where he focused on building and maintaining relationships with key partners and stakeholders. He facilitated unique collaborations between the State and technology businesses, helped lead equity and diversity policy conversations for the department and created engagement opportunities for MnDOT stakeholders in projects, policies and programs.

WSB’s public engagement services support complex infrastructure projects through digital and traditional efforts. The public engagement team works closely with state, municipal and county clients to facilitate inclusive, collaborative and productive public participation.