How Corridor Studies Play a Role in Community Growth

By Steve Lindsey, Director of Transportation, WSB

In 2021, Texas added more people to its population than any other state. For residents, businesses, and communities, it’s critical for planners to meet the immediate needs of citizens, while also planning for the future. For local, city, and county governments, corridor studies play a key role in creating and executing comprehensive transportation design that adapts to and meets the needs of growing communities.

What is a Corridor Study?

Corridor studies examine the relationship between roadways and adjacent land. In more densely populated areas, this can mean figuring out ways to overcome challenges where roadway expansion is limited. For land in development, it means looking at future population growth and where investments are being made to build homes, businesses, and public services.  Corridor studies also help ensure that if opportunities to acquire land becomes available – whether because they are being sold or planned for future development – there is a long-term view on how to best meet transportation needs.

Corridor studies are instrumental to help communities plan for 5, 10, and even 50 years down the road.

Trends in Community Growth

In Central Texas, Austin and the surrounding communities are growing rapidly. It is a technology hub with major companies like Tesla, Apple, Dell, and Samsung employing thousands of people. Densley urbanized areas have seen population growth, and more people are building homes and businesses in communities farther and farther from the city centers as the population grows.

Additionally, with the ongoing pandemic, we’ve seen more people looking to build homes, expand their space, and work remotely. With a hot housing market and population growth, more people are building and expanding into areas that were traditionally more rural or predominantly farmland.

Communities need properly planned transportation infrastructure to help transport people and commerce in those growing areas.

Working with the Experts

For community leaders facing growth challenges and working to plan for what’s next, it can be difficult to know when and where to start. When we partner with clients, we help them explore what opportunities their community can tap into in transportation design, and corridor studies are an important tool to get them and their community where they want to go.

Steve brings over 22 years of experience in all phases of the transportation industry including schematic, environmental, GEC/program management, construction and plans, specification and estimates (PS&E). He has a history working with TxDOT divisions and districts around the state as well as municipal clients in central Texas.

[email protected] | 512.983.5624

WSB hires Travis Wieber to oversee the firm’s Midwest transportation efforts

As vice president, Wieber will lead WSB’s globally recognized transportation division

Engineering and consulting firm WSB announced today that Travis Wieber has joined the organization as their vice president of transportation. Wieber joins the firm’s Fargo office where he will lead WSB’s transportation efforts throughout the Midwest.

As vice president of transportation, Wieber will support WSB’s transportation efforts and will oversee the firm’s growing portfolio of public and private transportation clients. This role will strengthen and expand the firm’s transportation services and solutions throughout the Midwest. For years, WSB has been delivering engineering services in and around the North Dakota region, but the addition of Wieber forms a stronger presence of boots on the ground, local expertise in the area.   

“In 2021, we gained a lot of momentum across the United States through the way we’re delivering infrastructure projects for both owners and contractors,” said Jon Chiglo, chief operating officer at WSB. “The expertise that Travis brings to our team will only enhance our steady focus. He is known throughout our industry for his ability to lead and manage strong teams and I’m thrilled that he has chosen to join our firm at this exciting time.”

Wieber was most recently the delivery director of surface transportation and office leader at KLJ, a Bismarck-headquartered civil engineering firm. In this role, Wieber was responsible for the financial performance of the market segment. Throughout his career, he’s led several notable infrastructure projects throughout the Midwest including TH 53 Complete Streets in International Falls, Minn., US 85 & ND 23 Bypasses in Watford City, N.D., Sheyenne Street Reconstruction & I-94 Interchange in West Fargo, N.D., and the Emergency Highway Grade Raises and Dam in Devils Lake, N.D.

“WSB is changing the way our industry approaches digital delivery through 100% models and a commitment to innovation,” said Wieber. “This is an exciting time to be an engineer, and an even more exciting time to join a team of talented individuals, committed to cutting-edge tools, collaboration and partnerships that all lead to better projects.”

As division lead for the firm’s transportation team, Wieber will oversee WSB’s bridges and structures, roadway design, traffic engineering, transportation planning, right of way, transit planning and intelligent transportation systems services.


The Hydrogen Revolution

By Paul Rodden, GIS Program Lead, WSB

Hydrogen has long been utilized in niche industries as a feedstock for fertilizers and to aid Oil and Gas companies in processing hydrocarbons. Several times throughout history, hydrogen supporters have attempted to push the element into the mainstream as a clean energy source. But these attempts have failed due to a few factors that, until recently, have held hydrogen back as a legitimate fuel. 

Separating hydrogen

These restrictions have revolved around the fact that hydrogen loves to bond tightly to other elements like oxygen and carbon. It is also the smallest atom in nature and can leak through most materials. The first restriction of its bonding ability means that striping hydrogen from other elements has been extremely costly and intensive. The process to separate hydrogen from oxygen is called electrolysis and requires clean water and a massive amount of energy to generate hydrogen in bulk. The process to separate hydrogen from carbon, which has historically been the accepted way to generate the fuel, uses natural gas as the feedstock, separates the hydrogen from the carbon, and releases the carbon as CO2 into the atmosphere. The obvious drawback to this is the release of the greenhouse gas (GHG) in large quantities. 

Why is this revolution different?

What makes this push to establish hydrogen as the fuel of choice for the energy transition more likely to develop then the half dozen times previously? Well, that’s the big difference. The energy transition movement is sweeping the globe and forcing every nation to establish carbon neutrality goals. The associated costs and risks of leveraging hydrogen as the energy transition fuel of choice seems highly likely depending on several factors. There are massive government subsidies that will aid hydrogen development costs and technical developments. These subsidies and developments will reduce the cost of materials and will lower the risks involved with large scale hydrogen energy development.

What technologies develop hydrogen?

There are many factors to consider when exploring the best way to develop hydrogen. What are the costs involved and what technology makes the most sense to invest in? Most people in the hydrogen industry discuss the different processes in terms of colors. Green is hydrogen generated from water using renewable energy (Wind, Solar, Geothermal, etc.) to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. This process relies on electrolysis using either a proton exchange membrane (PEM) or alkaline electrolysis. On the surface, this is a very clean method of making hydrogen but also the most expensive, and depending on the study one references, not nearly as clean as the industry would like everyone to believe. The other largely referenced color is blue. This is same technology referenced earlier that converts natural gas into hydrogen. What makes blue different is the addition of capturing the CO2 and either utilizing it in other industries or sequestering the GHG underground. This technology, called steam methane reforming (SMR) with carbon capture (CCUS), has much lower associated development costs but still has the stigma of utilizing hydrocarbons as its feedstock and the associated costs of capturing carbon. 

Outside of the two main avenues of creating hydrogen are a handful of technologies that are quickly gaining in popularity. The first, is new tech called methane pyrolysis. This technology uses natural gas as its feedstock to create hydrogen but unlike SMR, this method (dubbed turquoise hydrogen) has no CO2 byproduct but rather solid carbon.  This technology uses a carbon negative process to generate the hydrogen. Other technologies include in-situ combustion, plasma gasification, and photocatalysis. All of these have amazing upside potential and distinct advantages over both blue and green hydrogen.

What’s leading the hydrogen revolution?

Another key element leading the hydrogen revolution is the incredible surge in development for hydrogen fuel cells. The hydrogen fuel cell industry is one of the globe’s fastest growing markets and is the main target of hydrogen investment funds. Fuel cells have distinct advantages over traditional battery technology and internal combustion engines. Since hydrogen is so small and light and is the most energy dense (per unit mass) fuel on earth, it can be densely compressed to provide electricity through the fuel cell in a more efficient manner and takes up less space while doing so. This makes fuel cells the ideal solution for carbon free long-haul trucking and shipping

With the technological advantages coming to light almost daily, new utilization methods getting deployed, and nearly all governments developing (or already developed) hydrogen strategies and roadmaps, this revolution looks to stay.

Paul Rodden has nearly 19 years in Geographic Information Systems (GIS), data management, and business development primarily focused on the oil and gas industry. In April of 2020 he worked alongside Exxon’s hydrogen team to develop the world’s first commercial hydrogen dataset. During the development cycle of the dataset, Paul gained unique insights into the hydrogen market and its rise as the energy transition leader.

[email protected] | 281.787.9423

Improve Project Outcomes Using an Owner’s Representative

By Bob Barth, Director of Land Development, WSB

From inception to completion of a project, having an expert walk alongside you can make all the difference. An owner’s representative, often seen as a significant value in private sector projects, can and should be used for public projects to add value as well.

What is an Owner’s Representative?

An owner’s representative is essentially the eyes and ears of a project – representing the owner, investor, or developer throughout a project. A deep understanding of the overall goals of the project, as well as having an in-depth knowledge of engineering and construction, means this person is an advocate and champion that can ensure a project goes according to plan, while helping to mitigate risk.  

Given the proven value of the service, it is curious that public sector vertical construction has traditionally underutilized the owner’s representative in favor of project leadership from the lead architect or general contractor. So why should the public sector use an owner’s representative?

They help keep projects on track and on budget.

The more expensive the project, the more the architect and contractor get paid. Though obvious, this fundamental conflict creates competing incentives for both the architect and contractor. The owner representative’s compensation, in contrast, is often determined by the original project budget and does not subsequently increase or decrease as the project budget increases or decreases. Their job is to act on behalf of the owner, keep the budget on track, and represent the overall financial interests of the project.

Owner’s representatives see the big picture.

Public project financing is very different from private project funding. Public sector projects are often financed through bonding, and operating budgets serve as a proxy for revenues. Cost needs to be managed throughout a project’s duration, as do relationships. An effective owner’s representative does this.

Additionally, the project schedule is more complex than the design schedule kept by the architect, or the construction schedule managed by the contractor. The project schedule includes time building stakeholder consensus, conducting preliminary environmental and property investigations, aligning financing, and developing project parameters. These activities often precede the architect’s involvement and need to be managed by someone with a wider perspective on the project – the owner’s representative. The project schedule also includes post-construction activities such as commissioning, grant close-out, sustainability certification, occupancy, and logistics. These are not activities contractors can effectively manage but, rather, activities that the owner’s representative expects to manage.

They simplify decision-making and mitigate risk.

Finally, well-structured projects allow the owner’s representative to lead in all aspects of a project, empowering them to make decisions over contractors, architects, and other consultants. Effective owner’s representatives also build consensus among teams and stakeholders. All of this brings critical leadership and certainty to projects.

When unexpected change orders, cost overruns, unforeseen environmental and property issues, or other problems arise, a good owner’s representative help manage and mitigate risk. 

In summary, owner’s representatives bring expertise, leadership, and credibility projects. Given their value, they should be utilized in more public projects.

Bob has over 20-years of experience providing technical and management support to public and private clients. In addition to leading our Land Development Group, Bob is also responsible for our Commercial Market Sector, delivering a wide-range of services to industrial, institutional, property management, and construction clients.

[email protected] | 763.231.4876


The Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act: 4 Tips to Set You Up for Success

By Morgan Dawley, Sr Director of Municipal, WSB

2022 is here, and many state and local leaders are eyeing how the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act, passed late last year, can help fund priority projects. While there are still some questions to be answered on how funding will come down and what final projects will be chosen, there are significant opportunities across the country, and things community leaders can be doing now to give them a leg-up.

Here’s how to start.

Think Big.

You may have a list of projects you are working to advance, but don’t be limited by your list. Because of the size and breadth of this funding package, this is a chance to think big. Rather than looking at what projects may be most eligible for capital funding, pause and take a larger look at the needs of the community. Additionally, with so many different categories within the bill – traditional infrastructure, sustainability, cyber security, reconnecting communities and more – how you approach the scope of your project could help tap into new opportunities to secure funding.

Similarly, if you have a project that is already on a high-priority list, don’t miss out on the chance to use the Infrastructure Bill to fill funding gaps or expand the scope of the project!

And as you think big on what the Infrastructure Bill can do, it’s also critical to

Bring Stakeholders Together to Explore What the Community Needs.

Approaching community needs in a holistic way means bringing multiple stakeholders together to talk about what opportunities are out there, and what priorities should be advanced. Elected leaders, state and local agencies, engineers, public works, local business owners and the public are just some of the voices you can bring to the table. If you have strong stakeholder support, it can put your project in a better place to secure funding.

Furthermore, with a greater emphasis on community solutions that address the needs of low-income and traditionally underserved populations, viewing infrastructure projects from various lenses can not only solve big community problems – but put your project in a better position to receive funding. For instance, the legislation includes $1 billion to reconnect communities that have been divided by past infrastructure projects.

A variety of voices and stakeholder support is important, and there may be a project or objective that you didn’t think could be tackled until further in the future, but there is an opportunity to advance it now.

Engage Your Neighbors.  

Similar to engaging various stakeholders, looking at bigger projects that may span multiple communities could provide a significant advantage. Multiple local funding sources, as opposed to one, demonstrates collaboration and can help lock in dollars for bigger projects that serve multiple communities and more people.

Consult with the Experts

At WSB, our job is to help our client connect the dots between their vision and reality. We have an in-depth understanding of not only planning and designing projects, but also tapping into diverse funding sources, engaging with the community to advance a project, and solving the complexities that come with engineering projects. What a community may think of as a simple street repair project could have implications for sustainability, clean water and more. Understanding and tapping into every opportunity possible is key!

Want even more information on the Infrastructure Bill? Check out WSB’s other piece on what’s in the bill here.

Morgan brings 22 years of experience in municipal, transportation, and civil engineering projects. For the past 17 years, he has been providing consultant city engineering services, including strategic planning, preliminary design, project development, and public engagement. He is passionate about finding solutions that are right for the client and that help neighborhoods and communities achieve their goals and vision for the future.

[email protected] | 763.287.7173

The Intangible Values of Master Planning

By Jolene Rieck, Director of Landscape Architecture, WSB

The author of The Art of War, Sun Tzu, is quoted as saying, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” The quote originated in the 6th century BC, but the wisdom can be applied to many modern endeavors. It is easy to dismiss the need for planning because the outcome of a plan usually lacks a tangible outcome. But even in today’s materialistic society, leaders who take the time to plan before execution will achieve their goals faster and with the clarity that your team and constituents deserve. The following five reasons are why you should invest in master planning:

  1. Engagement. Planning is a collaborative way to engage and connect with your constituents. People create a sense of ownership and pride when genuinely asked about their opinions. Invite diverse perspectives to the table, including those who may not be in favor of your goal. By eliminating the curtain on “the government,” or “the (faceless) man,” and interacting with your constituency, you create social entrepreneurs who will become your most effective advocates.
  2. Momentum. Dreaming of “what can be” is energizing and uplifting. Appreciative planning starts from a strengths-based perspective of focusing on things that are going right and using that momentum as a springboard to your desired future state. A well-facilitated planning process can get you past the airing of the grievances and focus on what you really need: a shared vision of what good looks like and a roadmap to get there.
  3. Vision. If you can visualize it, you can achieve it. Spend time defining the purpose and desired outcomes. Often people have a gut instinct of what they want or is needed but fall short it being able to articulate that feeling to others. A professional planner listens to all the feedback, eliminates the noise, focuses on the key themes, and clarifies the need. The vision is often expressed in words and imagery — the simpler the better.

    A hand sketch provided a vision for a new entryway bridge in Bozeman, Montana. The aesthetic won a local award for design.
  4. Accountability. An outcome from planning is that it creates an expectation — a promise to deliver. Continued momentum and credibility are outcomes of a successful plan. Failure to deliver contributes to apathy. A vision that is realistic and achievable creates a sense of shared purpose that empowers people. A plan that includes tactical objectives creates accountability for people, policies, and processes. Include measurements of success or key performance indicators (KPIs) to track implementation.
  5. Growth from Experience. Use the master plan as the litmus to identify blind spots and learn from them. Reserve the right as the gatekeeper to course-correct the plan when unexpected influences appear but use professional judgment when deciding on the power of the influence. Spend time at the conclusion of the planning process to review and note what went well. Finally, celebrate early and often the accomplishments that are tied to the plan. This demonstrates the intangible value in the time and funding spent to create the plan.

American Legion Park, Hamilton, Montana was able to quickly move from concept to built product based upon a shared vision developed from a master plan process.  The park is now the focal point of several community events and increased pride and continued momentum in the revitalization of their downtown.

Jolene brings 22 years of experience practicing landscape architecture and planning to the WSB team. She is focused on helping empower clients to advance their economic competitiveness, inspire creative placemaking and implement smart infrastructure to improve quality of life. She helps build business while providing leadership to WSB’s growing landscape architecture team.

[email protected] | 612.201.7193


$1.2 Trillion Infrastructure Bill Will Provide Big Boost to Community Projects

By Monica Heil, Vice President of Municipal Services, WSB

On Monday, November 16, President Biden signed the bipartisan Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act into law. This $1.2 trillion package, which includes $550 billion in new federal spending over the next five years, gives local and state governments significant opportunities to fund infrastructure improvements over the next several years.

What’s in the Bill?

For communities and states eyeing dollars for projects, here are some highlights of what is included in the bill:

  • $110 billion for roads and bridges
  • $39 billion for public transportation
  • $66 billion for railways
  • $73 billion for power grid upgrades
  • $7.5 billion for EV charging stations
  • $50 billion to address cybersecurity and to fight the effects of climate change, including dollars for flood mitigation and drought preparedness
  • $55 billion for clean drinking water, water and wastewater infrastructure including replacing lead pipes and addressing chemicals
  • $1 billion to reconnect communities that have been divided by past infrastructure projects
  • $11 billion for transportation safety

What is the Timeline?

States and communities across the nation have a laundry list of projects and priorities that they are hoping can be funded by this legislation. But what comes next, and when can local and state governments expect to see funding?

Federal money will be allocated through a variety of programs, mostly run by the U.S. Department of Transportation, as well as a handful of other federal agencies. There are two ways that most of the funding will then be disbursed to states – either annually through a formula or through a competitive grant program.

For the competitive grants, timing is unclear at this point as the Department of Transportation will have to set the criteria, then solicit and review applications from state and local governments before announcing the awards. This process could take several months.

For formula funding, dollars may begin to go out as soon as in the next few weeks and are expected to be distributed over the next six months. Funding that goes into existing federal programs with formulas already in place, as well as certain more basic projects like resurfacing, improving roadways, bridges, and transit, are expected to see dollars faster than more complicated capital projects or ones that require new rulemaking.

What’s Next?

Communities can begin preparing now to tap into funding for infrastructure improvements and take advantage of new spending.

One thing to note is that once dollars are allocated to states from the federal government, they will have quite a bit of flexibility on how those dollars are spent. Many state departments of transportation have funding priority lists, and in some states, legislatures or other local entities may try to earmark projects.

At WSB, we help many clients tap into grant funding, and have resources from the community level to planning to design and construction. For local communities vying for community projects – whether it’s road construction, transit, wastewater, clean energy projects, etc., it’s critical to ensure you have as much information as possible prepared and stakeholder support so you can apply for grant-based funding quickly when parameters and deadlines are announced. This will help put your project in a strong position.

What’s clear is that this $1.2 trillion package will catapult many essential and innovative projects forward, positively impacting local communities, residents, and businesses, promoting clean water and energy investment, and making critically needed improvements to our nation’s infrastructure.

Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) – San Antonio Region Announces Christie Saenz as Chapter President

The Women’s Transportation Seminar – San Antonio Region (WTS-SAR) recently announced that Christie Saenz, WSB Senior Right of Way Specialist, will serve as President for their Executive Board beginning in January of 2022. 

Saenz is an active member of WTS-SAR. Since joining in 2015, she has served in a number of leadership roles including Membership co-chair, Transportation YOU co-chair, Scholarship co-chair, co-Treasurer, and Treasurer. She also served as President-Elect for the 2021-chapter year.

“I am incredibly honored to be the next President of the WTS-SAR’s Executive Board. It is a privilege to work with an organization that elevates and supports women in our industry, as well as works to support our vibrant San Antonio region,” said Saenz. “I am thankful for this opportunity and for the wonderful people working in transportation, government, sustainability, and economic development that are part of our amazing organization.”

Saenz brings over 25 years of real estate experience to the table, having a diverse background working with both government agencies and various engineering firms.

Women’s Transportation Seminar was founded in 1977 by a group of pioneering women in transportation that realized women’s careers would benefit from professional development, encouragement, and recognition to support their advancement in transportation professions. Through its professional activities, networking opportunities, and unparalleled access to industry and government leaders, WTS is turning the glass ceiling into a career portal. You can learn more about the organization at