WSB Wins IRWA Employer of the Year Award

June 29, 2023

WSB was recently selected as the International Right of Way Association (IRWA) Employer of the Year Award for Companies with Less Than 20 Employees. This is the first year WSB has won this award, and we are honored to receive this achievement. Ben Barker, director of Right of Way, and WSB staff were presented the plaque at the IRWA Conference in Denver, Colorado June 25-28.

The Employer of the Year Award recognizes associate companies which actively support their employees as IRWA members. Each company demonstrates strong employee support and commitment at chapter, regional and international levels of the Association in terms of participation, financing, time allowance, facilities, service, etc.

Exploring Alternative Intersections and Interchanges in Texas

June 27, 2023

By Tina Brown, Sr Professional Engineer, and Jignesh Thakkar, Director of Traffic and ITS in Texas

As Texas’ population grows and traffic increases, mobility and safety at intersections deteriorate. The strain on the current infrastructure, along with increasing construction and right-of-way (ROW) costs, highlights the need for early planning and exploration of innovative solutions. The application of alternative intersections and interchanges, to enhance traffic operations and prioritize safety, is becoming more popular throughout Texas.

Alternative Intersections and Interchanges Explained:

Alternative intersections and interchanges are innovative transportation designs that improve traffic flow, safety and efficiency. Unlike traditional intersections and interchanges that rely on conventional traffic signal or stop-controlled configurations, alternative designs introduce unique geometric layouts and operational strategies. By reimagining how vehicles interact, conflict points and intersection delays can be reduced, and pedestrian and cyclist safety can be enhanced, all while increasing overall capacity. These alternative designs may include roundabouts, diverging diamond interchanges (DDI), restricted crossing U-turn intersections (RCUT), and displaced left turn intersections (DLT).

These solutions are typically implemented in areas with high traffic volumes and delays and/or areas with high crash rates, providing practical solutions to address the transportation challenges.

Comprehensive Analysis of Alternative Intersections and Interchanges:

During the planning and development of alternative intersections and interchanges, WSB’s planners and engineers consider data such as turning movement volumes for both passenger vehicles and trucks; pedestrian and bicycle use; crash history; and existing geometry, traffic control devices and ROW to conduct preliminary traffic and safety assessments when determining viable alternatives.

Two main goals drive identification of alternative(s) – mobility and safety.

For mobility, the FHWA tool Capacity Analysis for Planning of Junctions (CAP-X) is used to determine the alternative’s performance related to improved traffic operations (Level of Service, travel time and vehicle throughput). The safety assessment includes the traditional KABCO scale analysis, as well as using the FHWA tool Safety Performance Intersection Control Evaluations (SPICE) to predict the safety performance (crash frequency and severity) of various alternatives and traffic controls.

Once the preferred alternative(s) are identified, additional detailed analysis is conducted to compile evaluation information and benefits of each. This includes an Intersection Control Evaluation (ICE) to further analyze and determine the appropriate configuration and traffic control. Detailed safety analysis is performed using FHWA data-driven analysis tools such as Interchange Safety Analysis Tool Enhanced (ISATe) and Interactive Highway Safety Design Model (IHSDM). The alternative(s) are then screened to determine a recommended alternative that fits within the project budget and accomplishes the goals for the project.

Stakeholder Engagement for Public Safety and User Awareness:

The biggest challenge with alternative intersections and interchanges is public perception and interaction. Each location has its challenges, and the solutions must be tailored to the local jurisdiction. The public and stakeholders are essential in determining a preferred alternative, and obtaining input early in the project development process is crucial. Public use of these transportation facilities can also be a challenge for those unfamiliar with the traffic patterns and movements associated with alternative intersections and interchanges. WSB develops 3D visualizations to help the public and stakeholders understand the proposed configuration and associated traffic patterns.  Additionally, our engineers design clear and understandable signing and striping to help users safely navigate the lanes and turns.

Why WSB?

The future is bright for even more alternative intersections and interchanges to be added in Texas. WSB staff includes planners and engineers with extensive experience in alternative intersection and interchange analysis and design. In Texas, we have recently designed a roundabout at RM 1826/RM 967 in Driftwood, Texas, that has yet to be constructed and are also currently helping develop a single-lane roundabout directly in front of the City of McKinney’s new Municipal Complex.

In addition to the increased demand for alternative intersections and interchanges, technology advancement plays a key role, and WSB is at the forefront of advanced project delivery. WSB staff possess a high level of expertise in all project phases and use innovative technology in the design, construction and operation of all projects.

Tina has 35 years of engineering experience and has performed project management, planning and engineering design on numerous large-scale corridor transportation and bridge projects. Additionally, she was a construction inspector on two large roadway projects in the Austin area while directly employed by TxDOT. Her knowledge in traffic control plans, interchanges and much more enables her to curate exceptional plans that best fit the needs of clients and communities.

[email protected] | 512.6360304

Jignesh has over 19 years of experience in traffic and transportation engineering services. He has managed numerous traffic engineering projects for medium to large-scale developments for public and private-sector clients. His extensive experience in transportation analysis, simulation and design software well-equips Jignesh for a variety of transportation projects.

[email protected] | 469.854.7723


Strengthening Infrastructure Resilience: U.S. DOT PROTECT Grants Program

June 12, 2023
By Amy Fredregill, Sr Director of Sustainability and Shannon McGrath, Director of Asset Management Planning, WSB

In an era of increasing climate volatility and the looming threat of natural disasters, safeguarding our infrastructure is paramount for communities. Recognizing this urgent need, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has unveiled one of the latest grant opportunities under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). The Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient, and Cost-Saving Transportation (PROTECT) grant program aims to protect roads, bridges, ports, passenger rail, and pedestrian facilities from the damaging impacts of storms and other natural disasters. By supporting projects involving the hardening, raising, or relocation of roads and bridges, these grants empower communities to fortify their vital assets against future climate-related disasters.

PROTECT Grant Specifics

The PROTECT program aims to enhance the resilience of the country’s surface transportation system against climate change impacts. It provides up to $848 million in discretionary grant funding for projects that reduce long-term costs, prioritizes risk reduction through nature-based solutions, and improve equity by addressing the needs of disadvantaged communities. Applications are open until August 18, 2023, and grant recipients at all levels of government are encouraged to apply; this deadline will come up quickly so interested communities are encouraged to start conversations about this important program. The program will contribute to job creation, improve safety, and ensure infrastructure is built to withstand extreme weather events.

Many municipalities have ongoing initiatives that lack adequate financial resources to realize their vision entirely. With the PROTECT grants, communities can access additional funding to accelerate the completion of critical projects. This funding may also be used for planning efforts or implementation of technology.

The Importance of Utilizing Grants

The importance of grants in infrastructure development cannot be overstated. They provide an invaluable lifeline, enabling municipalities to undertake essential projects. By leveraging funding, cities can address pressing infrastructure needs, enhance safety measures, improve operational efficiency, reduce their climate impact and minimize disruptions, all while simultaneously advancing related goals in a community’s Comprehensive Plan like economic development and public health. Grants empower communities to adopt a proactive approach, ensuring they stay ahead of potential challenges.

WSB: Your Dedicated Partner in Grant Application

WSB understands the significance of securing resources to build a resilient infrastructure. With extensive experience, WSB guides municipalities through the intricacies of grant applications, ensuring proposals align with the program requirements and stand out in a competitive landscape. WSB recognizes that grant writing demands an investment of time and resources and is here to assist municipalities in unlocking the funding necessary to protect their transportation infrastructure, enhance community safety, and foster sustainable development.

Amy has nearly 25 years of experience across many industries, particularly energy and agriculture, in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. This experience has provided Amy with a broad background that enables her to meet community and business needs based on the business case for sustainability. By working across interesting systems to simultaneously advance environmental, economic and social goals, she is able to uncover creative solutions.

[email protected] | 612.965.1489

Shannon has spent over a decade advancing asset management at local, state, and national levels by serving on asset management committees, advisory panels, and project management teams. While working at MnDOT, Shannon directed the agency-wide asset management planning including projects, research, policy, innovation, strategic planning, and implementation in collaboration with internal and external stakeholders.

[email protected] | 651.492.9291

Shannon McGrath Director of Asset Management
Natural Resources water testing

Managing Data and Technology to Improve Resilience in Natural Resources

June 12, 2023
By Emily Ball, Forestry Program Manger and Bill Alms, Project Manager, WSB

WSB understands the importance of managing natural resources in cities. As cities grow and expand, managing natural resources, such as waterways, forests, and green spaces, can be complex and daunting. However, by leveraging smart technologies and innovative approaches, cities can make informed decisions and ensure the resilience and sustainability of their natural resources.

Data Collection

The first step in managing natural resources in a smart city is to know what resources you have before starting a project. This involves taking an inventory, analyzing, and determining the critical first steps. Once this information is collected, organizing it for informed decision-making is essential. GIS and WSB’s Datafi software can assist with developing base inspection forms and identifying trends.


One of the challenges of managing natural resources in a smart city is dealing with a vast amount of data. To make sense of it all, it’s crucial to migrate data in a way that allows for informed decisions. Budgeting for the ongoing management of natural resources and creating a budget cycle is also necessary. In the context of natural resources, this means collecting initial data on what resources need to be managed. For instance, stormwater asset management programs can predict when stormwater ponds need maintenance and how much it would cost. WSB offers a program called SWAMP – Storm Water Asset Management Program which is a web-based app that allows for customized prioritization of annual storm water BMP inspection and maintenance activities that can help drive budget planning. 

It’s essential to note that data cannot be static in a smart city and should be continually updated based on what’s happening in the field. Many data applications allow for smart phone or tablet updates in the field by staff. This approach allows cities to avoid constantly reinvesting in data gathering.

How WSB can help

Managing natural resources is a challenging task. However, by leveraging smart technologies and innovative approaches, cities can make informed decisions and ensure the sustainability and resilience of their natural resources. WSB can assist cities in identifying the best way to store and manage data, budget, make strategic decisions, coordinate with state agencies, diversify species, and promote climate-smart forestry and canopy cover. By taking these steps, cities can ensure their natural resources’ longevity for future generations.

Emily is a ISA Certified Arborist, MN Tree Inspector that brings 20 years of experience, primarily in community forestry. She has extensive experience in contract administration, management of staff, AmeriCorps members and contractors, budget and grant management, plan review, tree health and condition inspections, outreach and education. She works closely with partner organizations, staff, and the community to educate, manage natural resources and provide excellent customer service.

[email protected] | 651.318.9945

Bill is a project manager in WSB’s Water Resources Group serving clients with their water resources engineering needs. His experience includes planning, design, and construction management, research and inspection of municipal storm water systems, hydrologic, hydraulic, and water quality modeling, watershed permitting submittals, and development plan reviews. He is a technical resource in watershed policy, planning, and capital improvement budgeting.

[email protected] | 952.388.4188

Asset Management Maturity Scale

June 12, 2023
By Shannon McGrath, Director of Asset Management Planning, WSB

Infrastructure asset management is the process of operating and maintaining assets throughout their lifecycle; managing performance, value, and risk to achieve organizational objectives. Many communities face significant challenges in maintaining assets and aging infrastructure, from roads to bridges to water and sewer systems. As infrastructure ages, it becomes more expensive to maintain and repair. In some cases, it may even become necessary to replace it altogether.

Why Asset Management Matters

Without an asset management strategy in place, jurisdictions struggle to manage their assets, resulting efficiently and effectively in communities failing to utilize data to understand their inventory, maintenance needs, and replacement requirements. Asset management is crucial as it minimizes risks and expenses while maximizing resource utilization, reducing maintenance costs, enhancing infrastructure service reliability, prolonging infrastructure lifespan, and facilitating informed decision-making for infrastructure investments.

Fully Integrated & Proactive Asset Management Makes All the Difference

Proactive asset management requires jurisdictions to follow the fundamentals of asset management. We developed a maturity scale to share these fundamentals which can be used by any organization that owns, operates, and/or maintains infrastructure assets. The purpose of this scale is for an organization to identify what current efforts are in place and what steps of progression are needed to move them toward full, proactive asset management. Knowing where to start and the road ahead is crucial to ensure the efficient use of resources and enhance the overall quality of their infrastructure.

When working with organizations to create and implement asset management fundamentals, we focus on a structured and continuous approach. It begins by ensuring the right stakeholders are involved and creating a cultural shift to move from a reactive to a proactive approach. Successful asset management creates a centralized system of record, helping to reduce risk and uncertainties, allowing for a greater shared asset to data, and ensuring organizations can seamlessly collaborate across departments to improve public services. Our dedicated team takes a holistic approach with multidisciplinary experience to guide clients through asset management maturity.

Shannon has spent over a decade advancing asset management at local, state, and national levels by serving on asset management committees, advisory panels, and project management teams. While working at MnDOT, Shannon directed the agency-wide asset management planning including projects, research, policy, innovation, strategic planning, and implementation in collaboration with internal and external stakeholders.

[email protected] | 651.492.9291

Shannon McGrath Director of Asset Management

Net Zero Emissions: Three Things for Minnesota Cities to Know

June 12, 2023
By John Gerlach, Vice President of Oil & Gas, WSB

Recently, Minnesota signed new legislation requiring the state to achieve net zero emissions by 2040. This significant step toward sustainability presents challenges and opportunities for cities throughout the state. Here’s what this means for cities and how to navigate the transition into the future.

Understanding the Footprint

The net zero emissions legislation signed by the governor of Minnesota presents cities with a unique opportunity to transform their energy infrastructure and contribute to a sustainable future. Achieving a net zero carbon footprint requires a comprehensive approach. Cities must allocate acreage and land for renewable energy projects. They must consider the financial implications, technology requirements, security considerations, and materials. By initiating the planning process early, cities can develop robust design, construction, and management strategies.

Cities also need to consider the differences between paying for and owning energy supply. Like the difference between playing for a football team versus owning the football team, owning sustainable energy infrastructure allows cities to exert greater control over their energy sources and costs.

Funding Opportunities and Sustainable Energy Solutions

Implementing net zero emissions laws brings significant financial opportunities for cities. Given the availability of state and federal funding, tax credits, and incentive programs, cities should prioritize grant writing as a crucial step in securing financial support for their net initiatives. This requires expertise and dedicated staff who can navigate the grant application process effectively. Hiring individuals with experience in securing renewable energy grants can significantly enhance a city’s chances of success.

Integrating into Existing Infrastructure

Integrating net zero emissions into already-existing infrastructure is a critical aspect of the transition. Technology plays a crucial role in accomplishing this feat. While renewable energy sources will increasingly contribute to the energy mix, it is essential to acknowledge the continued importance of pipelines for efficient energy transportation. By repurposing existing infrastructure, such as methane gas pipelines from landfills into natural gas systems, cities can make significant strides toward achieving their emissions goals.

How WSB Can Help the Transition to Net Zero

WSB is committed to helping cities in Minnesota navigate the transition to a net zero future. We offer expertise in identifying renewable energy solutions that suit each city’s unique requirements. Our services encompass sustainable energy infrastructure design, construction, and management. Leveraging WSB’s experience, knowledge, and resources will help cities achieve their net zero goals.

John has over 25 years of pipeline construction experience. He leads our Pipeline Field Staff and manages natural gas inspection teams throughout the United States. While operating out of our St Paul, MN office, his activities include business development, team development to ensure our team meets pipeline compliance and standards, implementation of training programs, Operator Qualification and pipeline related certifications as well as overseeing the day to day field operations.

[email protected] | 612.214.1260

John Gerlach

2023 Legislature Highlights

June 12, 2023
By Bart Fischer, Sr Public Administrator, WSB and Anne Finn, Intergovernmental Relations Director, LMC

Bart Fischer, Senior Public Administrator, WSB and Anne Finn, Intergovernmental Relations Director at the League of Minnesota Cities (LMC) unpack the most recent consequential legislative session. The 2023 legislature began their session with a $17.5 billion surplus that is now gone with a number of spending provisions that will be distributed across the state and invested in nearly every state agency. Significant investments in transportation, the largest capital investment/bonding package, several environmental bills and large public safety and education bills will all have a major impact on communities across the state in the coming years.

BF: What can communities expect to see for investments in transportation?  

AF: This is one of the most robust transportation bills we have seen, on par with the transportation investments in 2008 following the I-35W bridge collapse. It is the largest capital investment bill in our state’s history, with $2.6 billion to be distributed around the state for transportation, water infrastructure and other facilities.

BF: Why is there currently such a focus on transportation funding across the state?

AF: A significant amount of money will be invested into our transportation system in the coming years. There was a lot of muscle behind this bill due to support from stakeholders including labor, the construction industry and local government groups, and many advocates believe this bill is very meaningful for the state of Minnesota. With single party control— the DFL was not going to let this opportunity to enact a robust transportation bill pass by. The public wants road repairs, and there was a strong desire to fill budget gaps for roads, bridges, transit, pedestrian and other modes of transportation. Now is the time to look at new and creative ways to put some money into our transportation system.

The bonding bill has a lot of money for transportation, something we advocated for strongly. The Omnibus Transportation bill provides permanent funding for the Small Cities Assistance Fund, which will support more than 700 cities. This will cover road and bridge improvement programs. In addition, the Omnibus Transportation Bill included the addition of a retail delivery fee of .50 cents for purchases over $100 that will fund both the Small Cities Assistance and Large Cities Assistance Funds. This is a nice chunk of money that cities can use on any streets they have road authority over and will have a large impact on communities.

BF: Were there any surprises in this session?

AF: Yes, the indexing of the gas tax came as a surprise. It wasn’t discussed early in the process, so it was very interesting how it played out at the end. Indexing will start in January of 2024 and will increase the gas tax by .50 cents per gallon by 2027. As inflation continues to grow over time, this will as well.

BF: In what ways will this additional funding impact or work with the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act (IIJA)?

AF: The Omnibus Transportation Bill includes $216 million for discretionary matches in which grants are matched to local units of government for federal funds. Additionally, the Grants Technical Assistance Program was created and will allow the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to help local units of government secure federal funds. This new program can then maximize what Minnesota gets in IIJA funds— ensuring that projects at the local level can be accomplished.

BF: Any advice for communities or those with projects in mind?

AF: My best advice is to be prepared. If anyone has a project in mind that they would like to see funded, they need to start preparing for any potential solicitations now. This will allow communities to be ready for when solicitations come out and they can be first in line for funding.

I will also stress patience. At LMC, we’re still exploring how cities can take advantage of the additional funding as a result of the session. As we move toward fall, we’ll be sure to alert our members to any opportunities on the horizon.

BF: What do you think next year’s session will hold?

AF: I could see there being another bonding bill. If projects get built and there continue to be more shovel ready projects out there— many lobbyists agree that it could be a possibility. I also believe some bills could be reviewed and cleaned up. There were several lengthy bills that were drafted and passed, and after further review there may be some tweaks that need to be made.

All this investment in infrastructure has shined a light on the labor shortage, especially in the construction industry. They are anticipating a need for an additional 40,000 workers just to deliver the projects that were passed this year. I anticipate some initiatives to get more people interested in the trades so we can support these infrastructure projects.

BF: Thank you, Anne. As always, I appreciate your expertise and valuable insights.

Bart Fischer has over two decades of experience in public administration. Throughout his tenure, he’s worked in five Minnesota communities as the city or assistant city administrator.  Bart joined our firm in 2019 as a senior public administrator and focuses on lending his public service expertise to our clients.

[email protected] | 651.485.1839

Anne Finn is intergovernmental relations director for the League of Minnesota Cities (LMC). Since 2000, she has represented the League and its member cities before the state legislature and other levels of government on issues involving public safety, transportation, public pensions and local decision-making authority. Anne’s background includes a combination of legislative and local government experience. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in government from the College of Saint Benedict and a Master of Arts degree in public administration from Hamline University.

WSB places #43 on Zweig’s Hot Firm List 

June 2, 2023

WSB was recently named a 2023 Hot Firm by the Zweig Group for the tenth consecutive year. The list honors the fastest growing firms in the AEC industry in the U.S. and Canada. The chosen companies have surpassed both the economy and their competitors to emerge as frontrunners in their respective industries. Ranking is based on three-year growth in revenue, by both percentage and growth. WSB ranks #43 on this year’s list.  

Hot Firm #43

The Zweig Group is the leading research, publishing, and advisory services resource for firms in the AEC industry. The Zweig Group’s awards programs recognize and celebrate top AEC industry firms in several categories.  Winners will be recognized at the 2021 Elevate AEC Conference in November. 

View the complete list of Hot Firm winners.