Developing Resilient Transportation Systems with Emergency Traffic Management Plans

February 12, 2024
By Saeed Sobhi, Regional Design Manager, WSB

Emergencies will happen. Disasters will happen. Communities must have thorough plans in place to prepare for and respond to a multitude of potential emergencies, ensuring public safety and preservation of property.

As communities face more extreme weather and other climate change related events such as fire, flooding, and mudslides, exploring resiliency and sustainability of assets and advance planning in emergency response and evacuation are critical. Will a road or a bridge need to be expanded? Are current facilities like local schools capable of providing shelter during an emergency? If tragedy strikes and thousands of vehicles need to go through one road to evacuate, can that path handle the strain? Are communication tools and protocols in place to effectively and efficiently notify residents to give them instructions? Do response agencies have the proper tools and resources? Properly developing emergency response traffic management plans is critical to safety.

Recent investments from the federal government like the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) have provided renewed opportunities for becoming more resilient to extreme weather events, but also to tackle sustainability goals. For example, the IIJA provided $110 billion for repairing and updating infrastructure. In the process of constructing an emergency response plan, roads and bridges and other key infrastructure that require updating can be noted allowing the city or county governments to apply for this newly accessible aid. The IIJA also provided an additional $50 billion with the explicit goal of making infrastructure more resilient to extreme weather events. The combination of these types of investments both in repairs and weatherizing updates provides ample opportunity for communities to take initiative in formulating emergency response/traffic management plans and ensuring their infrastructure will hold up in the face of disaster.

Here are some ways that communities can think about building robust emergency response plans that are smart and sustainable.

Think About Roadways

Just as the average student grows up learning where to go during a fire drill, a community needs a clear picture of how to respond in case of an emergency. This is where an emergency response plan comes in.

Using Colorado as an example, communities faced severe natural fires, flooding, and mudslide events that required extensive response work and evacuations. Communities in mountainous regions are especially susceptible as a severe mudslide can cut off road access. The size of these recent events and the damage caused has led more communities to recognize the need for sustainability and resiliency measures both to defend themselves from climate related disasters, but also to attempt to prevent future events. Proper design, routine inspection and systematic maintenance of roads and bridges is a key component of preparedness.

Preparedness also requires detailing clear evacuation routes and easily accessible paths for emergency responders. Making note of not only the best currently available paths, but also what areas may be improved or expanded. If a specific bridge is developed to include additional lanes for traffic, would it become a higher priority evacuation route? Also, are there roads where counterflow can be implemented to expedite evacuation? Having a detailed perspective of the roadway system and its capabilities is tantamount in emergency planning.

Navigate Available Facilities and Capabilities

Environmental threats can come in a wide variety of forms like power outages during freezing temperatures, wildfires that encroach on communities, or heavy rains that flood residential areas. These environmental hazards, among others, are affecting people and communities all over the country. One matter that all of these have in common is what happens once people have evacuated? These abnormal weather events like the recent freezing temperatures and power outages in Texas reveal a greater need for facilities that can handle the strain of housing evacuees and are designed with the goal in mind of weathering the storm.

Emergency plans need to include the capabilities for people to reach shelter, but also the ability for facilities to handle becoming a shelter. Event centers or schools are evaluated on how many people they can accommodate as an impromptu evacuation shelter. Do the facilities have enough capacity and the necessary amenities like cooling or heating systems? Knowing a facility can provide space and heating when a nearby residential area faces power outages in subzero temperatures will be a life saver.

Collaborate to Build Success

The resiliency of emergency planning requires collaboration across local governments. The different stakeholders in the development of an emergency plan include local city government, city emergency responders like police and fire rescue, the state’s department of transportation, neighboring municipalities that share the primary roads and bridges used during evacuations, and counties for when the plans extend beyond the reach of one individual community.

Collaborative efforts come in the forms of understanding what equipment is available for communicating during emergencies or for emergency responders to properly respond. On many occasions the local department of transportation holds jurisdiction over specific roadways or can aid in developing plans for parking and access to highways. These evacuation zones can be made digital so communication is fluid through the various agencies and the residents affected can be notified as soon as possible.

How WSB Can Help

With more attention being placed on sustainability and eco-friendly construction projects, attention should be given to maintaining and improving resiliency for the growing number of extreme weather events brought on by climate change. From designing sustainable infrastructure to helping communities create in-depth emergency management plans, WSB is here to help.

Our team has rich experience covering a variety of specialties that can help communities prepare. Our team has meaningful experience developing and supporting implementation of incident management plans and emergency traffic management response plans, as well as facilitating collaboration and consensus building among stakeholders.

Saeed has 25 years of experience with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) where he worked on transportation planning, project design and delivery, transportation system management and operations, planning for operations, incident management, traffic engineering, and asset management and maintenance. He has special interest and focus on Transportation System Management and Operations (TSM&O), and application of technology in Transportation..

[email protected] | 720.512.2891

Transportation grants

New Transportation Grants: Tips on Getting Selected 

September 18, 2023
By Mary Gute, Sr Transportation Planner, WSB

Transportation grants are crucial to funding local city and county transportation-related projects. What can local governments do to stand out, score well and ensure they receive funding for their priority projects? Here is more information on the transportation grants and how to qualify. 

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) Local Road Improvement Program

MnDOT’s 2023 Local Road Improvement Program solicitation is designated for projects that will be constructed between 2024-2026. A total of $103 million is available during this round of funding. The maximum dollar amount that can be awarded is $1.5 million per project. Applications are due December 8, 2023, and award announcements are expected March 29, 2024. There is no match required for these funds.

What projects qualify?

Each project must fit within one of three buckets that correlate to these MnDOT accounts: trunk highway corridor, routes of regional significance or rural road safety. 

  • Trunk highway corridor projects must be on county, local, or township roads that are impacted by MnDOT trunk highway improvements. 
  • Projects in the routes of regional significance bucket are for roads classified as A-minor collector roads or higher. LRIP funds can be used for road construction, reconstruction or reconditioning projects. This fund is also intended to fund projects that would have regional significance, could help reduce congestion or spur economic development along corridors. 
  • Roads not classified as an A-minor collector or higher can also qualify for these funds by meeting a portion of the below criteria:
    • Classified as a farm to market route
    • Providing capacity or congestion relief to a parallel truck highway system or county road
    • Included in an economic development plan
    • Included as part of a 10-ton route or network
    • Connect to a tourist destination
    • Connect to the regional transportation system, trunk highway or county road
How can your locality increase its chances of receiving this funding?

If your project fits into one of these three buckets, how can you ensure your project receives funding? 

MnDOT looks at eligibility, operations and safety, regional significance, support by relevant local governments including availability of other funding sources, lack of controversy, expected useful life of at least a decade and high impact. Projects will be weighted on a variety of factors including 25 percent for project readiness and 5 percent for complete streets consideration which focuses on safety and accessibility. 

Furthermore, projects that stand out have a large positive impact on the community and are ready to begin construction. That means ensuring all planning documents are up to date and demonstrate how the project will contribute to the local economy, region and/or residents. 

For communities with less than five thousand residents, it’s also important to secure a resolution of support from the local county before applying for the grant. 

Finally, early coordination with MnDOT district staff, including the District State Aid Engineer and the District State Aid Assistant can be helpful to vetting potential projects and establishing projects to submit through the LRIP and other competitive funding programs. 

Metropolitan Council Regional Solicitation Grants

The Metropolitan Council Regional Solicitation Grants distribute federal funding for a wide range of transportation improvements, including roadways and bicycle/pedestrian projects. While the start date this program has not yet been announced, this is the perfect time to plan ahead and prepare. It is also the time to ensure communities can secure the 20 percent required match. 

What can I do to prepare before this program opens up?

Communities can determine if their projects qualify for the Regional Solicitation program and how competitive their project will be well in advance of the program opening up. This includes determining the application type that needs to be submitted and if the project is in alignment with the programs prioritizing criteria, which includes role in the transportation system and economy, equity, infrastructure condition, safety, project readiness and community engagement. These cross-cutting areas of emphasis are great opportunities for communities to augment their sustainability and resiliency efforts.

How can you increase your chances of receiving this funding?

Funding for eligible projects is very competitive so making sure your project stands out is critical. To increase the chances of receiving Regional Solicitation funding, projects should align with the Council’s planning documents. Projects that improve accessibility for low income or traditionally disadvantaged communities will also score better, like projects that focus on environmental justice (EJ) communities. To find out more, visit the state’s EJ mapping tool and other resources at Environmental justice | Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (

Collaboration and partnership are also key to setting a project apart. All jurisdictions involved should be supportive of the project and working with partners now across levels of government will demonstrate project readiness. Moreover, being able to demonstrate stakeholder engagement like public meetings or resident input specific to the proposed project can also elevate your project to the top among applicants. 

It is notable that for the 2024 cycle, the Met Council has increased the weight placed on addressing fatalities on the transportation system, making this the highest valued criterion for many application categories.

How WSB Can Help

These grants provide amazing opportunities to help fund critical transportation projects. WSB’s experienced team knows how to make projects stand out and increase your chances of receiving funding. 

Contact us for guidance on everything from project competitiveness to assisting with transportation grant applications.

Mary has 20 years of progressively complex transportation planning and project management experience, gained from working on a variety of transportation projects for modes including roads/bridge, transit, and trails. Several these projects have included environmental documentation considerations – either pre-NEPA, or through NEPA and/or MEPA processes.

[email protected] | 612.741.7055

5 Ways To Improve Pedestrian Safety For All Residents

August 14, 2023
By Gus Perron, Project Manager, WSB

In recent years, there has been a distressing increase in pedestrian-vehicle collisions, highlighting the vulnerability of pedestrians on the road. Several reasons have contributed to this surge including the unforeseen impact of COVID-19, which kept people off the roads for extended periods, leading to increased speeds and reduced vigilance. Moreover, distracted driving due to the prevalence of smartphones and electronic devices, impaired driving, speeding and inadequate pedestrian infrastructure have all played a role in pedestrian-related accidents and fatalities.

Combating this concerning trend necessitates a comprehensive approach encompassing awareness campaigns, responsible driving habits, and improved infrastructure to prioritize pedestrian safety and reduce these tragic accidents.

Here are five things communities can do to increase pedestrian safety.

Implement a Complete Streets policy

Communities should consider a Complete Streets transportation policy that prioritizes the safety and accessibility of all road users. That means finding balance and designing streets that cater to pedestrians, cyclists, public transit users and motorists. Complete streets encourage active transportation and promote pedestrian safety. With dedicated bike lanes, well-marked crosswalks and improved transit facilities, the policy fosters a pedestrian-friendly environment while enhancing overall traffic flow. By combining these elements and striking a balance, communities can advance holistic solutions to improve safety for all users. 

Protect students with Safe Routes To School

Safe Routes to School is a national program dedicated to enhancing pedestrian safety for students traveling to and from school. By funding and implementing infrastructure improvements and traffic calming measures, Safe Routes to School creates safer pathways, crosswalks and bike lanes for children. Moreover, the program emphasizes educational initiatives to promote road safety awareness and responsible pedestrian behavior. Cities should explore grant funding opportunities for safe routes to school projects. 

Adopt a policy on uncontrolled crossings

Uncontrolled crossings, characterized by the absence of stop signs or traffic signals, pose significant safety challenges for pedestrians. To address this issue, it is crucial to develop a comprehensive policy that clearly communicates what a community’s rules and priorities are at these types of crossings. Building local support is essential in gaining traction for the implementation of appropriate measures which could include installing marked crosswalks, warning signs, pedestrian refuge islands, curb extensions (bumpouts) or beacons to enhance pedestrian visibility and safety. By proactively addressing uncontrolled crossings, local authorities can create safer road environments and protect pedestrians and drivers from potential hazards.

Design facilities for pedestrians of all abilities 

Ensuring safe and accessible facilities for pedestrians with physical disabilities at crossings is of the utmost importance, a protected civil right. There must be sufficient signal crosswalk times so people with mobility issues can cross safely. Additionally, implementing detectable warning surfaces at curb ramps can serve as tactile indicators for those with vision impairments, alerting pedestrians that the protection of the sidewalk is ending and a crosswalk is beginning. Sidewalks should also be wide enough and without barriers, cracks, large gaps, etc. to ensure they are usable for people with disabilities including wheelchair users. 

By incorporating these features, municipalities can enhance pedestrian safety and create a more inclusive and accommodating environment for everyone. 

Consider the technology and tools that work best for a crossing 

Different types of beacons can serve different types of crossings, so communities should explore what works best. RRFB (Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon) warning lights can be installed, requiring pedestrians to push a button to activate flashing lights, alerting vehicles that people are crossing. Alternatively, a Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon, activated by pedestrians, can operate similarly to a traffic light, flashing yellow and red to control traffic flow. Although the Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon may cost more upfront, it becomes more advantageous for pedestrians in areas with higher traffic volume or faster vehicle speeds. By integrating these technologies, communities can improve the overall pedestrian experience and improve safety. 

How WSB can help

WSB plays a vital role in enhancing pedestrian safety and accessibility. We can help communities identify funding, develop policies, as well as scope, design, and construct pedestrian infrastructure enhancements. By thoroughly analyzing the impact of traffic solutions for vehicles and pedestrians, including those using mobility devices, they ensure comprehensive and inclusive planning, balancing the needs of pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists. Drawing from their depth of experience, WSB actively listens to clients’ needs, tailoring individualized plans that address specific community needs. With a keen focus on safety, WSB considers existing speeds, crossing widths and traffic volumes to identify the most effective solutions to mitigate potential fatalities. Leveraging the latest technological tools for data collection, WSB can assess data to identify areas of highest need, allowing for practical and data-driven improvements.

Gus is WSB’s expert in accessible pedestrian and bicycle facilities, with a traffic engineering background which allows him to blend pedestrian accessibility with safety and mobility. He uses best practices to achieve constructable and usable pedestrian facilities for a variety of project scopes across different environments.

[email protected] | 612.360.1296

Supporting the Infrastructure of an Entire Community

July 18, 2023
By Brian Bourassa, VP of Corporate Development

Investing in the vitality of the city of Lino Lakes, Minnesota.

At WSB, we use the term infrastructure broadly to define the places, spaces and systems that support our lives.  As important as infrastructure is to our way of life, we don’t often think about it until something goes wrong.  We’ve been privileged to support communities across the U.S. with their infrastructure needs. The scale of the projects may vary, but the impact is always significant.  

For the last several decades, the city of Lino Lakes, just north of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro, has been investing in their infrastructure across the community.  In the end, it’s not one single project that has helped to build a vibrant community, but rather the collective investment in varying infrastructure. These investments have played a vital role in spurring development and progress within the city.

1. Biological Water Treatment Plant

The city is currently planning to construct a water treatment plant due to some of the city wells having manganese levels above the recommended guidelines. A biological treatment approach is unique because it relies on natural microbial activity to remove contaminants rather than chemicals, an environmentally sustainable strategy.

2. West Shadow Lake Drive

West Shadow Lake Drive is a residential street that was plagued by potholes, had no sewer or water, and faced challenges from high groundwater levels due to its proximity to Reshanau Lake. As part of the city’s pavement management program, the road was removed and replaced to support the city’s roadway infrastructure and sanitary sewer, watermain and storm sewer infrastructure was also installed. In addition, environmental work and wetland enhancements occurred throughout the area.

3. 12th Avenue Trail Project

The 12th Avenue Trail connection was identified as a priority in the city’s Comprehensive Parks and Trails System Capital Improvement Plan due to the lack of trail connection along 12th Avenue.  Prior to project completion, the busy rural road was narrow with unsafe conditions for pedestrians and cyclists. The project resulted in increased safety and a more bikeable, accessible community.

4. Master Plan and Comprehensive Stormwater Management Plan

Located in the northeast corner of Lino Lakes is a 1300-acre greenfield area that is prime for development opportunities. WSB was contracted to develop a master plan, comprehensive stormwater management plan and update the Alternative Urban Areawide Review (AUAR) for the area. Development opportunities will include residential, industrial and commercial that will spur economic activity in the area. 

5. The Rookery Activity Center

When the local YMCA closed in 2020 it left a hole in the community. The city of Lino Lakes took action to reinvigorate the space. To establish itself as a new asset within the community, the building needed an overhaul, not just in amenities and programming, but also the brand.  WSB worked with the city to develop a story, identity and brand assets.

6. Tower Park  

Tower Park is located on a 60-acre piece of land that was purchased by the city over 20 years ago.  The city council felt strongly about developing the space into a destination recreation area for the community.  WSB provided the park master plan and phase 1 design support. Tower Park is now home to some of the city’s most popular pickleball and tennis courts.  The project was completed last year. 

7. Birch Street Roundabouts

Birch Street is a heavily traveled roadway through the city with frequent accidents occurring due to the number of entrances to the high-speed roadway.  There were safety concerns from residents and a nearby school. To help alleviate the number of accidents and increase safety, several roundabouts, medians, crosswalks and safety signage were added.

8. Gateways to the City – Placemaking

Lino Lakes is a proud community and wants to enhance their welcoming presence by creating placemaking monuments at city entrances. The project is still under development, but once complete, the entrances will offer a ‘front door’ to the city and will invite visitors and residents to step inside and explore the community.

9. Feasibility Study – Lake Amelia Subwatershed

A 255-acre subwatershed of Lake Amelia is currently undergoing a feasibility study to address existing stormwater management concerns and anticipated future land use changes to the area.  The short-term phase includes solutions to address flooding concerns.  The long-term phase proposes more holistic improvements to the corridor that that would occur alongside its eventual development. The study will help guide future planning in the area and will ensure that the area is prime for development.

10. Shenandoah Park Improvements

In partnership with the Rice Creek Watershed District, the city is exploring multiple improvements to the Shenandoah Park area to improve water quality, ensure its habitat is supported, and create a destination for park users. WSB is currently exploring water quality improvement options, wetland restoration, flood retention and greenway spaces to support the goals of the watershed district and the city.

Brian has more than 25 years of experience in the civil engineering field and has worked extensively in both the public and private market sectors. This experience has provided Brian with a broad engineering background, and has allowed him to develop a strong understanding of both public financing and private business perspectives. Brian’s lasting client relationships are a testament to the focus he places on developing creative solutions and providing over-the-top customer service.

Magnolia Relief Route

July 18, 2023

By David Balmos, Vice President and Brad Tiemann, SR Project Manager

Relieving the gridlock.

Located in Montgomery County, the 7th fastest growing county in the U.S., is the city of Magnolia, Texas. Well-known for its access to the Texas Piney Woods and sprawling magnolia trees, the city is nestled in the southwest part of the county and is situated along the heavily traveled FM 1488.  

For years, the community has been managing severe congestion, safety issues and significant delays at the intersection of FM 1488 and FM 1774.  As the city of Magnolia and the surrounding areas continue to experience record growth, the congestion has only worsened. Not only is traffic a concern, but vehicles heading east-west along the corridor need to travel over a railroad, creating another complication.   

Solutions to the bottleneck.

Many ideas have been vetted to alleviate the traffic – most of them resulting in substantial impacts to the historic downtown Magnolia. To ensure the community keeps its economic footing, a bypass around the town was proposed. The $114 million Magnolia Relief Route will include five miles of new four-lane roadways that will extend west from FM 1488, cross over a Union Pacific Railroad track, and connect with the Texas 249 tollway.  

Accelerating the timeline.

The project has been on the Texas Department of Transportation’s (TxDOT) list for nearly a decade. To accelerate the timeline, WSB is delivering the project through 3D digital delivery. Digital delivery results in efficiencies, and speed that would not be possible through traditional design delivery methods. The timeline from schematic design to final will take less than eight months which will then allow the county and city to have plans finalized when funds become available. 

Toll revenue and project funding.

The project will partly be funded through toll revenue from Texas 249, a state-operated toll road. FM 1488 will connect to Texas 249. In Texas, any new facility that brings traffic to the toll road is eligible to be funded out of the toll revenue. Additionally, $10 million was earmarked by Montgomery County as part of the required match in the 2015 road bond. The project is anticipated to be bid in 2024. 

Services Provided

  • Design
  • Environmental Services
  • Cost Estimates
  • Union Pacific Railroad Permitting & Coordination
  • Surveying
  • Drainage Studies

By the Numbers

  • 5 miles of new roadway
  • $114 million project
  • 8 month accelerated timeline
  • Eliminates 15,000 vehicles each day from crossing the Union Pacific Railroad at-grade crossing.

As Vice President, David will be responsible for driving business and working across many markets in the region including the department of transportation, toll road authorities, county government agencies, transit authorities, port authorities and local municipalities.  In addition, David will support projects in the private sector, working closely with land developers, commercial interests, oil and gas and pipeline transport.

Brad is a Senior Project Manager with 30 years of engineering experience in the design, construction and maintenance of transportation facilities. He has led the development, preparation and plan review (QA/QC) of more than 100 separate PS&E packages including urban arterials, municipal streets, rural highways and bridges. He has considerable experience with maintenance and construction for transportation facilities in Texas, and as a recent TxDOT retiree, Brad has a strong understanding of the Texas transportation system.

Infrastructure Trends: The Art of the Roundabout

July 18, 2023

By Andrew Plowman, SR Project Manager

In just a quarter century, the number of roundabouts has increased 3,000 percent across the country. Roundabouts are growing in prevalence because of how they can effectively, efficiently, and safely move traffic. Numerous designs and geometric shapes allow roundabouts to seamlessly integrate into our transportation infrastructure.  

Below are five facts about roundabouts – an infrastructure trend that’s here to stay.

1. Roundabouts improve safety.

A major reason that roundabouts have grown in popularity is because of their safety record. The designs help prevent serious crashes and fatalities. Slower speeds and the angle at which cars enter roundabouts significantly reduce the probability of head on and T-bone accidents.  Multi-lane roundabouts may have property damage only crashes when they are first introduced, but the chances for fatal or injury crashes drop significantly.  In most cases, crashes at roundabouts are fender benders.  

Pedestrian safety is also improved at roundabouts, although this can be a difficult concept for some to understand.  Most feel that because there is not the presence of a signal telling the motorist when to stop and the pedestrian when to go, that it cannot be safe.  However, there are several reasons the pedestrian crossing experience is improved:

  • Slower speeds
  • Shorter crossing distance
  • Fewer conflict points
  • Navigating traffic from one direction and refuge islands
  • The pedestrian crosswalk is pulled back from the yield line allowing drivers to make a decision at the crosswalk before entering the roundabout

What’s more, because of their safety track record, they score well with many federal programs and are often eligible for grant funding.

2. Roundabouts handle high and low volumes efficiently.

Have you ever sat at a light for what feels like forever, even when there is no other traffic around? Roundabouts solve that problem, providing self-optimizing control. Roundabouts keep traffic moving. Roundabouts handle both high and low volume traffic well.  The effect of a rolling queue creates a situation where delay seems more acceptable to the driving public.  In the early 2000’s, many roundabouts were overbuilt based on the modeling results.  Many multi-lane roundabouts have since been retrofit to simpler geometry, and still perform operationally well. 

3. Roundabouts significantly improve access management in busy corridors.

In areas where there are many driveways and businesses along a corridor, it can be difficult for exiting traffic to turn left onto busy streets.   The implementation of a roundabout corridor allows left turns to be eliminated while access is maintained and for drivers to make a U-turn.  This creates a safer and efficient corridor.

4. Roundabouts have growing buy-in from the public.

When communities begin building roundabouts, there can be a fair amount of skepticism and concern from the public. As more communities adopt roundabouts and more drivers have successfully used them, that skepticism is significantly reduced.  

In communities that are new to roundabouts, a robust public engagement strategy is executed to educate the public. Public engagement tactics often include modeling, educational materials, visualizations and myth busting presentations that dispel the myths and provide education about the roundabouts, .

5. There are times when roundabouts are the wrong design choice.

While roundabouts are a growing trend, they aren’t right for every situation. Areas with high traffic volumes in one direction, with limited left turns on or to the side street, may not be ideal for a roundabout, as appropriate gaps may not be created. If roadways are already designed for traffic signals with multiple lanes, it may be more efficient to install traffic lights as opposed to redesigning a street for a roundabout.

Roundabouts are growing in popularity for a reason and are here to stay. Efficient traffic flow, improved safety, and operational efficiency make them a smart infrastructure choice for many communities.

Roundabouts move people and communities forward. 

Andrew is a transportation project manager and lead design engineer with over 20 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.


Q&A with Travis Wieber | VP of Transportation

July 18, 2023

Travis Wieber is the Vice President of Transportation at WSB. Travis joined our firm in 2022 and leads our transportation efforts throughout the Midwest. Wieber will also play a large role in our expansion of staff and services in the Fargo, North Dakota geographic market this year. 

Q: You joined our firm just over a year ago.  What about WSB attracted you?

There were several factors that influenced my decision to join WSB.  My background has always been in consultant engineering, and I knew it would be a great opportunity to be a part of a successful and growing organization. I knew that WSB had tremendous talent and it was a team I wanted to be part of. Meeting Jon Chiglo, our COO, and Bret Weiss, our CEO, proved that this was the right place for me. I was impressed with their leadership and vision for the company and how it influences us now and in the future.

Q: What factors have contributed to the growth of WSB and our expansion into North Dakota?

Currently, there is a lot of work to be completed in the engineering industry and companies that are performing have a big opportunity in front of them. I strongly believe that WSB is that company.  Our clients understand that we will deliver successfully. It’s why we often have repeat work. Our successful delivery has significantly contributed to our growth and allows us to attract new talent and expand in new locations, like North Dakota.

Q: How has transportation been advancing in North Dakota?

The state has seen steady growth over the years. WSB is changing the way our industry delivers projects through advanced project delivery and have an opportunity to bring this approach to the North Dakota market, much like we’ve done in Minnesota and Texas.

Q: Why is the North Dakota market important to the growth of WSB?

The North Dakota market has a stable economy and is investing heavily in infrastructure. North Dakota is also a very energy dependent state with robust funding. While it may not be the size of our other markets, it provides us with an opportunity to build a strong talent pipeline with our college relationships (Go Bison!) and grow our client footprint. The market has a vast number of engineers, surveyors, and planners available who can help us deliver in any of our markets or regions. The expansion into this market will influence our workload and diversifies our business offerings.

Q: What makes WSB best suited to support infrastructure needs across the Midwest?

As a full-service design firm, we have access to every area of expertise within our company ‘walls.’ Our roots are in the Midwest which has allowed us to learn from our client base and take this knowledge with us to new markets.  We take a bold approach to the way we work, and I find that exciting. We don’t take the same approach as everyone else and that’s a big differentiator for us.

Q: What does the future of WSB look like?

We will experience growth and will expand our regional footprint. The model we built in Minnesota is applicable to other areas of the country.  We’ll use this model to bring all our services into the Fargo and Bismarck areas. Taking steps regionally and diversifying our geographies creates opportunities. We believe in building what’s next in infrastructure and our passion, drive and innovation will guide that.

Q: How will you support the growth of WSB throughout the Midwest?

One of my biggest focuses as we experience growth throughout the Midwest is to ensure that we’re collaborating with each other across geographies. Our talent extends throughout the U.S. That’s the great thing about the way we work. Project teams don’t always need to be working in the same office. We’ll focus on putting the best teams together to support our clients’ needs across our organization.

Q: What are the strategic goals for the North Dakota market?

We will grow our existing relationships with the state and city market clients. We are well-positioned to support the infrastructure needs of our partners across the state. Our expanded Fargo office really emphasizes our commitment to the community.  We’ll be building our talent through strategic hires that will be able to support the needs of our clients throughout the Midwest. 

Q: What do you wish our clients knew about WSB?

I wish more of clients knew the depth of services we offer and the approach we take to solving complex challenges. We strive to be a one-stop shop providing comprehensive solutions with great customer service.

Travis wieber

How we are leveraging technology to improve project delivery, add value to projects, and reduce risk is a focus across our firm. We have a great story to tell and I’m looking forward to sharing that with new and existing clients alike.

Graphic with line drawing of a town

TxDOT selects WSB for Comprehensive Engineering Consultant (CEC) Services Houston District

The firm is selected to deliver $10 million in engineering services over four years

May 23, 2023

Engineering and consulting firm WSB announced today that they have been awarded a contract by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Houston District as a prime provider of Comprehensive Engineering Consultant (CEC) services.

“We welcome the opportunity to support the Houston District’s engineering needs,” said Bret Weiss, WSB’s president and chief executive officer. “This is our first large-scale contract with TxDOT’s Houston District, and we see this as a significant advantage because we have the opportunity to shape the way infrastructure projects are delivered in the Houston community. As a firm, we lead the industry in in digital delivery across the country. We’re looking forward to bringing a more innovative, collaborative approach to design and engineering services for the state of Texas’ infrastructure needs.”

Through TxDOT’s Professional Engineering Procurement Services (PEPS) division, the CEC contracts are solicited through an RFP process and use qualification-based selection to procure services. PEPS mission is to obtain the most qualified consultants to deliver effective solutions for Texas. The division has $1.35 billion allocated for consultant services in 2023 alone.

“TxDOT’s commitment to delivering safe, reliable and integrated transportation systems align well with our capabilities and expertise,” said David Balmos, WSB’s vice president of strategy. “Our technical approach, deep bench of in-house expertise, approach to project management and our resumé of notable design and engineering projects will be vital to TxDOT’s long-range transportation plan.”

In addition to the CEC contract, WSB provides engineering services to TxDOT for the I-10 Inner Katy project, a $1.2 billion program to reconstruct five miles of urban freeway in Houston.  

Six Things You Didn’t Know About Traffic Signals

March 13, 2023
By Sean Delmore, Director of Traffic, WSB

Traffic signals are an often-overlooked aspect of everyday life. But when you stop at a traffic signal, did you ever also stop and think about how, where, and why these signals are used? Here are six things you may not know about traffic signals.  

When is a traffic signal needed?

Communities thoughtfully decide where traffic signals are needed vs. roundabouts or stop signs. An Intersection Control Evaluation (ICE) is conducted to determine the appropriate method of traffic control, which includes a detailed signal warrant analysis. These studies measure the existing vehicular and non-motorized (pedestrian/bicycle) traffic volumes and evaluate crash history at the intersection. WSB traffic experts conduct these evaluations in partnership with communities and local governments to collect the necessary data and determine if a signal would help improve the traffic safety and operations of the area. 

Traffic signals are typically designed to last more than 20 years with routine maintenance and designed to handle forecasted traffic volumes 20 years out. The federal government has requirements that must be followed when planning for the installation of new signals. These requirements include signal warrants that are found in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). 

What are the benefits of a traffic signal?

Efficiency and safety are the top benefits of traffic signals. Signals are designed to keep up the progression of heavy traffic while ensuring there are no undue delays to side streets. The signals imitate elements of human decision-making, such as when a pedestrian should cross a busy intersection or when it is safe for a vehicle to make a left turn. Removing that decision from the person and incorporating it into an automated system like the traffic signal increases the overall safety for vehicles and pedestrians.

The ability to efficiently manage traffic flow can also be a significant factor in the success of local businesses and the livability of an area for families. For instance, access management developed by signals reduces the chaos of vehicles entering and existing businesses onto the main corridor.

How do traffic signals communicate with emergency vehicles? 

Traffic signals can change to the green phase for emergency vehicles allowing them to respond quickly and safely to incidents. Most emergency vehicles have an emitter on the dashboard that communicates with the traffic signal to safely end an opposing signal phase and bring up a green indication for the emergency vehicle. The technology also will extend the length of a green cycle if it is currently green for the direction an emergency vehicle is travelling.

Why do traffic signals always turn red for me?

Despite what we sometimes think, not all traffic signals turn red as you approach— in fact, it is just the opposite. Traffic signals have “dilemma zone protection,” which extends the length of a green light when a vehicle passes the back detection as it approaches the light. This keeps the light green to eliminate the human dilemma of whether to speed up or stop when the light turns yellow. 

Additionally, sensors in the ground at the intersection detect cars as they approach. For example, in many signalized locations, a minor street with lower vehicle volumes won’t change to green unless a vehicle is waiting at the red light to maximize the efficiency of the major roadway. 

What’s the latest innovation with traffic signals?

Flashing yellow arrows are one of the latest innovations in traffic signals. The flashing yellow arrow allows the driver to decide when it is appropriate to turn left, as opposed to controlling left-turns with green and red arrows. This feature on signals may also change based on the time of day. For example, the flashing yellow left turn arrow may be used on a Sunday night when traffic volumes are significantly lower. Then, during Monday morning rush hour, when traffic volumes increase substantially, the flashing yellow arrow will not be utilized, and the signal can offer a protected only phase because there is too great a risk posed to left turning vehicles trying to find an acceptable gap against the amount of oncoming traffic.  

What’s on the horizon for traffic signals?

One element of future traffic signals being considered more and more in major metropolitan areas is incorporating pedestrians and cyclists into the signal system. Engineers are rethinking classic intersection designs to incorporate new technology such as Audible Pedestrian Signals (APS) & ADA compliant curb ramp improvements, as well as bicycle markings for improving safety and accessibility for all modes.

How WSB Can Help

If you have concerns or complaints about an intersection, WSB’s team of experts are here to help. We can perform an Intersection Control Evaluation or provide suggestions how to move traffic safely and efficiently through your community.

Sean has more than 28 years of transportation experience. He specializes in traffic operations, lighting, signing & striping, and signal design. He is a licensed Professional Traffic Operations Engineer and leads WSB’s Traffic Engineering Group. Prior to joining WSB, Sean served 17 years with MnDOT, where he worked mainly in the Metro and Central Office Traffic Engineering.

[email protected] | 612.360.1322

Sean Delmore
Texas Road

Q&A with Rob Bailey | VP of Transportation – Texas

January 12, 2023

Rob Bailey is the Vice President of Transportation – Texas at WSB. Rob has over three decades of engineering experience. His dedicated background and ability to lead has contributed to the expansion of WSB’s footprint in Texas since joining our firm a year ago.

In this Q&A, Rob shares his reflections on the expansion and future of WSB in the Texas market.

You’ve worked in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) Industry for many years, how has your experience informed how you approach your role at WSB?

My experience is almost entirely in the state of Texas, I have over 30 years of experience working on transportation infrastructure, the first ten at the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) which has been foundational for me. Building that foundation has helped me learn about our client needs, understand their culture, and it has allowed me to build personal connections and relationships that I have taken with me throughout my career. Having that background has given me what I need to be successful in this role in terms of leadership and transportation knowledge.

What is your favorite part about leading the Texas transportation team?

I really enjoy the people side of leading. I see my role and team much like a sports team. I am the general manager, and I must understand the rules of the game, and the playing field, and I must analyze and put together a strategy for success. I am also in charge of recruiting the best talent and having the right players. I need to figure out their strengths and weaknesses and find what position fits best within the team and the organization.

How has transportation been advancing in Texas?

The transportation program has changed dramatically over the last year. I am really excited about the team we have built and the clients we have added. Moving forward, we have all the pieces we want in place, and I am really optimistic about the future. Fortunately, the market lines up with my optimism. TxDOT has a steady stream of revenue that will support infrastructure across the state. We are experiencing significant population growth that is stretching city and county resources, which means we need to help build the infrastructure to support that growth.

How has WSB grown? What factors do you think made this possible?

There are two factors that pertain to the growth of WSB. One is the market, along with the policies that elected officials enact. The other is the soft side, the people side. We are focused on our staff. We are committed to hiring staff that is well-known in the industry and well-respected by our clients which will help us to maintain relationships and foster new opportunities.

Why is the Texas market important to the growth of WSB?

The opportunities for growth in Texas are significant. The population and growth of the state are driving both the infrastructure and energy markets. As a company, our mission is to build what’s next in infrastructure and this is a great place to do just that. Our company roots in Minnesota and the deep bench of expertise we have throughout the country help position us for success. The infrastructure needs across our country vary and it helps us expand our knowledge and bring new ideas and innovations to our clients regardless of location.

What makes WSB best suited to support industry efforts in Texas?

WSB has a true understanding of the client’s needs. We believe in working with our clients to help them be successful. Many WSB staff in Texas have experience working for owners, contractors, and engineering firms. These experiences help us understand the challenges of our clients, the real purpose of delivering infrastructure projects, and an overall deep understanding of how to support industry needs.

I am really excited about the team we have built and the clients we have added. Moving forward, we have all the pieces we want in place, and I am really optimistic about the future.

Rob Bailey
What does WSB look like to you in the future?

There has been significant growth for the company, and I don’t see it slowing down. I see it accelerating more each day. It’s a big reason why I came to WSB. I was excited about the opportunity it would bring not only to myself but the staff as well. Our staff will continue to grow, and I am excited to see how everyone will fit into a larger organization. There will be a lot more opportunities and the company will be led by a lot of the younger leaders we have today.

Any advice for leaders now and for those who come after you?

Leadership is a lot like relationships and marriage. Always make sure to pick your battles wisely. Try hard to have a long-term vision with your decisions and actions. One thing that can be challenging in a large company is short-termism. Focused on the next quarter’s reports, and impacts today, and less focused on the long-term. I am impressed with WSB and our long-term vision and investments in staff and technology.