2017 Engineering Excellence Awards

Transportation Category

Winner: Council Bluffs Interstate System - Railroad Relocation Project, HDR Engineering for the Iowa Department of Transportation

Council Bluffs is one of seven principal Midwest railroad gateways. One-fourth of all trains moving between the eastern and western United States pass through it.

Nine main rail lines of five major railroads converge at Council Bluffs. The result is a city divided and a street grid congested by many railroad grade crossings.

In 2004, the Iowa Department of Transportation and the City of Council Bluffs began a $1.04 billion program to modernize and increase the capacity and safety of Interstates 80, 29 and 480 in Council Bluffs. The goal was to reduce the impact of the rail lines those Interstates crossed. Railroads the project affected were approached, and BNSF Railway, Iowa Interstate Railroad and CBEC Railway responded enthusiastically. The Iowa Department of Transportation selected HDR to develop the railroad consolidation plan and assist with the necessary agreements and federal filings.

The consolidation project eliminated nine at-grade roadway/railroad crossings, improved traffic operations at the South Expressway Interchange and South Expressway, reduced Interstate bridge cost for the South Expressway, eliminated a main line that bisected Lewis Central High School property, improved railroad operations by eliminating switching across streets in Council Bluffs and provided for future rail line capacity expansion. The project delivered the new track corridor two months ahead of schedule and nearly $2 million under the programmed amount.

Transportation category

N Street Cycle Track, Olsson Associates for the City of Lincoln

As part of its downtown master plan, the City of Lincoln planned a 1.25-mile cycle track along the south side of N Street that would connect the West Haymarket to the Billy Wolff Trail. The design included removing parking and vehicular lanes to install raised medians, bioswales (earthen stormwater runoff systems), landscaped medians, street trees and other devices to separate bike and vehicular traffic. New pavement markings and traffic signals were used to facilitate safe cycling. Linear bioswales were designed into medians to treat stormwater runoff on N Street. More than 350 cyclists use the track each day.

Water Resources Category

Winner: Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium Stormwater Management, Lamp Rynearson for the Henry Doorly Zoo

The Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium was adding large exhibits, such as African Grasslands and Alaskan Adventure, and it was important that the design of the projects align with the zoo’s master plan and sustainability guidelines while meeting City of Omaha stormwater requirements. Lamp Rynearson collaborated with project architects to create design solutions that fit the zoo’s surroundings while solving engineering problems. For example, manmade wetlands that collect stormwater visually blend into the animal habitat, and a culvert in the African Grasslands exhibit gives the appearance of a bridge. The multiple stormwater system infrastructure projects are aesthetically pleasing and functional. Stormwater is kept out of the sewer system, captured in detention pools and used as pools and mud wallows for the animals.

Missouri Avenue/Spring Lake Park CSO, Kirkham Michael for the City of Omaha

Using green infrastructure technologies supported by creative hydrologic and hydraulic modeling, the design team accomplished sewer separation at a reduced cost while achieving additional recreational, stormwater management, erosion control and flood-control objectives. A multidisciplinary team consisting of engineers (civil, water resources, geotechnical and structural), landscape architects, a biologist and public information experts worked together to make sure all project requirements were met. The team designed a project to reduce the cost of concrete piping and related items by approximately $5 million. Social and recreational benefits were key to acceptance of the project by local residents and the city. The center point of the project is restoration of Spring Lake Park and its lake. Omaha residents can enjoy a restored park, and the city CSO program can use the project to demonstrate the use of green infrastructure projects as part of the program.

Special Projects Category

Winner: Papillion-La Vista Liberty Middle School, Alvine Engineering for Papillion-La Vista Community Schools

The comprehensive approach to engineering design of the 127,779-square-foot Liberty Middle School building resulted in significant reductions in energy use. Through the use of energy-efficient geothermal systems, building systems and lighting controls and the introduction of daylight-harvesting techniques, the school is projected to reduce overall energy costs by 26.6 percent compared to local code requirements. Exterior lighting fixtures are designed to use 36 percent less wattage than allowable. Interior lighting is projected to perform 40 percent better than required by code. Specifically, the combination of LED lighting fixtures and daylight harvesting in classrooms provides a projected energy savings of 48 to 53 percent.

Building and Technology Systems Category

Winner: South Dakota State University North Chiller Plant Piping, Farris Engineering for South Dakota State University

Engineering design and extensive collaboration overcame potential challenges for the new North Chiller Plant for South Dakota State University. The plant is an unstaffed, highly efficient, low-operating-cost facility.

As the design developed, the use of steel — the original material of choice — posed problems for an 8,800-square-foot one-story building, including: lack of space to maneuver large cranes and heavy pipes; a carbon dust-coated and welding fume-filled worksite; and potentially higher labor and operating costs. Farris Engineering suggested a design solution that used thermoplastic pipe. Fusion-welded joints provide leak-tight connections and require no use of chemicals to stabilize corrosion to metal piping. System pipe pressure and temperature specifications are equal to metal.

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