ASCE and TCPA Host CECON 2016
Civil engineers and industry experts from all across Texas gathered at the Texas Civil Engineering Conference (CECON 2016) to discuss topics related to transportation, water resources, and sustainability. CECON is organized by the Texas Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), in partnership with the Texas Concrete Pipe Association (TCPA).
More than 350 professionals gathered at the Embassy Suites San Marcos Hotel, Spa and Convention Center, to discuss the challenges and solutions for maintaining and improving the state's transportation and water infrastructure networks.
"CECON 2016 provided a great variety of topics of great interest and importance to the civil engineers in attendance from across Texas and elsewhere," said Cres Guzman, P.E., former ASCE Texas Section Executive Director. "The program topics created many a conversation among the attendees from all different areas of expertise in the profession, and the social functions were enjoyed by all. Our award recipients received their due recognition at the Section awards dinner and ushered in the Carnivale celebration that followed. The technical tour at the Meadows Center provided a fitting end to this year's conference."
Trends Impacting the Future of Transportation
With a conference theme of "Leadership in Infrastructure Solutions," CECON 2016 began with a welcome from City of San Marcos Mayor Daniel Guerrero. Audra Morse, Ph.D., P.E., ASCE Texas Section President (2015-2016), Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies and Professor at Texas Tech University, introduced the panel discussion on "Beyond Traffic 2045: Trends Impacting the Future of Traffic."
According to John Barton, P.E., Assistant Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives at Texas A&M University, "the U.S. population is projected to increase from 320 million people in 2015 to 390 million people in 2045. 70 million is more than the current populations of New York, Texas, and Florida combined." The U.S energy boom is placing an unprecedented demand on our transportation system. "By 2045, the U.S. economy is forecast to grow by 115 percent to $36.7 trillion - and the transportation sector will represent about $1.6 trillion of the total Gross Domestic Product," said Barton. To compete in the global economy, the U.S. needs a world-class transportation system.
More and more, the transportation sector is relying on data to drive decisions, and on technology to reimagine how we move people and goods. Vehicles that communicate with each other, also known as "connected vehicles" are the latest innovation in a long line of successful safety advances. Global Positioning Systems and new technologies such as NextGen are leading to safer, more efficient U.S. airspace. According to Barton, "by 2020, one-second updates will pinpoint the aircraft location and speed of 30,000 commercial flights daily. Additionally, "Big Data" and real-time travel information enable transportation options, such as car-sharing, ride-sharing and pop-up bus services; and more rapid delivery of goods."
Bill Stockton, Ph.D., Texas A&M Transportation Institute, focused on the role and potential for automated and connected vehicles. Stockton presented U.S. Department of Transportation Connected Vehicle Pilot projects awarded in 2015, including:
"¢ Vehicle to vehicle (V2V) technology installed in up to 10,000 vehicles in Midtown Manhattan, and vehicle to infrastructure (V2I) technology installed along high-accident rate arterials in Manhattan and Central Brooklyn, New York.
"¢ Deployment of a variety of connected vehicle technologies on and in the vicinity of reversible express lanes in downtown Tampa, Florida, to solve the transportation challenges.
Following the transportation panel, Douglas Herbst of Freese and Nichols, David Bloxom of Speed Fab-Crete and Timothy D. Matheny of Peckar & Abramson presented a panel discussion on "Collaboration - leading the way for infrastructure solutions." The presentation focused on what we need to know to increase our basic knowledge and understanding of design-build and public-private partnership projects.
Wednesday concluded with a barbecue dinner at the Meadows Center, hosted by the TCPA. Attendees, guests, and families all joined in the festivities, celebrating the annual gathering of civil engineers from all across the nation. The TCPA event, an entertaining and relaxing networking dinner, was a highlight for many of the conference attendees.
Thursday began with a panel discussion on Asset Management, featuring Mark McDaniel, Roadway Asset Management and Engineering Services Branch Manager for Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), Richard E. Martinez, Assistant Director of Transportation and Public Works for the City of Fort Worth, and Quinton Alberto, P.E., Assistant Director of Maintenance and Traffic Engineering for Harris County Toll Road Authority (HCTRA). According to Craig Thompson, P.E., ASCE Texas Section President (2016-2017) and Vice President at Hanson Engineering, "the pavement management presentation on "˜the good, the bad and the ugly' was useful as lessons learned on local projects. Martinez provided useful information on condition assessment, prioritization of projects when dealing with funding gaps and life-cycle analyses, and maintenance techniques."
Thursday continued with break-out sessions, including a presentation by Carrie Little, CEM, Richard Furlong, Ph.D., P.E. and John N. (Jack) Furlong, P.E., entitled "Water and Structures Disasters, Oh my!," a session by Michael D. Gehrig, P.E. and Rusty Branch, P.E. on "Integrated Geophysical Investigations of Earthen Dams in Texas," and a session on "Mussels species impacts on roads, dams and more" by Dr. Thom Hardy.
The popular lightning round presentations returned this year, with 10 presentations on a variety of innovative topics.
Awards Banquet Honors Outstanding Civil Engineering Projects and Leaders
Thursday capped off with an awards banquet to recognize ASCE Texas Section recipients of 2016 awards and honors. As Master of Ceremonies, Travis Attanasio, P.E., City of Haslet, led an entertaining evening recognizing and honoring outstanding civil engineering leaders and projects.
The 2016 Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement (OCEA) Award of Merit was presented to BNSF Railroad, Union Pacific Railroad and HDR, for Tower 55 Intermodal Improvement Project. The 2016 OCEA Award was presented to the City of Dallas and TxDOT for the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) Streetcar project.
Planned by the Micol R. Bratten, P.E., Beicker Consultants, and the Texas Section Younger Member Group, the theme of the evening was Mardi Gras "Carnivale." "In addition to a fun-filled evening, one of the highlights of the night was the recognition of the outstanding civil engineering leaders," said Norma-Jean Mattei, Ph.D., P.E., ASCE Global President (2016-2017). The following award recipients were recognized:
"¢ Elizabeth D. Metting, P.E., TxDOT - Government Civil Engineer Award
"¢ William Bennet Ratliff, P.E., The Ratliff Group - John A. Focht, Jr. Citizen Engineer Award
"¢ Brian D. Bresler, P.E., Freese and Nichols - Professional Service Award
"¢ Russell R. Carter, P.E., Carter Consulting and Engineering - Professional Service to Students Award
"¢ Cissy E. Sylo, P.E., CES Consulting Group - Service to People Award
"¢ Vernon A. Wuensche, P.E. - History and Heritage Award
"¢ Ken A. Rainwater, Ph.D., P.E., Texas Tech University - Award of Honor and Recognition for service as ASCE Region 6 Director
"¢ Kelly M. Skoviera, P.E., Walter P. Moore Engineering - Presidential Special Recognition
"¢ Vikas K. Verma, P.E., Blast Control Systems - Presidential Special Recognition
2015-2016 Flooding: A Statewide Issue
Friday featured a panel discussion led by Melinda Luna, P.E., NTT Data, on the statewide perspective of recent flooding issues. The panel began with Carolyn Dill, Bastrop County Director of Engineering and CIP, discussing Bastrop's Story of Resilience, and specifically how the County dealt with the Bastrop Complex Fire in 2011, the most destructive fire in Texas history, followed by four federally declared floods and another fire in 2015-2016.
Carol Haddock, P.E., City of Houston Deputy Director of Public Works, next presented on implementing flood risk management strategies. According to Haddock, implementing flood risk management requires "a common definition of flood risk, defined roles and responsibilities, informed land-use decisions, long-term reliable funding mechanisms and ability to adapt to changing conditions." Regarding flood risk, Haddock stated, "Ignoring the challenges is not an option. How we act now is the difference between proactively minimizing the impacts of potentially life-changing events - for example, focusing on building resilience versus reactively recovering from catastrophic events - and failing to heed the lessons we should have learned. A failure to act today will have enormous future consequences."
Gregory Waller, Service Coordination Hydrologist for the National Weather Service (NWS) Gulf River Forecast Center, continued the discussion providing an overview of precipitation data for use in hydrologic models. Jeffrey Lindner, Meteorologist for Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD), discussed his experience communicating with NWS and the Harris County Office of Emergency Management during times of flooding while monitoring 140 rainfall and stage gauges and collecting data at over 400 bridges located on many of Harris County's 2,500 miles of channels.
Friday also featured an ethics presentation by George P. Hartmann, P.E., Licensing Project Manager of the Texas Board of Professional Engineers (TBPE), and the ASCE Texas Section Business meeting, with featured presenter D. Wayne Klotz, P.E., D.WRE, F.EWRI, Pres.09ASCE, President of RPS Klotz Associates.
CECON concluded with a tour of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University (formerly Aquarena Springs). Dr. Thom Hardy, Professor and Chief Science Officer for the Meadows Center for the Environment hosted the tour, which included a rare opportunity to see underwater life from a different perspective and to view over 1,000 springs that bubble up 150 million gallons of clear water a day from the Edwards Aquifer to form Spring Lake.
"This year's committee did an outstanding job coordinating the conference. A great time was had by all at CECON 2016, and we are looking forward to CECON 2017, which will be held September 20 to September 22, 2017, in San Marcos," said Ron Reichert, Rinker Materials, CECON 2017 Chair. "We are already planning for next year and recruiting fantastic speakers. Look for more information on our website, TexasCECON.org."