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A Day in the Life of a Civil Engineer – Day 2

Today was one of those days filled with many micro tasks. And as @motownmutt pointed out yesterday on Twitter, listing tasks is most definitely something an engineer does. So here we go with most of the things I focused on today brought to you in typical engineering list fashion:

Inlet Flow

Picking out Frames and Grates
Early in the morning, I called our sales rep with EJIW to try to decide if a particular frame and grate would work on some inlets on our Motor Fuel Tax job. These inlets are typical two-foot-diameter concrete structures. They currently have a square frame and grate that does not fit the circular inlet well. This sets up the potential for failure of the pavement because the soil/stone under the road can get washed into the inlet in the holes left where the frame overlaps the basin. The inlet is not placed well near the curb so I cannot use a typical curb inlet like the one in the photo. I could use a circular frame and grate, but the concern with our maintenance staff is that those grates catch debris more easily than some of the others. So, I found a square frame and grate with a round bottom that will fit well on the inlet. But the sales person needed to see if he could get these in time. If not, I’ll have to go with the round ones.
Hunting Down Road Names
Last week we had given the county GIS department the names of four roads that didn’t match between our system and their GIS. The person who makes the changes at the county called asking for a map and the documents supporting the change. We’ve been researching our road names for about a year now to verify the ones in our GIS are the formally approved name. So I did have documentation for two of them. However, I didn’t realize we had passed along two changes that did not have documentation. So I spent time today looking for the document that changed those road names. Although my search resulted in learning how the roads were established, I never did find the documentation for the names. So rather than spend more time looking, I am going to see if we can have the city council approve the road names so I can record them. Only after we do this and record the change with the county will the county change the name on their GIS.

Reviewing Traffic Signal Agreements
Today I also continued to look over a traffic signal agreement between the city and IDOT that I had been reviewing. Because I could not figure out how the percentage of responsibility was split for both maintenance and energy, I contacted IDOT to ask them. (The district office we work with is always very helpful, and I am always very appreciative of that.) The person I talked to said I would need to look at the individual agreements that were signed each time each signal was improved. So our interns spent part of the day looking for these agreements. Unfortunately we could not find any. I decided to try another route. In my previous position, I was located in the District 3 territory for IDOT. There we had an awesome person who was responsible for all agreements. So I figured if I contact his counterpart in District 1, I can probably get copies of these old agreements. I think the total number of signals involved is between 10 and 15. Once we get these percentages verified, I can move the agreement along for consideration by city council.

Backyard Flooding & Detention Basins

I called back the resident who had concerns over the backyard flooding. This is the one where we discovered the backyard is a detention basin. I explained it is flooding because it is supposed to and it will hold water for some time before draining. However, because of the intense use of the basin by the residents, I explained that more debris does get into the system and occasionally plugs the outlet. So I encouraged the resident to contact us if the water does not seem to recede in a normal amount of time. I also mentioned that the above ground swimming pools that some residents have set up in the bottom of the basin are taking up space that is designed to hold stormwater. Therefore, water could rise faster than is designed. But I did not get the impression they were going to move their pool. We do not have a policy where we require these pools to be moved so I left it at just explaining the consequences.

Securing Project Documentation
Last year we constructed two jobs using ARRA funds. One of these we inspected with in-house staff saving approximately $60,000 based on the costs we incurred for outside inspection on the other one. At this point in the process, I am still working to close out the project documentation – mainly because I have not yet received the proper documentation. The final paperwork I’ve been waiting for has been from the landscaper who continues to give me the same thing over and over that is not correct. Because I tried talking to him once and had to listen to him tell me how he didn’t care if we never hired him again because he is so awesome, I figured it’s easier just to run down the information myself rather than go through that conversation again. By the end of the day, the seed and fertilizer suppliers had agreed to get me the right paperwork so hopefully I can get a little closer to finaling out the job.
Other Miscellaneous Tasks

  • Another engineer and I reviewed the sealcoating schedule for a few public parking lots. This is a major undertaking because the lots are so well used. The project engineer always does a great job letting people know about the work ahead of time so hopefully this year will go as smoothly as last year. But it does take quite a bit of planning.
  • We also discussed creating a map showing all of our road centerlines color-coded based on condition rating and year of repair and year of sealcoating. This map can help us more quickly identify the roads that are best positioned for sealcoating. So I spent some time with our GIS staff to decide how we wanted to set this up.
  • We received comments back from the county about potential access to properties lying within our Southeast Planning area. So I spent some time reviewing the comments.
  • We also researched the boundary information along a road lying between us and our neighboring city. The striping on the road needs to be re-done so we need to determine who has the responsibility to pay for it. I ended up asking our administrative office for a copy of the boundary agreement so will probably get this tomorrow.
  • We are researching the maintenance responsibilities of a detention basin in one of our subdivisions. So our GIS created a spreadsheet of the properties lying within the subdivision, and I passed this along to the person working on the project. Our interns also found the document creating the homeowner’s association for this subdivision. And the document does indicate each property owner in the subdivision is a member of the association, and the association is responsible for the basin.
  • Our planning department needed a copy of the plans for a development that was completed last year so I scanned and sent them. We also sent off related comments because someone is looking at the possibility of a development adjacent to that one, and there are improvements that need to be done when the remainder is improved.
  • We received comments from IDOT about drainage from a proposed development so I reviewed them and passed them along to the engineer reviewing the project.
  • During the morning, I also received a call from a resident who had fallen off their bicycle on one of our roads. So I spent some time documenting the incident and phone call.


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