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A Day in the Life of a Civil Engineer – Day 51

Day 51

Could you tell it was a full moon this week? Because it was so obvious in our office! This has been a phenomena I would have never believed in had I never worked for a city. Every time you start to realize things are just a little over the top than normal, you only have to look at the lunar calendar to see why. I know it sounds crazy, but just ask any police officer. And my experience has been the engineering department is not usually spared dealing with the effects either.

Sidewalks need to be constructed through driveways


(Note: the photo at the left is not taken in our city and is only used to illustrate the subject matter.)

So today started with me questioning some work that was done yesterday at one of the developments currently under construction in our city. Last night I had driven by, and it’s almost uncanny how after you work so long in this field, you can barely see something in the dark (or at least only lit by a full moon!) and know it is wrong. Of course, being an engineer, I hate to just trust my instincts totally so I always start out by fully researching the background. The situation involved the placement of sidewalk across a commercial driveway. Because of our requirements and because of ADA compliance, we require sidewalks to continue through driveways, and they must of course meet all the requirements of ADA and now PROWAG. This had been conveyed during the review. And yesterday I had verified with our inspector that he had told them the sidewalk needed to be carried across the drive.

Today I again spoke with our inspector to again verify he had reminded the contractor of this requirement, and he confirmed that yes, he had. Then a few minutes later he gave me and the review engineer a copy of a chain of emails where the contractor asked the developer’s engineer, instead of asking the city, how to construct the sidewalk, driveway, and curb flanking the drive through the right of way. The developer’s engineer had told the contractor not to carry the drive through so we took this as indication they were not planning to build it according to the plan we had.

We went to the site to check out the work I had seen last night and found that the curb flanking the proposed driveway had been poured, but the area where the sidewalk was to cross was not gapped, nor was the curb at that location at the required 2% slope – it was more like 5%. It also looked as if the curb was not even set at the elevations indicated on the plans. But our concern was the ADA compliance and the sidewalk. So the review engineer called the developer’s engineer and later the contractor to indicate they would need to correct what was done to meet the necessary requirements. After a day of going back and forth discussing it, they concluded with an email indicating they would remove a section of curb on both sides so they could construct the sidewalk according to plan and meet the ADA requirements.

Although we had some other issues flying around through the day, I think that one is representative enough as an example of what we sometimes deal with as developments are built. We have another one scheduled for construction in the near future so I am going to make sure I, along with the inspector, are there when they form it all up so we can be sure it is going in according to plan.

APWA Executive Committee Meeting

Today I was also invited to the Chicago Metro APWA executive committee meeting to talk about our chapter’s possible use of social media. I had done something similar with National in early 2008 and also with our State chapter probably also in 2008. So I went anticipating a similar experience and brought similar materials and information. So unfortunately I went thinking I was sharing information about social media and how to best consider its use, but did not know they had already gone through this, and it appears decided they did not want to pursue it. So I think they believed I was there to defend its use rather than assist in understanding what it is and how to use it if they would choose to do so.

Oh well, one of the positives was that I did get to sit next to John Heinz (who told me I could share that on my blog – Hi John!) and I learned that the next time I am invited to assist an organization with social media, it might help to ask a few questions first about what they have done to date. If I had I might have found out about the previous discussions and that some were not exactly sold on the idea. The final positive outcome is that the president is very innovative and open minded and set up a committee to look into it more. And I get to be on that committee with some really cool people – yay! (And I’ll be blaming this unexpected experience on the full moon too!)


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