A Day in the Life of a Civil Engineer – Day 25


Day 25

Water Main Extension

Most of the first half of my morning was spent working on a cost estimate for the water main extension I have designed. I also filled out all the IEPA permits for the project and had our water superintendent sign them. 

PVC Pipe

Then I filled out the EcoCat to determine if there were any endangered species. This came back negative which is what I suspected – the area through which  the water main will go is an abandoned railroad and quarry that is now a park within our city. Next I will have to write a letter to the Historic Preservation to ask them to determine if there are any historic preservation issues with the site. But again, I suspect based on the previous uses on the site that this will also come back negative.

Storm Sewer Project

During the last part of the morning, I dropped off the legal description for the easement we will need to install storm sewer behind some homes on the east side of town. There's signficiant backyard flooding in this area so we will install a couple inlets and tie them into our storm sewer. But because the inlets need to be in the backyards, the city will need an easement. Our policy is that the homeowner needs to prepare the easement document so once we get this, I will submit it for council consideration. If they approve it, we will install the storm sewer.

Miscellaneous Resident Concerns

We also checked out  a drainage concern a neighbor had about some work that took place near their property. Then we checked out a report of someone dumping brush on city property and possibly obstructing a drainage way. We found the brush pile which was significant and told the people who had been dumping it that it needed to be moved asap.

Road Project

In the afternoon, we continued our task of driving the roads to determine road conditions.

Other stuff

A couple of us went out to lunch today with someone who had worked here earlier in the year as an intern. It was great to touch base with her and find out what she was up to and hear how GIS is handled where she works now. I was thinking earlier today, we have had five interns so far this year. They have all been great workers, and they helped us get a lot of work done.

Social Media/Communication/Customer Service Workshop!!!

Then at the end of the day, I spoke with the education coordinator for our local APWA chapter. We are planning a communication/social media/customer service workshop in October. We want to offer a fun and engaging day that helps everyone learn how to make the most of the tools that are out there. So if you know of anyone in the Chicago Metro area doing great and interesting things with social media/communication/customer service or public outreach, let me know. We'd love to have them participate in our workshop. We could even remote in people, so if you don't live or work around here and have something great to present, we could remote you in through Skype or other methods.

Hope everyone has an awesome weekend! and keep our public works colleagues who are handling the aftermath of Hurricane Irene in your thoughts and prayers!


A Day in the Life of a Civil Engineer – Day 17

Day 17

Alley reconstruction project

Well I waited until later tonight to post because we had a public meeting tonight at city hall for an alley reconstruction project. The city has over the last several years replaced their alleys with concrete pavement, and this one is the last in this particular neighborhood. We completed the east half of the alley last year and will now work on the west half with this project. Fortunately the same contractor was awarded the bid so we aniticpate the project will proceed in a manner similar to last year. It went very well and was completed in a timely manner with minimal problems. Tonight, the engineer for the project gave the presentation and answered questions. The residents who attended the meeting had some great questions and offered important input about some of the issues we might have to address during construction. Earlier today we also had the preconstruction meeting with the contractor and discussed the schedule, the materials and suppliers, and his subcontractors in addition to other issues we like to talk about before construction starts.

Permit reviews

Today I was able to finalize the permit review I had been working on and sent it to the developer's engineer. They had worked out the meter sizing and received the fee information earlier today from others in the city. I also received another re-submittal for a small project related to another development, and I anticipate working on that review tomorrow. There were also three permits I reviewed that a utility had submitted. Even though one of our staff checks these, I like to do a final check since I am the one who signs off. One thing I look for is if there are easements in place for the work if they are not proposing to work in the right of way. Today, one of these did not seem to have an easement so the applicant is moving the line into the right of way or into an existing easement and resubmitting.

Special Service Areas

Our city establishes special service areas (SSA) for certain locations within the community. Although SSAs can be created for different reasons, most of ours seem to be for the purpose of maintaining stormwater facilities or landscaping in public areas. Today a group of staff met to discuss one particular area in our community related to an SSA. I came away from the meeting with a list of tasks I need to finish related to this particular SSA.



A Day in the Life of a Civil Engineer – Day 15

Day 15

GIS Maps

Yesterday at the very end of the day, our IT staff added a link on our Intranet site to the web map we had created. This is an online map of our GIS information that's accessed through a browser. Unfortunately we still haven't been able to make the web map in the Silverlight Viewer, so we instead put up the one we made with the default ArcGIS web map application. The map we published is only a beta version, and we are using it to find out what everyone thinks of the format and information. Over the next few weeks we will get feedback from users and incorporate their ideas into a new map. We've already had some great input!

The other task that our IT was able to take care of was getting us access to the county's internal GIS map. We added that link also because it will be a great resource for our users. We are so lucky in Kane County to have a great GIS staff at the county level. They are never too busy to talk to us about their GIS or data, they hold regular meetings of GIS users in the area, and they are so helpful when we have questions about anything.

Storm sewer project

I reviewed the storm sewer project design that our interns finished up. And because we need an easement from the property owner, I wrote a legal description for the easement. Now, we'll give it to the homeowner for his attorney to check and if ok, prepare the necessary documents. We ask homeowners to get the easements drawn up for us if they are the ones requesting a sewer to alleviate their drainage problem. And the city has only done this if the problem is significant and affects multiple properties. In this case the problem meets this criteria so if they can provide the easement the city will install the sewer.

Intern's Last Day

Today was the last day for one of our interns. He is returning to school next week. So we took both interns out to lunch. They both have done a great job helping us with numerous projects. I think they learned a lot of things that they normally would not pick up in school.

Research Property Records

The city is considering selling some of its property so we are researching the legal documents and making sure there are no restrictions on selling the property. Today I went over some more of the documents, verified our ownership, and went to the courthouse to get copies of some of the deeds. 

Grant for Road Work

The city has also received word that we are going to get a grant. So today I was able to talk to our grant liason at DCEO who helped us understand what we could use the property on. Now we need to fill out the paperwork and submit it for approval. This is something I plan to work on next week.

Plan Review

Last week, I received a re-submittal of plans for a development project in our community. So today I started going back through my comments to make sure they had addressed everything. Because I didn't have a chance to finish, I will work on them again next week.


A Day in the Life of a Civil Engineer – Day 14

Day 14

This morning we started out handling a concern from a resident whose driveway was poured last week as part of the road project. The contractor was supposed to have taken off the barricades yesterday. But for some reason, they never got over there to open up the drive. So we had to call right away to remind them to remove the barricades. (The reason we must keep everyone off the concrete for so long is that it takes several days for concrete to gain strength. Even if the concrete is hard and looks like regular concrete, it really is not strong enough and can be damaged until the proper strength is reached. You can read more about how concrete cures and gains strength here: http://www.ce.memphis.edu/1101/notes/concrete/section_3_properties.html)

ADS Facility Aug 2011

We ended up leaving the office fairly early because we were scheduled to tour the Advanced Drainage Systems manufacturing plant. This facility creates many different types of pipe and other drainage systems. I've used their materials for many years and have been happy with not only the price and installation, but also the performance. It was a great opportunity to be able to see how it is all produced and the testing behind it all. One of the best parts was watching how they created tees and other fittings in their fabrication shop. I would encourage anyone who hasn't been through a tour of this type of facility to try to get one scheduled. After seeing it, I have not only a better appreciation for how the material is made, but as a designer, I can better imagine potential uses and designs.

I also learned that the plastic used to make this pipe is a byproduct of the natural gas industry. Right now, they said a lot of their product is being sold in the agricultural market for tiling. I included in this post a picture of some of their product in their yard and also have uploaded several pictures to this Flickr site: http://www.flickr.com/photos/publicworksgroup/


The Exciting Life of a Street Sweeper

I’ve never actually ridden in the street sweeper even though I’ve managed street sweeping operations in the past. But I can certainly imagine what it would be like. Day after day of driving about 10 miles an hour along the edge of every road carefully avoiding parked cars, pedestrians, and bicyclists. Then driving to the dumping facility to unload the day’s collection of debris, washing down the vehicle, and fueling it up for the next day. There’s nothing about that to leads me to believe it would be a riveting, jaw-dropping, white-knuckle ride of fun and excitement. But it is a vital function of our operations.

Street Cleaning Simulator must take the record for worst game ever, right? http://l.gamespot.com/qY5f37less than a minute ago via TweetDeck Favorite Retweet Reply

So I was somewhat amused and perplexed to see this tweet by @praddles leading me to a review of a new game: Street Cleaning Simulator by Excalibur Publishing. Being in the business, it’s interesting to read what others think of the experience, even if they’ve only taken part in it through a simulator. Here’s a link to the review mentioned in the tweet along with a link to a review with a different opinion on the game:

Gamespot UK Street Cleaning Simulator Review

Rock, Paper ShotGun Street-Cleanin’ Man: Street Cleaning Simulator Review

City of LaSalle Street SweeperThe first reviewer seems disappointed that the experience is “boring.” While the second reviewer approached it knowing full well it probably wasn’t the most exciting job in the world. And each individual expectation seems to have driven the reviewer’s opinion of the game. What surprised me was that anyone would think street sweeping was a job filled with action and excitement. Probably the most exciting thing that ever occurred in my 16 years of running the operations was the day the mayor at the time ordered the sweeper, without my knowledge, to come up and sweep the newly laid asphalt road we just paved. I of course did not know of this and had just left the jobsite because all the asphalt was down and the roller was finishing up compacting. I found out about it because the driver of the sweeper called me worried that he was pulling up the asphalt. So of course, I run over there and arrive to a view of the roller still going up and down the asphalt with the sweeper running right behind. You can imagine my reaction and wow do I wish I had a photo of that now! Of course at the time I was too focused on getting that sweeper off the new asphalt to think of taking photos. So I told the sweeper to stop which he was more than happy to do.

Anyway, if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know I’m a huge supporter of using games for training. And this game does seem representative of the actual experience. But it brings up the question, do games developed for training have to be exciting and fun to be successful? If not, then perhaps game developers need to do a better job setting up expectations. But if they do have to offer these elements, how can this be done and yet accurately reflect the true experience of the task? And is this an example of why the idea of a back story needs to be better integrated?


A Day in the Life of a Civil Engineer – Day 5

Day 5

The main items grabbing my attention today involved the following:


Today the stripers were in town placing the thermoplastic paint on a few of our newly paved roads. Normally I don't get too involved in the operation because we have a project engineer and technician inspecting and managing the project. But today, we had a resident call because she was concerned that we had planned to stripe a crosswalk at a T-intersection. There had been one leg of a sidewalk connection with a depressed ramp on her side, but no connecting sidewalk on the other side of the road. We've been trying to clean these up and either remove the lone leg or add the other side. In this case we added the receiving ramp. Because the roadway is busy, the engineer had planned on placing a crosswalk at this point. However the resident was worried children would be harmed because the crosswalk might encourage them to cross there rather than further down at the 4-way stop.

Thermoplastic Pavement Markings

I met the resident and her husband at the site along with one of our policemen. Over the years I've found it to be a very valuable experience to work together with the police on traffic-related issues. They bring great insight and ideas. And in the end, they are the ones that have to regulate the traffic. The policeman who met me there is an awesome public safety professional who was able to offer his thoughts from a public safety perspective. He shared that we have crosswalks striped all over town at T-intersections, and the police have had no incidents reported. And I indicated there would be no engineering reason that requires us to stripe or not stripe. After reviewing the situation, we decided that based on the four-way stop being close by, we could skip striping the crosswalk. 

Storm Sewer Project

We regularly receive calls related to stormwater issues throughout the community. Most of the time, they do not meet the criteria required for the city to install additional infrastructure. But occasionally the water nuisance is extensive enough that we decide to construct an improvement. This year, we have plans to install a short segment of storm sewer to alleviate flooding that occurs over multiple properties after even a small amount of rainfall. Our crews will do the work so normally we would not prepare a normal set of plans required for bidding. But because we have some interns who are interested in learning CAD, I decided to set up a drawing for them so they could work on developing the plan for this project. Unfortunately we have a CAD product that based on my experience requires us to spend an enormous amount of time that could be cut significantly if we just changed software. But even though over time the new software would pay for itself in savings from subscription fees, it's that initial purchase price that in this economy is preventing me from changing over. So instead every time we draw something, we spend a lot of time generating the plans. To say it's been frustrating is a total understatement. Anyway, I finally today managed to get the plan set up for them to start. Although I never could get the linestyles to display right. And because I just cannot afford to spend more time with it, I am hoping the interns can figure out what is messed up with that.

Reviewing a Driveway Permit

Normally this would be handled by our building department since they issue driveway replacement permits. But last year we had a company come in–well it was more like a guy with a skidsteer who didn't have a clue what he was doing–and in the process of trying to cut curb completely messed up a newly paved road. Why he waited until we completed the road to cut curb and replace drives is still not evident, but the result was damaged pavement because he didn't properly perform this work. So now we are more cautious about letting anyone cut curb. In this case, the contractor seems to be using a reputable company so I expect they will pick up their permit on Monday after dropping off the necessary certificates of insurance and bond we require to work in the right of way.

School Zones

One of our engineers had noticed that some school zone signs remained in areas where schools had moved out of their buildings. He wondered if we should remove the signs so I had our interns looking into this. Today we checked the city code to determine where the city council had established school zones and discovered there seemed to be some school zones still in existance even though schools are no longer located in those areas. And because we have had so much development in the past several years, there are areas with signed school zones that have not been established through ordinance. So the interns are preparing a report of these areas that can be submitted to administration and perhaps onto the council for consideration.

Some of the miscellaneous tasks that filled the rest of the day included:

  • Meeting with an intern who will start working part time with us later this month. This is an unpaid internship arranged through the high school.
  • Reviewed in the field the site of a proposed development
  • Gave our sign shop the sign design our interns prepared for the school zone area