A Day in the Life of a Civil Engineer – Day 22

Day 22

Parking Lot Planning

This morning a couple of us discussed the parking lot we are planning to build in our downtown. The project engineer for the job submitted the necessary documents to our planning department for the planning commission hearing we will have Sept. 8th. I also talked to a landscaper who will put together a preliminary landscape design for the lot and set up a meeting with him on site for this Thursday. The project engineer touched base with our lighting consultant to make sure we would have a preliminary lighting plan done in time for the hearing. And finally I reviewed the revisions we had all made to the agreement with one of the property owners from whom we will be getting easements for a portion of the lot.

Road Project

The contractor has been in this week finishing up some minor work on this year's road project. And the project engineer and our technician have been measuring quantities like crazy. But now is the time when our thoughts begin to turn to next year's road project. So today I set up some times this week for us to drive the roads. During this "road trip" we rate the roads, note the ones that could possibly be crackfilled, and check out any other issues or problems. It's the one time of the year we can really take a comprehensive view of all the  roads at once. I also updated the ratings in our GIS for the roads we improved this year and printed out maps to use during our drive.

Permit Review

I finalized the review of a small project someone had proposed for a commercial development in the city. Then I sent out the approval letter to the developer and a few staff members. Tomorrow I will work on another permit we have in that includes a stormwater permit application.

Sign installation

Water Main Project

During the morning, I also researched the property ownership for a parcel through which we would like to place a new water main. Then I contacted the business to set up a meeting with them to discuss the possibility of the city getting an easement.

Street Sign Upgrade Requirements Rescinded

Our city administrator also sent out a letter today that indicates we will probably not have to upgrade our signs to meet the new retroreflectivity requirements by the date that had been set by the FHWA. Instead we can upgrade the sign at the time of replacement. This will save a significant amount of money for many agencies. Here's a link to the press release by the U.S. DOT: 




A Day in the Life of a Civil Engineer – Day 4

Day 4

Safety Meeting

The Fire triangle created by Gustavb

Once a month the public works department holds a safety meeting for everyone in the department. Today's topic was fire safety. We learned about the fire triangle: oxygen, heat, and fuel. We also learned that there are four classes of fire:

Class A: Ordinary combustibles such as paper

Class B: Flammable liquids and gases

Class C: Electrical

Class D: Combustible metals

The key to prevention is to keep the three elements of a fire separated and to keep your work area organized and equipment in good working order. If a fire does start, we were taught the types of fire extinguishers that can be used. 

A Class A Extinguisher is typically filled with water and only should be used on Class A fires

A Class ABC Extinguisher is typically filled with a dry chemical and can only be used on Class A, B, or C fires

A Class D Extinguisher can have sodium carbonate and should only be used with Class D fires

Learning about fires was helpful, but last year they taught us to actually use the extinguishers. I liked that much more because it was more of a hands-on experience.



Later in the morning, several staff members met with someone asking about several potential developments. People interested in developing property or opening a business in a city eventually need to meet with city staff to discuss their project and learn what regulations or requirements can affect their project. At this stage plans are usually very preliminary, but if meetings like this don't take place, the developer can put a lot of time and money into a plan that might not work. So meeting before too much work is done is important and saves everyone a lot of time later in the process. 

I also received an inquiry from a real estate person who needed to know the general location of a private sewer service for a home that will be sold. Again, this is a common type of request received in an engineering office. I was able to look up the area on our sewer maps and found that the sewer service was shown. We discussed the location, and I was able to send the caller a copy of the map book page.

In the afternoon I arranged for a staff member to scan a set of plans for a subdivision in our city that has not been fully completed. Even though the majority of work has been done, the final surface on the roadway still needs to be placed. And from what I understood, the current owner is interested in trying to place this surface and complete the subdivision. But they needed the plan set to begin arranging to have the work done.

Miscellaneous Tasks

The rest of my day was spent on several miscellaneous tasks:

Organizing my email inbox (a never-ending job).

I arranged to have our interns review some of our signs that have become obsolete and develop a plan to either remove, replace, or relocate the signs.

I also worked with GIS to try to figure out why our web map on our Intranet stopped working. We tried creating a new one which worked. So we decided to just delete the old one and set up a replacement map.

Box Culvert

I arranged for a consultant to prepare a rough estimate of cost for stormwater management of the retention pond we've been researching.

And I met with an engineer from another consulting firm who had stopped by to drop off material about his company. 

Our staff spent some time discussing different issues related to our road project currently under construction.

Finally, I left early to attend a meeting of the education committee for our local APWA branch. We have a Bridge and Culvert seminar coming up on August 18th so if anyone reading this is located in the suburbs west of Chicago and interested in attending, you can head over to our website and sign up for the day.