In this episode, I talk with Rachel Mertz, P.E., SE, a senior project manager with Modjeski and Masters, Inc., about her role as a project manager for the Murray Baker Bridge Rehabilitation Project and her overall experience as a woman in engineering.
Here Are Some of the Questions I Ask Rachel:
- Could you briefly overview the Murray Baker Bridge rehabilitation project?
- Can you describe some challenges encountered during the Murray Baker Bridge project and how they were overcome?
- Could you describe how the coordination of work between various contractors and stakeholders was managed in this project, given its unique nature?
- How significant do you believe it is, as a project manager, to engage with the community, address their concerns, and answer their questions during a project’s progress?
- Given the importance of community engagement and input, what impact do you foresee this project having on the local community?
- Could you share some lessons you’ve learned from managing a project of this scale and complexity, emphasizing the importance of post-project debriefs and lessons learned in project management?
- What are the most significant challenges currently confronting women in the engineering industry?
- What advice would you offer to engineers and project managers who belong to underrepresented groups?
- What final advice or words of wisdom do you have for aspiring engineers looking to succeed in project management and make a positive impact in their engineering careers?
Here Are Some Key Points Discussed in This Episode About Overcoming Challenges and Delivering Success in Bridge Rehabilitation:
- The aging Murray Baker Bridge in Peoria, IL, needed major repairs. The Illinois Department of Transportation teamed up with Majestic and Masters. They checked the bridge, studied its condition, and looked at future problems and construction impacts. They proposed repairs like replacing the deck, strengthening trust members, and more. They even added decorative lighting, making it a successful project.
- A major challenge on the Murray Baker Bridge project was updating the design due to discrepancies between the existing bridge deck and outdated plans caused by prior reconstruction changes. Extensive structural analysis was performed to create a new roadway profile. During construction, unexpected deterioration required swift response and repair development to stay on schedule, with close communication between the project team and the client to ensure efficient solutions and material procurement.
- Coordination efforts included regular internal meetings with sub-consultants to align design elements, ongoing updates to the client, and collaboration with the city of Peoria and their lighting contractor for seamless integration. A public meeting was also held to address community questions and concerns.
- Community engagement is essential, even if the project doesn’t involve major changes, as it ensures the community’s concerns are addressed and their input guides project goals.
- The rehabilitation project successfully repaired defects, ensuring the bridge’s longevity and safe transportation. This not only aids in meeting travel goals but also fosters ongoing social and economic opportunities for the community, promoting growth and development.
- Effective communication is crucial in project management, and while email is useful, lessons learned emphasize the value of direct phone calls or video conferences to express ideas and concerns efficiently. Additionally, addressing staffing needs early in the project can help prevent last-minute rushes and long nights to meet deadlines, highlighting the importance of proactive planning.
- Stereotypes suggesting women are better suited for nurturing roles like nursing or teaching still exist in engineering, although less frequently than in the past. These stereotypes create challenges in breaking through biases and attaining leadership roles. This can lead to the perception that women only reached these positions due to corporate diversity initiatives.
- Engineers and project managers from underrepresented backgrounds must persist and not give up. There has been significant progress, particularly for women in the industry, with increased representation at conferences, on project teams, in upper management, and even as firm owners.
- Young engineers should consider finding a mentor, even outside formal programs, to provide valuable insights, share experiences, and build a trusted relationship, offering honest guidance and advice for mapping a successful career path.
More Details in This Episode…
About Rachel Mertz, P.E., SE
Rachel Mertz, P.E., SE, is a senior project manager with Modjeski and Masters, Inc. Joining the firm in 1998, she has served more than 20 years in the firm’s Edwardsville, IL, office, where she has held key roles in the analysis, load capacity rating, and preliminary and final design of bridges of various sizes and complexity levels. She has managed many major river bridge rehabilitation projects, including the coordination of multiple disciplines for movable bridge projects. She is a certified Bridge Inspection Team Leader and has led the inspection of several major river bridges. Ms. Mertz also has expertise in the areas of hydraulic modeling/reports and AASHTOWare Bridge Rating.
Books Mentioned in This Episode:
We would love to hear any questions you might have or stories you can share on the challenges you have have encountered in bridge rehabilitation.
Please leave your comments, feedback, or questions in the section below.
To your success,
Anthony Fasano, P.E., LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success