A difference to one

September 2013 » Columns » FIRM THOUGHTS
David Evans, P.E., PLS, F.ASCE

"You, you may say that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one."
–Imagine, John Lennon

A little girl and her dad walked along a sandy beach that was littered with hundreds of stranded starfish that had washed ashore. The girl picked up one and tossed it back into the sea. Her dad said, "You think you can make a difference with so many on the shore?" She replied: "I did to that one!"

The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), founded in Scotland and now headquartered in London, has launched a campaign to "promote civil engineering." Imagine that! Using the £895 million Network Rail Improvement project as the catalyst and the location in Reading, the ICE is highlighting "the way that civil engineering can overcome technical challenges and improve the quality of our daily life."

The project:

  • A 2-kilometer-long stretch of elevated railway will take the main lines from Paddington over the freight line from Southampton to unblock a bottleneck in Reading.
  • A new station features a 100-meter-long bridge linking all platforms and includes improved elevator and escalator access along with the addition of two new entrances and four new platforms to cope with the estimated demand through to 2035.
  • A new bus and taxi interchange and public squares at the station entrance, being undertaken by Reading Borough Council alongside the Network Rail scheme, includes ground stabilization, diverting water and wastewater pipes and utilities, new public steps, as well as highway construction.

ICE's campaign, called "This is Civil Engineering" (maybe not so imaginative!), will "demonstrate a wide range of different aspects of civil engineering which will be highlighted through the display of special banners and signboards at sites both during construction and immediately following completion of works."

Sam Goss of Peter Brett Associates, who is overseeing the highway works at Reading Station, said, "Often civil engineering work just happens and the community benefits without really noticing the work that has been done. We hope these banners will draw the public's attention to the civil engineering taking place at Reading Station so they understand how important this work is for our community."

Have these guys been reading my stuff? Maybe just reading my mind. Well, you could say I'm a dreamer.

You can learn much more about ICE, founded in 1818 – yes, 195 years ago (maybe slow starters?) – on its website at www.ice.org.uk and supposedly on Twitter: @ICE_engineers. I don't do twitter, so you are on your own.

Meanwhile, back in the United States, are there banners and signboards on the World Trade Center project site mentioning civil engineering? Are there any on the San Franciso-Oakland Bay Bridge project? At O'Hare Airport? At Seattle's $3.1 billion tunnel (Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement) program? On your last or current project? If not you, who… If not now, when? I have always been enamored with this very long sentence made up of only two-letter words: "If it is to be, it is up to me to do it."

You might think that with so many projects going on in this country that putting up banners and signposts on your project may not make a difference, but if one eighth grade girl or boy takes notice and thinks about civil engineering, well, you made a difference to that one.

David Evans, P.E., PLS, F.ASCE, is the founder (1976), Chairman Emeritus, and a member of the board of David Evans Enterprises, Inc., the holding company for David Evans and Associates (www.deainc.com), a multidisciplinary professional services firm headquartered in Portland, Ore. He can be contacted at david.evans@zweigwhite.com.

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