UCA honours USA industry professionals 12 Nov 2020

TunnelTalk reports

In recognising outstanding contributions and achievements in the USA, the UCA of SME (Underground Construction Association of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration) has honoured five professionals as leaders in their sectors of the industry.

John Reilly, Henry Russell and George Williamson receive 2020 Lifetime Achievement Awards, Dr James Mahar is recipient of the outstanding Educator of the Year Award, Gary Almeriras receives the Outstanding Individual and the Regional Connector for the Los Angeles Metro is recognised as the Project of the Year.

Throughout his career, John Reilly has been a committed observer of the international civil engineering industry with a particular focus on flaws in the historic procurement process of underground civil projects based on the fact that in many cases, the out-turn cost, particularly for underground construction, is higher than the original approved budget. Through his studies on this particular dilemma John developed the Cost Estimate Validation Process that bases real out-turn cost of a project within a range of lower – when everything progresses according to plan with no, or few, unexpected changes – to higher, when the worst case scenarios on a risk register are encountered. The concept is a logical approach to project planning and development for a public authority, or any client organisation of underground infrastructure in particular, where the consequences of the unknowable or unexpected risks can be high on the probabilistic scale and has been applied to several projects including the SR99 TBM highway tunnel project in Seattle and the new runway and terminal at the Lima airport in Peru. John, as a native Australian living long term as a citizen of the USA, remains committed to the international tunnelling industry through his work for the UCA and the ITA (International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association).

Henry Russell is known in the North American and international industries through his current employment with Mott MacDonald and before that with Parsons Brinckerhoff. His specialist field is in the maintenance and rehabilitation of underground infrastructure with which he has designed and managed many rehabilitation projects in North America and advised on many more internationally. Henry also maintains an active role in the UCA and the ITA where he is Animateur of its Working Group 6 on Maintenance and Repair.

Through his expertise in the construction of underground infrastructure, George Williamson has promoted the introduction of innovative technologies from Japan and Europe to the North American industry. Through his long career with underground construction company Traylor Bros., he was instrumental in particular in the introduction and development of pressurised face-control TBMs and high specification bolted and gasketed one-pass segmental linings to many projects in the USA, including the San Diego South Bay ocean outfall; the St Claire under river rail link between USA and Canada; the DC Blue Plains and Portland CSO projects; the Eastside, Regional Connector and Purple Line contracts for the Los Angeles Metro; and the Queens tunnels for the East Side Access railway link into Grand Central Station in New York. An enduring legacy is also his ability to build competent on-site construction teams and mentoring new recruits and young engineers to a career in underground engineering and construction.

The north-east seaboard is the career home-base for construction engineer Gary Almeraris. As the Vice President of Operations for construction contractor Skanska USA in the north east and its leading underground expert, Gary has overseen major infrastructures in the regions for rail, road, metro, water supply and wastewater management.

As a senior lecturer in the departments of civil engineering and geosciences at the Idaho State University, Dr James Mahar is awarded Educator of the Year. He is also a visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Dr Mahar is known for his teaching of students in the fields of engineering geology and underground construction and how these subjects apply to real underground construction infrastructure for all purposes.

Safe excavation of TBM drives, deep open cut excavations, an SEM (sequential excavation method) crossover cavern as an alternative to open cut, the first SEM operation in Los Angeles, and complex underpinning of historic buildings wins for the teams of the Regional Connector metro project in Los Angeles the 2020 Project of the Year Award. Located in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, the 3km long multi-faceted engineering, construction and management light rail transit project is needed to connect the Blue and Expo Line terminus station at the 7th/Metro Center Station to the Gold Eastside Line near its Little Tokyo/Arts District Station, which will be replaced underground and allow passengers to transfer between the Blue, Expo, Red and Purple Lines, bypassing Union Station, and provide a one-seat ride for travel across Los Angeles County from Azusa to Long Beach and from East Los Angeles to Santa Monica. The project has been recognised with several awards including the Project of the Year of the ITA 2019 Awards with a budget between €50 million and €500 million. The project introduces new excavation methods and underground excavation technologies to the Los Angeles region where many new transit and underground projects are in development.

Congratulations are extended to all recipients of the 2020 UCA of SME Awards of excellence and achievement.

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