Obituary 11 May 2020

Dr Harvey Weston Parker 1936 - 2020

Few in the industry will be unaware of Harvey Parker. Through more than 55 years in civil engineering he guided many a project through its planning, feasibility, design and construction phases, was known as an honest broker of advice and information for complex decision making by clients and owners of high-profile potentially high-risk projects, and was a friend, colleague, co-worker and mentor to so many in the industry.

Harvey Parker 1936-2020
Harvey Parker 1936-2020

Through his association with the ITA, International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association, and as its President from 2004 to 2007, he took on the role as father to the international industry, encouraging more countries to join the Association and for them to explore the role of the underground in their development and vital provision of water supply, wastewater management, urban and national transportation and energy production. Through the ITA, he worked with the United Nations to promote the recognition of underground space for environmental and social sustainability into the future, an effort resulted in a change of ITA name during his Presidency to include Underground Space and as part of the mission of the Association. In 2019, and for his career and contributions to the industry, he was awarded the ITA Lifetime Achievement Award, which followed a Lifetime Achievement recognition from the USA Underground Construction Association in 2018.

Wherever he went, in whichever forum he was engaged, at whatever event, conference, meeting or social gathering he was part of, Harvey’s energy, enthusiasm and sense of purpose was infectious, creative, productive. This will be missed and is part of his legacy.

Parker was born in Panama City, in 1936, where his father worked on the Panama Canal. Returning to the USA for his formative education, he attended the Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University), graduating with a Bachelor of Civil Engineering (BSCE) in 1957. In 1967, he received his M.S. in Civil Engineering from Harvard, and earned a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering with a Minor in Geology from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 1976.

After his time as a chief engineer in the US Navy, his contributions to the national underground industry of the USA are many and varied. Through all a constant thread has been his interest in working at the forefront of innovations and state of the art. His Ph.D. thesis in the mid-1970s was on the development of steel fiber shotcrete. His interests also had a focus on geotechnical investigations and risk management.

A career honoured by the ITA

His pioneering work included the planning and design of the Mount Baker Ridge combined highway, transit, pedestrian and cycleway tunnel in Seattle of the 1980s, still the largest diameter soil tunnel in the world, the SR99 Alaskan Way elevated viaduct highway replacement tunnel of recent times in Seattle that used, at the time, the largest TBM in world at 17.4m diameter. Despite the well-reported breakdown and repair of the TBM, the project was successfully completed without any incident as the mega-TBM progressed under the streets of central Seattle, and through to now being part of the city’s infrastructure that many embrace as being truly transformative of traffic through the city and of the city’s link with its vibrant waterfront community, previously cut off by the elevated highway viaduct barrier.

Harvey Parker 1936-2020
Harvey with previous ITA Presidents (from left) Alfred Haack 1998-2001 ; Martin Knights 2007-2010 and Andre Assis 2001-2004

As an indication of his value to a project, Parker’s first transit project in the early 1980s, and one of his last and ongoing projects, was with the Los Angeles Metro, guiding the client through early successes and troubles and navigating successfully, with fellow expert panel advisors, the lifting of a ban on heavy rail tunnelling under Los Angeles. Today the Purple Line extension of the system is being excavated under Wilshire Boulevard towards Beverly Hills and Century City.

Other metro systems Parker worked on across the USA include the WMATA system in Washington DC, the New York Subway, and the Boston and Chicago transit systems. He also spent a decade working on enlarging railway tunnels in the western USA to carry freight trains with containers stacked two-high and on military projects including underground caverns and facilities for management of nuclear waste.

With wife Karen at SR99 mega-TBM breakthrough in Seattle
With wife Karen at SR99 mega-TBM breakthrough in Seattle

As well as being author and co-author on many reports, books and technical articles, Parker was also chairman of several organizations in the USA including the US National Committee on Tunneling Technology, The Underground Technology Research Council, and the Underground Shotcrete Subcommittee for the American Concrete Institute Committee.

A particular personal enjoyment was travelling, which was indulged particularly through association with the ITA and always with his wife Karen. Many of us in the industry will remember them both as they travelled together throughout the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia.

Harvey died peacefully at his home in Bellevue near Seattle, USA, on 5 May 2020 with his family at his side and after suffering with a rare form of pancreatic cancer for almost two years. He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Karen, their son Neil and daughter Erika, and his four grandchildren, Ryan, Stephen, Sydney and Andrew. In his memory, the family requests that donations from the industry be made to the University of Illinois, Grainger College of Engineering. There is an online portal for tributes and a memorial service for Harvey will be held at a future date.

Add your comment

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and comments. You share in the wider tunnelling community, so please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language professional.
In case of an error submitting Feedback, copy and send the text to
Name :

Date :

Email :

Phone No :

   Security Image Refresh
Enter the security code :
No spaces, case-sensitive