New York (PRWEB) June 03, 2014
Much of the world is moving underground for utilities, transportation infrastructure, water and wastewater, storm protection, power and other systems. To meet current and projected demand, HNTB Corporation has expanded its tunneling practice, increasing its roster of industry veterans significantly in the past year, totaling over 100 professionals throughout the firm.
According to an IBISWorld report, the bridge and tunnel construction industry expanded even in the aftermath of the recession. Tunnel construction, in particular, is expected to continue increasing as city planners view subsurface structures as more efficient ways to use space, according to Nasri Munfah, PE, senior vice president and HNTB chair tunnel services. Industry estimates anticipate $70 billion in tunnel construction projects in North America in the next five years.
“In the United States, North America and Europe, increasing traffic congestion, dwindling right-of-way in urban areas, aging infrastructures are driving demand,” he said. “In other parts of the world, demand for tunnels is due to high population growth, resulting in rapidly expanding urban centers and transportation and infrastructure needs.”
An underground solution for urban growth
In the United States alone, more than 45 tunnel projects – from subways to sewers – are in design, according to a forecast from the Underground Construction Association of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration. Many of those projects underscore tunneling’s ability to provide sustainable solutions to urban areas.
“Tunnels are important elements of our nation’s aging infrastructure,” Munfah said. “They are the preferred sustainable solutions to transportation dilemmas, providing critical multimodal linkage and access routes.”
Taking advantage of underground space allows cities to accomplish progressively denser development while maintaining a less dense surface environment. Once operational, tunnels offer a second set of benefits that above-ground infrastructure cannot, such as superior environmental control and reduced power consumption. But, according to Munfah, those benefits are in addition to the asset’s longevity.
“Tunnels and underground facilities have a service life in the hundreds of years,” Munfah said. “They are economically superior on a life-cycle cost basis.”
Tunnel construction is the answer to some funding questions
Tunnels and underground construction are becoming more viable solutions than in previous decades, due in part to today’s environment of shrinking federal transportation dollars and increased emphasis on funding options.
“Highway tunnels are conducive to tolling, which improves an owner’s ability for project financing and providing public-private partnership opportunities,” said Jim Ely, senior vice president and HNTB chair toll services.
Tunnel industry veterans join HNTB
Munfah predicts the need for tunnels will only grow and says HNTB is well-positioned to address demand. The firm has added six industry veterans to its leadership ranks in the past year:
“The collective expertise of these leaders – in addition to our existing team of experienced staff – help meet the tunneling and underground needs of HNTB’s national and international infrastructure clients,” Munfah said.
In addition to new hires, HNTB chief tunneling engineer, Sanja Zlatanic, PE, recently was named secretary general of Associated research Centers for Urban Underground Space, an international, non-governmental organization dedicated to partnerships among experts who design, analyze and decide upon the use of cities’ underground spaces. Her term runs through 2018.
Earlier this spring, Zlatanic also moderated a networking session during a UN-Habitat conference in Medellin, Colombia, which drew international attention. The presentation, titled “Equity and Equality Opportunities: Cities Think Underground,” shared insights on issues that rapidly expanding cities face while implementing mega infrastructure and transportation projects.
Tackling the world’s most visible tunneling projects
Staff additions not only position HNTB well for future projects, they add to the depth and breadth of expertise the firm brings to its current tunneling projects.
The firm’s current tunnel and underground construction projects include: Sound Transit’s University Link in Seattle; Washington State Department of Transportation’s Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement tunnel in Seattle; Baltimore B&P tunnel; Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project; Elizabeth River Midtown Tunnel in Norfolk, Virginia; Presidio Parkway tunnels in San Francisco; multiple New York City Transit and Amtrak tunnel projects as the result of Superstorm Sandy; and the Istanbul Strait Road Crossing Tunnel project in Turkey.
The Tom Lantos Tunnels at Devil’s Slide – which opened in 2013 and was designed by HNTB Corporation – already have been honored with 15 industry awards, and more are anticipated.
About HNTB’s tunnel practice
HNTB has more than 45 years of experience in the design, construction and restoration of tunnels and underground structures, including soft ground, rock and underwater crossing tunnels. The firm has in-depth experience providing innovative solutions and managing risks on tunneling and underground projects in the highway, transit, rail, aviation and water resources markets. Projects range from small-diameter excavations to the largest machine-bored tunnel in the world. Some of America’s most complex underground projects have benefited from the firm’s award-winning planning, design and support services.
HNTB Corporation is an employee-owned infrastructure firm serving public and private owners and contractors. Celebrating a century of service, HNTB understands the life cycle of infrastructure and addresses clients’ most complex technical, financial and operational challenges. Professionals nationwide deliver a full range of infrastructure-related services, including award-winning planning, design, program delivery and construction management. For more information, visit http://www.hntb.com.