2010 Interns Explore Portland’s Transportation System

August 11, 2010

Submitted by Kittelson Interns Kendra Schenk and Cameron Shew

2010 Interns Explore Portland’s Transportation System

The annual Intern Jamboree, which involves several days of transportation related activities, is one of Kittelson’s signature events. This year, the event was hosted by Kittelson’s Portland office, and they partnered with other interns from the City of Portland, City of Gresham, and Cardno WRG. Read about what we toured and took away from our experiences.

Day 1

Monday was mostly a productive work day. We’re not off the hook for our project work just because we’re a thousand miles away from our home office! For Cameron, that meant a day of running WB-50 design vehicle turning templates in AutoTURN and adjusting median noses for a design project in Tucson. Kendra worked on several of her current projects including a Traffic Impact Analysis (TIA) for a client in Leesburg, Virginia and the Golden Glades Interchange Project located in Miami Gardens, Florida. One highlight from our first day was attending a technical session about transit with Kittelson’s own Kathryn Coffel. Important topics discussed included transit Quality of Service and performance measures. This was an interesting discussion because most of us had not had the opportunity to work on a project involving these aspects of transit.

Day 2

Tuesday morning started off by meeting the other interns from Cardno WRG, the City of Portland, and the City of Gresham. A short walk from the office took us to Portland’s Hawthorne Bridge. Multnomah County bridge operations administrator Fayez Hjouj graciously arranged to have the truss bridge’s single vertical lift span raised for us! Nothing like traffic engineers disrupting traffic, right? Actually, the bridge must be lifted 6-7 times per day, he explained. If the county neglected to do this, the mechanical components would stiffen, and the bridge would become inoperable. The county would then have to jack the bridge up to fix the problem, not to mention paying some hefty Coast Guard fines.

To observe the opening, we clambered up several narrow flights of stairs and walked through a mechanical room to reach a suitable platform for viewing. Like clockwork, an alarm sounded that the span was to be lifted, pedestrians and cyclists scrambled off the deck, and the crossing gates went down. Seamlessly, the gears in the control room spun into action, and we watched the freshly greased cables elevate the vertical lift span halfway in the air. “Good enough for today,” he proclaimed, and we continued on to the Morrison Bridge.

Unlike the single lift span of the Hawthorne Bridge, the Morrison Bridge utilizes a double leaf configuration. We entered the first of two tall glass buildings that look strikingly similar to air traffic control towers, and descended a spiraling staircase to the underside of the bridge. Immediately greeted by massive gears, 36 feet in diameter, we were told that what appeared to be a large steel wall was actually a 2,000,000 pound counterweight needed to balance the enormous moment caused by the raised leafs. Like the Hawthorne, daily testing is required, although two or three times a day is sufficient for the Morrison. The same process occurred with the alarm sounding, the clearing of the deck, and eventually the sound of machinery spinning into action. The counterweight suspended right above our heads started to drop, appearing as if we were about to be crushed, but followed the curved path of the large gears as it swung safely overhead. Satisfied with our up-close-and-personal bridge experiences, we headed back to the office for lunch and the afternoon project fair.

To kick off the fair, all of the interns were grouped into pairs to present posters on various projects they have worked on. The Kittelson interns showcased roundabout design, the newly-released Highway Safety Manual, and a corridor study in Dublin, Ohio. Interns from the City of Portland, the City of Gresham, and CardnoWRG had impressive presentations and posters as well. Their projects consisted of a parking inventory in the City of Gresham, flashing pedestrian beacons for improved safety, automated water metering, and a new multimodal corridor design. Volunteer judges from the Kittelson team scrutinized the exhibits and asked each presenter an array of questions about their work. The judges picked a winner who was awarded a very special prize – a “lifetime” supply of Play-doh!

Day 3

The second day of the jamboree began much like the first, with a walk and some sightseeing (in a manner of speaking) through the streets of downtown Portland. The sights we had our eyes set on were not landmarks or tourist destinations, but pieces of Portland’s transportation infrastructure! Peter Koonce, Signals and Street Lighting Division Manager for the City of Portland, kindly offered to show our group around. The first stop was a traffic control box, which Peter opened to demonstrate how the MAX light-rail, buses, and signals are all linked together to provide preemption for public transit. Peter asked the group, “Remember that movie The Italian Job where the bank robbers escape by remotely turning all directions green so the police chasing them run into opposing traffic? Impossible. This controller has a failsafe that would trip flashing reds if such a scenario were to be attempted. It’s just not possible to hack the signal in that way, though it makes for a good plot.”

This myth busted, we continued on to one of downtown’s red light cameras. He explained how loops embedded in the pavement measure a vehicle’s speed as a light turns yellow, and then uses the known distance to the limit line to determine if the vehicle will run the red light. The cameras are carefully angled to capture the offending driver’s front side, back side, and a short video clip as evidence. We then traveled to the City of Portland’s traffic operations center to see some live traffic cameras in action. To any concerned Portland drivers, those are not all red light cameras, but be sure to smile as you drive through the intersection.

Back at Kittelson’s Portland office, we played a unique game called Road Trip. Unfortunately, this exciting adventure game is not yet available at your local retailer. It was developed by Kittelson to help people better understand the varying perspectives that key stakeholders have when dealing with access management and development decisions. During the course of the game, players take on different roles such as a state highway official, business owner, developer, homeowner, and pedestrian/bike advocate. While in these roles, players must work toward consensus on a new roadway cross-section and intersection design. This task was easier said than done as everyone truly embraced the character of the different roles. As the end of the day neared, we headed into the conference rooms for a round-table discussion of social media in the business world. Kittelson and Associates uses Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and of course Streetwise! Many of us felt that the main problem faced today is how to bridge the personal aspects of social media with the business side.

Day 4

The fourth and final day of this intern week was another typical work day for the Kittelson Clan. Thursday afternoon, we were exposed to the financial aspect of running a transportation engineering firm. Topics discussed included the Kittelson strategy map, financial strategies, accounts receivable, the importance of time keeping, risk management and contracts. This aspect of our firm is a very interesting topic that most interns (and engineers for that matter) are not often exposed to.

Overall, the Intern Week and Jamboree were very successful! We were able to meet and spend time with the other Kittelson interns, as well as most of the full-time staff. This enabled us to compare internship experiences and projects, while forming lasting relationships. While in Portland, we were all able to gain insights from senior level staff while at the same time they got a chance to learn about our experience and background, which we believe makes us all better professionals.

We’d like to thank everyone who was involved in planning the Intern Jamboree! There are too many names to list, but we’d like to especially thank Katie Pincus who coordinated all of the planning efforts.

Until next year’s Jamboree!
-The KAI Interns (Ashleigh Griffin, Cameron Shew, David Yurs, Hannah Iezzoni, Kendra Schenk, Madison Fitzpatrick, and Thomas Gonzales)

Kendra Schenk is currently interning in KAI’s Boise office. She is a 5th year student in the School of Civil Engineering at Purdue University.

Cameron Shew is currently interning in KAI’s Tucson office. He is entering his third year studying Civil Engineering at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

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