Anchorage Office Continues to Bring New Opportunities to KAI Staff

June 11, 2012

Two years after opening their doors, Kittelson & Associates, Inc.’s (KAI’s) Anchorage office is moving full steam ahead. While the office, run by Senior Principal Engineer Gary Katsion, still receives plenty of support from KAI’s 11 other US offices, the addition of Andrew Ooms and Robert (Bob) Kniefel brought a new energy to the workplace.

“We’ve undergone an initiation process over the last few years as we build staff and transition from an ‘outside’ consultant to having established operations in Alaska,” says Gary. “We’re now being seen in a different light in that we bring a national and international scope with our TES [Transportation Education Series] presentations. They are very well attended and people are starting to call to ask us when the next one will be.”

Most recently, Lee Rodegerdts of KAI’s Portland office paired with Jeff Jeffers of the Alaska Department of Transportation to present on the Alaska Traffic Manual Supplement. The workshop covered the major changes introduced at the national level between the 2003 and 2009 editions of the federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, followed by the corresponding modifications made within the Alaska Traffic Manual to be specific to Alaska. Lee and Jeff started in Anchorage on May 8 and also presented in Fairbanks and Juneau on May 9 and 11, respectively. All presentations were well attended.

It was this spirit of giving both internally to its staff and externally to the community that convinced Bob to join KAI on a part-time basis after his retirement from the Traffic Director position at the Municipality of Anchorage. Bob explains that he wanted to “keep my finger in the pie” and was encouraged by interactions he had with KAI over the years.

“Because of our 25 years of experience, there is a trust built up between the staff [at public agencies] and KAI. That trust goes a long way,” Bob says. “The project we produce is so much better because we already know what the typical work tasks are and we can delve into them pretty quickly.”

Not that the office does not experience challenges, many of which are unique to Alaska. Andrew rejoined KAI after taking time off to complete a master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin. He says that it can be difficult planning for and working around the heavy winter snow fall, which can obliterate pavement markings and cause multimodal and transit problems. He also notes that the sudden population boom in the 1970s and 1980s led to roadway planning that required improvement to fully serve the community. But unique challenges also come with unique opportunities, such as working on the Alaska Marine Ferry Highway System.

It is not all work in the Anchorage office, though. The group recently joined Gary in celebrating his nomination for Engineer of the Year put on as part of Alaska’s Engineers Week. Gary’s career with KAI has spanned a period of over 25 years, much of it spent working from Alaska or on Alaska-based projects. While Mikal Hendee, who currently works for Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., ultimately took home the award, the experience was further proof to the team that they are making a positive impact in the area.

Other recreational activities have included introducing Andrew and his wife Anne to digging for razor clams in Ninilchik and Clam Gultch on the Kenai Peninsula. Later this summer, the office is planning a dip-netting adventure with Bob and his wife Claudia teaching the necessary skills to harvest red (sockeye) salmon out of the Kenai River.

Gary and Andrew both note that since establishing an office in Anchorage, KAI has been able to attract a broader range of projects.

“Before establishing this office, our projects in Alaska were more specialized,” says Andrew. “Other firms used to use us as an outside consultant offering expertise in campus planning and traffic management planning. Now, KAI routinely teams with local civil and architecture firms on corridor projects and DOT work, as well as priming projects such as the Anchorage MTP Update. Having an established office has made a big difference.”

The office will continue to grow with the addition of Jenny Miner, a recent graduate of the University of Portland, who will start in July.

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