From Project to Practice: Developing a Plan of Action
For many years, TWM employees have experienced traffic congestion at the corner of Old Collinsville Road and Frontage Road, approximately 3 miles due north of TWM’s corporate office in Swansea, IL. Many of our employees travel this route home in the afternoons. Being the nerdy traffic engineers we are, our Transportation Group has envisioned (and even talked about) a roundabout in this location. We always said if we had some down time, we would study this … then our firm had an opportunity this Spring to mentor a group of four undergraduate students at Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville for their Senior Design Project.
Of course, we suggested studying a transportation enhancement to this location that would improve the traffic flow! We met with the four assigned students via Zoom each week all semester. Different TWM engineers assisted the students throughout the project and provided guidance with traffic counts, traffic analysis, crash data, sustainability analysis, geometric layout/design, typical sections, pedestrian access, cost estimate, traffic detour route, and roadway design.
“Working with the TWM Transportation Department on the Senior Design Project was a great experience,” said Branden Billhartz. “My group and I gained practical experience within the engineering world that we would not normally get from our curriculum. The project allowed us to work from start to finish and learn how to overcome problems and obstacles that we would face in real-world projects. Overall, I developed an extreme wealth of knowledge not only from the various design steps in the project, but also from drawing on the experience of others at TWM.”
We progressed the project along like it was a true roadway project. Using our mobile LiDAR unit, TWM gathered updated topographic data at the site. We also enlisted help from traffic simulation expert Steve Meyer, President and Founder of Meyer Transportation Consultants, Inc.
“This was TWM’s first Senior Design Project and I really enjoyed mentoring this group of students through a hands-on practical experience,” said Transportation Group Manager Sheila Kimlinger, PE, SE. The project was great training and really demonstrated their application of engineering as they prepare to enter the workforce. They were able to get a lot done in a short amount of time!”
Considerations & Positive Developments
After the analysis and design was fairly complete, we facilitated a meeting with “stakeholders” for the students to discuss their solution. This location has three partners that share jurisdiction: IDOT (frontage road legs) and the Cities of Fairview Heights and O’Fallon (jointly own the north/south legs). All three entities were impressed with the study to date and interested in long-term possibilities of a project here.
The mentoring project was a satisfying success for TWM and also turned into full-time employment for two of the four senior students. We’re pleased to welcome Branden Billhartz and Brittney Foran to our team – both recently joined TWM as Engineering Designers after graduation!
“I’m so excited to be a part of the TWM family,” said Brittney Foran. “I learned so much from Sheila and the other mentors that were able to meet with us every week. It was great to see how a real-world project would be handled before making it out of school and having the opportunity to interact with so many engineers in my field.”
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