ASCE Congress on Technical Advancement

Duluth, Minnesota | September 10–13, 2017



Highway 53 Relocation Project

Monday, September 11, 2017 | 8:45 – 10:30 a.m.

Pat HustonThe Minnesota Department of Transportation constructed U.S. Highway 53 in 1960 on a private easement owned by US Steel across a taconite reserve in Virginia, Minnesota. Many state, county and local roads also were constructed across the reserve in this fashion. In 2010, MnDOT received notice that the highway would have to be relocated to make way for mining, triggering the start of one of MnDOT’s greatest engineering challenges to date.

The presentation will cover many unique project development and construction tactics the team used to develop and construct what is currently considered MnDOT’s highest risk project. The relocation of Highway 53 is a highly technical project in a mining environment and is a schedule-driven job. Failure is not an option.

Pat Huston is currently assigned as the Project Director for MnDOT for the Highway 53 Relocation Project in Virginia, MN. He is a member of MnDOT’s District 1 Duluth Management Team. He has worked for MnDOT for 26 years in 11 different positions. Prior to joining MnDOT, he worked for the BNSF Railroad in the Pacific Northwest the Minneapolis-St. Paul Region. Pat is a Duluth native, with a degree in civil engineering from the U of M Twin Cities and is a licensed civil engineer in Minnesota. He says the Highway 53 Relocation Project has challenged him more than any other project in his career.


Supporting Science on the 7th Continent: the Past, Present, and Future of McMurdo Station, Antarctica

Tuesday, September 12, 2017 | 8:30 – 10:00 a.m.

George Blaisdell, Margaret Knuth, and Dr. Sally ShoopMcMurdo Station, located on Ross Island in Antarctica, is the largest United States research station on the continent. Managed by the National Science Foundation (NSF), it is the site of significant scientific research as well as the logistical hub for supporting deep field research across the continent and Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. It was established in the 1950s in support of the International Geophysical Year (IGY) as a camp of “temporary” structures for lodging, offices and laboratories. Today, McMurdo Station has over 100 structures, supports a population of approximately 1000 in the summer season, and up to 200 in the winter with year round operations supported by 2-3 (compressed snow/ice) airfields and an annual fuel and cargo resupply. 

To continue to support world-class research in a fiscally responsible manner, NSF is embarking on an effort to redevelop McMurdo Station by replacing the aging and inefficient facilities and infrastructure with a modern, energy and operationally efficient physical plant. Major focuses of the design effort are to increase product throughput (research), reduce energy and labor requirements, and develop both an environmentally and financially sustainable station that will support science on the continent for the next 50 years, including maintaining logistics through airfield operations.

The new compacted-snow Phoenix runway in Antarctica was designed and constructed for the first wheeled C17 aircraft landing. The Layered Elastic Analysis Formulation (LEAF), part of a software package developed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), allows for forward calculation of runway stress, strain, displacement, and associated principal stress and strain based on design aircraft loading. Stress responses for the Phoenix runway were modeled for the C17, A319, and B757 aircraft. This is the first time the model was used for a snow runway and it provided valuable insight for design, construction and runway performance for the first landing of the C17 on compacted snow. The successful construction and use of the new compacted-snow Phoenix runway is significant and demonstrates the heaviest wheeled aircraft (C17) operating on a compacted snow runway, ever.

Margaret Knuth, Aff.M.ASCE, National Science Foundation, Office of Polar Programs will describe the history and redevelopment plans for McMurdo Station.  Dr. Sally Shoop, PE, M.ASCE will discuss the design criteria for the new compacted-snow Phoenix runway.  George Blaisdell, PE, M.ASCE will describe the runway construction process and findings from the first wheeled C17 aircraft landings at McMurdo Station.


Designing Community Networks to Support Resilient, Sustainable Buildings in Regions of Risk

Tuesday, September 12, 2017 | 8:30 – 10:00 a.m.

Louise ComfortAs the number, frequency, and cost in lives and social disruption from natural hazards and disasters increase, the urgency of mobilizing collective action at the community level to build sustainable, resilient communities also increases. The challenge is to identify the factors that engage the whole community exposed to risk – public, private, nonprofit organizations, as well as household units – in sustainable programs of risk reduction, based on an informed understanding of risk coupled with practical guides to action. In this session participants will learn about a sociotechnical systems approach which identifies the set of interacting functions that are essential to maintain the resilience of a neighborhood, and focuses on the built environment as the physical context within which economic and social activity occurs.

Louise K. Comfort is Professor of Public and International Affairs and Director, Center for Disaster Management, University of Pittsburgh. Her primary research interests are in decision making under conditions of uncertainty and rapid change, interactions among technical and organizational systems under stress, and uses of information technology to develop decision support systems for managers operating under urgent conditions. She uses methods of network analysis, system dynamics modeling, and focuses on the analysis of large-scale, sociotechnical, complex adaptive systems. Her current research focuses on The Dynamics of Risk: Changing Technologies, Complex Systems, and Collective Action.

Dr. Comfort holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Philosophy from Macalester College, St. Paul, Minnesota, a Master of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Ph.D. degree in Political Science from Yale University. She is a Fellow of the U. S. National Academy of Public Administration, and has been a Visiting Scholar at five international universities. She has engaged in field studies following twenty-three earthquake disasters in fifteen countries, including reconnaissance studies of the January 12, 2010 Haiti Earthquake,  recovery from the March 11, 2011 Tohoku Earthquake, Japan, and response and recovery from the 25 April  and 12 May 2015 Earthquakes in Nepal.



Important Dates

Jul 19
Early Bird Registration closes
Aug 16
Advance Registration closes
Aug 17
On-site Registration rate starts
Aug 18
Hotel booking deadline
Sep 10
Congress starts


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