Eminent Conceptor award goes to Grand Rapids-based company

March 23, 2009
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The American Council of Engineering Companies of Michigan, along with the Michigan Society of Professional Engineers, recently brought together companies from around the state for an annual awards ceremony. The awards are given to individuals and companies for outstanding achievements and projects completed in the previous year.

The most notable award is the Eminent Conceptor Award, which is given both for surveying and engineering.

The 2008 Eminent Conceptor Award in engineering went to Grand Rapids-based URS Corp. and the Michigan Department of Transportation for the interchange project in Cascade Township along I-96 and 36th Street. URS Corp. is a global, fully integrated engineering, construction and technical services firm.

“This was to provide another access point to get to the Gerald R. Ford Airport,” said Sean Kelsch, URS Corp.’s manager of highway engineering services, and project manager for the endeavor.

“This is competing with projects all through the state of Michigan. This is basically like the project of the year award, and it’s not the kind of award you win year in and year out. To be selected — it’s a huge honor.”

MDOT’s Grand Rapids Transportation Service Center and development manager Art Green also felt honored to receive the award and believed the level of teamwork was what made this project special.

“The transparency between an MDOT staff person paid by MDOT and the government looks very similar to that person that’s working at URS or any other company,” said Green, who was also the project manager. “In this case, the transparency really was obviously there. Everybody had a common goal.”

The project took roughly three years and includes two miles of freeway reconstruction, five bridges, the 36th Street connector, and the ramps between the freeway and the 36th Street connector. The budget for the project hit near its goal of $30 million.

The project’s main goal was to help traffic flow in and out of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport.

“The planning of the project started many years ago. The current (airport) exit was 28th Street, which is pretty congested. This was another way to get traffic to the airport and alleviate some of the burden on 28th Street and Patterson via a new interchange,” said Kelsch.

“It was also set up to help with freight traffic that serves the airport — to give them another access point to move cargo shipments in and out easier.”

Green added, “This is part and parcel with the Kent County Road Commission’s extension of 36th Street. The interchange wouldn’t have a connection if it wasn’t for their project that extended from Kraft all the way around to Thornapple River Drive. We tied in with that. They have to be mentioned in the same sentence, because the Road Commission actually did steer the study to get this to happen originally, way back when.”

Kelsch said the project had many difficult tasks to take into consideration, such as extreme ground grades, displacing wetlands, building around endangered plants, and creating eco-friendly water runoff systems.

The surveying Eminent Conceptor Award went to Saginaw-based Spicer Group for its innovative methods on the 141-MDOT Design Survey in Iron Mountain.

Honorable Conceptor Award winners include Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber for Delta Township District Library; Wade Trim for Van Buren Equalization Basin and Force Main; NTH Consultants for the Detroit River International Crossing; RS Engineering for the M-63 Bridge over Higman Park Road Reconstruction; and ROWE Professional Services Co. for the Lincoln Bridge Replacement.

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