Working Through COVID-19 Q&A with Transportation Structures Leader Ben Allis, PE

In our ‘Working Through COVID-19’ series, you’ll hear a range of GAI professionals offer their takes on the current state of the AEC industry, and their inside views of some of the innovative projects that GAI is bringing to life around the United States. Throughout the current challenges, GAI’s experienced professionals remain at the forefront, delivering innovative solutions to a range of transportation, industrial, municipal, energy, and development clients.

Today, eastern region Transportation Structures Leader Ben Allis, PE discusses some of his impressions of how GAI has adapted to the unprecedented health concerns and other factors affecting today’s world, and how he’s continuing to lead his field in providing the advanced engineering services that GAI’s clients demand.

Q: Please tell us who you are and describe your area of expertise and what you do at GAI.

Ben Allis: I am Ben Allis, Associate Vice President, and I manage the Transportation Structures business sector for the eastern region. I work from the Pittsburgh, PA office and my group specializes in the design and analysis of transportation structures, such as bridges, culverts, sign structures, and retaining walls. I’ve been with GAI since 2012, and I have more than 20 years’ experience in transportation and civil engineering.

Q: Have any of your projects been affected by the pandemic? How have you adjusted?

Ben: The Structures group’s projects for the most part have continued without too much disruption. There was a short pause in the field work associated with our bridge inspection backlog in Pennsylvania, but we were able to make some quick staffing adjustments to provide continuity for completing our clients’ projects on time. We have had a significant portion of our staff working remotely, and I believe our team has done a good job to adapt and communicate so that we can continue to be responsive to our clients’ needs and schedules.

We have had a significant portion of our staff working remotely, and I believe our team has done a good job to adapt and communicate so that we can continue to be responsive to our clients’ needs and schedules.

Q: How has the pandemic changed the way GAI and your group operates?

Ben: The biggest change has been the number of staff working remotely. I believe that the team has really stepped up: our communications have increased, and we’ve continued to meet our contractual commitments. This success has a lot to do with the team members’ experience and our staff’s length of time with GAI. Yet even considering our success in working remotely over the past 6-plus months, I look forward to the day when we are all able to be back in the office and enjoying the face-to-face collaboration and team building associated with in-person interaction on a more frequent basis.

Q: What are you working on right now that you’re excited about?

Ben: I am excited about the Transportation business development team’s success over the past year. We have won major transportation contracts in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Florida that will have great benefits for local travelers.

Q: Have you taken up any new hobbies during the pandemic?

Ben: I haven’t taken up any new hobbies, but I’ve devoted a lot of my free time to making home improvements. With the COVID-19-related travel restrictions, my family and I have taken part in a good deal of local recreation—we’ve been enjoying Western Pennsylvania through camping, hiking, kayaking, and mountain biking more than we had done in the past. I am looking forward to a good downhill ski season, and hope to hit the slopes as much as I am able to this year.

Q: Do you have any predictions on how the AEC industry area will move forward?

Ben: The transportation industry is in need of infrastructure funding from the federal government. There are significant negative funding impacts to the industry due to low gas tax revenues, reduced vehicle sales, and monies that were used for essential health protection measures. Those impacts have not been felt yet by the industry, but will become more apparent in the next 1-2 years, if not addressed.

Q: Tell us about a recent structures project that was a substantial win for a GAI client.

Ben: We are excited to see construction moving forward on our WVDOH Brick Street Bridge project in Princeton, West Virginia. This project was led by Shaun Long, PE, and utilized a lateral-slide Accelerated Bridge Construction (ABC) technique. This involves constructing the beams, deck, and barriers adjacent to the final bridge position on temporary supports followed by the demolition of the existing bridge. Finally, the new superstructure is slid laterally into its final position with a hydraulic jacking system.

On September 29, the new Brick Street Bridge was slid into its final position—which was a major milestone in the construction process. The contractor was only permitted a 7-day roadway closure to replace this bridge, and the ABC technique makes that short timeframe possible. This marks GAI’s fourth ABC project in the past 2 years, which places us in a unique position of expertise in pursuing future projects that would benefit from ABC construction.

Keep an eye on the GAI website for more experiences, thoughts, and perspectives on working through COVID-19 from professionals around our company. Contact Ben Allis, PE, 412.399.5100, for information about GAI’s transportation structures services. Message GAI online and start the conversation about how our multidiscipline professionals can meet your unique project needs.

Benjamin Allis, PE specializes in the design, analysis, construction engineering, and project management of structural transportation projects for both new and rehabilitation structures. Ben has provided services for an array of transportation clients, including departments of transportation, toll authorities, private authorities, and contractors. Ben is licensed in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, District of Columbia, Commonwealth of Virginia, and State of West Virginia. He is affiliated with the American Society of Civil Engineers, Association for Bridge Construction and Design, American Institute of Steel Construction, and the National Steel Bridge Alliance.

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