Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Who designs the highways?

When KDOT undertakes any construction project, there’s always a team that leads that project, taking it from a study, through the coordination and design, to handing it off to the construction team to break ground. And every team has a leader responsible for implementing the project and coordinating all aspects. For the Lewis and Clark Viaduct, one of those key people is Debbie Tanking, a 13-year Road Design Engineer with KDOT and Project Manager for the I-70 westbound bridge replacement. 

The Lewis and Clark Viaduct project overhead map of alternative routes during the construction project.

“It’s a team effort,” Tanking said. “I worked with a lot of great people on this project.” Tanking’s team has been working on the Lewis and Clark Viaduct project since its inception in 2012, and it’s the biggest she’s seen in terms of traffic impact and the long-term options it delivers.


“We all knew this was going to be huge,” she said. “The coordination between all the stakeholders was one of the biggest challenges we faced as we developed proposed concepts.” 

A concept design of the partial reconstruction of the Lewis and Clark Viaduct I-70 WB bridge.

As a Road Design Engineer, it’s Tanking’s responsibility to understand how humans, vehicles and the roadway interact with each other. “We look at the geometry of the road to check factors such as curves, grades, sight distances and clearances so they are appropriate for the speeds, volume and uses the road is designed for.” Tanking said she takes pride in being part of a team whose work benefits Kansas long term.


“The great thing about being part of the KDOT team is that we all work here because we want to help make infrastructure work better for Kansas,” Tanking said. “All of us at KDOT have families that use our state’s roads and bridges. It’s one reason we try so hard to do the right thing.” 

No project, no matter how big or small, happens without a team of experts who work closely together and with all the stakeholders to plan, design and construct the roads and bridges. The $64 million bridge replacement addresses not only the projected expense of repairs that would have been needed to maintain the bridge long term if it had not been replaced, but also addresses the need for a future route of travel as downtown Kansas City continues to grow. It also addresses the commercial traffic, airport traffic and even the railway that passes under the bridge.

The Lewis and Clark Viaduct WB I-70 lanes closed last week for the duration of the project.
“The design process and construction can be difficult to work through but when things are back to normal and the traveling public appreciates the improvements, that’s the best feeling.”

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