Inside Engineering, untold stories and fascinating people from the world of civil engineering. This is Episode 5, recorded in October 2019. Healthy Communities with Rick Adams, Nathan George, and Melissa Miklus. Inside Engineering is brought to you by RK&K. Learn more at rkk.com.
Welcome back to another episode of Inside Engineering. As you can see, we've stacked out the studio today for the first time. We've got three guests with us and we're pretty excited about all three of them because they all do really cool stuff here. And we're going to talk about what they do, why it's unique, and add a whole bunch of other stuff. So to my left. To my left. We have Melissa Miklus. Say hi, Melissa. Hi, everybody. Hi. Sorry. I'm not going to tell everybody what to do the whole time I promise. Yeah, Thank you. Melissa's a project manager, but really, she's the Healthy Communities team lead. And we're gonna talk a lot about Healthy Communities today and what that means. Sitting in the middle here. We've got Nathan George. He is the Bicycle and Pedestrian team lead at RK&K. Good morning Tim. Hey, thanks for being here. Thanks for coming up from D.C. today. Absolutely. It's always a pleasure. How was traffic? Was it bad. Not great. Not great. That's why people need to ride more bikes. Man. Product placement. And we're done
And sitting on the end we have Rick Adams. Rick is a Director with RK&K and has been around for for. A long time. Long time. And and we're going to lean on some of that experience as he chimes in and shares his insights into what we do. So welcome all to all of you. Thanks for being here. Thank you. Good morning. All right. So, like I said, we're gonna talk a lot about Healthy Communities today and what the Healthy Communities team slash initiative is at RK&K.
But first, Melissa, why don't
you tell us what you do as the Healthy Communities team lead and then you guys, Nathan and Rick, you feel free to chime in as your parts in that come up? Yeah, okay. Well, mostly I drive Rick crazy and make him nervous all day about what I do and Nathan helps me do it. Yes. Lot of fun. So we do what we call human centric design. So it's everything that you can plan or build that takes a lot of effort and coordination with the community. It's all of what Rick likes to call as fluffy, is what I do. So, I'm a landscape architect. And so I think that means that everything that I design or plan, the approach is very, very community driven. So we're looking at who lives in the community, what they do there, how they use spaces, how they want to move around, changes in culture, history, et cetera. So it's the blending of just how a community mixes together and how they use spaces and how they move. So we're an engineering firm, so we do a lot of transportation stuff and Nathan is Mr. Bicycle and Pedestrian. So we do a lot of active transportation projects, but we do some park projects and urban design and a little bit of everything right Nathan? Yeah. I mean, we have a diverse set of projects and we deliver a lot of really cool projects throughout the lifecycle. So being planning oriented, Melissa and I do a lot of work early in the process. So, you know, we're we're trying to to build these great ideas and set the stage for what happens afterward. The traditional side of RK&K being engineering roads, engineering bridges, building these big things. So we're coming up with ideas that are maybe a little bit different or a little bit more the way that projects are being delivered today, active transportation, lighter touches, coming in and making improvements that are oriented towards the communities rather than the more traditional approach of designing around cars, around moving the traditional transportation system. So that's where we really collaborate a lot, both within our team and with other folks around RK&K to deliver really cool and innovative approaches that are
what our clients are asking us to deliver and what they need to community build, make cities great places to live and travel around. So it's a more holistic approach that we're building out of this Healthy Communities initiative team to deliver just really amazing projects. And I think also what we do is we kind of hold our client's hands for a while. So we'll hold it and they'll have a vision and we help them figure out what that vision is, [ut it on paper, do a plan, and then we're like, okay, how do we do it? So it's the steps of how you do it. When do you plan? When do you do a feasibility study? When do you start design? When do you get funding and where does that funding come from? So that's a lot of what I think we do that even... we've been working with a lot of Rick's, you know, since Rick's been here forever, for such a long time, you know some of
his clients it's been really great working with them and finding funding for all these cool projects that they want to do. Yeah. I mean, typically in the past, you would say they always came to us for the engineering part. But now I think we've really expanded where we can really help them initiate a project and carry that from planning all the way through design and help them secure the funding that they need to do and also help them work with the communities and different agencies, really guide them through the process. So one of the things, you know, with my engineering background, we're always focused on transportation, how we're moving cars, how we're moving trucks, how we're moving bikes and pedestrians. But I think what Melissa and Nathan have really brought to us is the human element. It's like, who are we really serving? Who are we really trying to help with our project? So it's not just thinking about the transportation modes, but you know, who we're really, really serving. So I think that's one of the differences were we're making now. Sure. Nathan, when you were talking, you mentioned lighter touches. Can you or the three of you chime in and give us an example of what a lighter touch would be compared to a heavier touch in the past? What's an example of something that would be that? So transportation traditionally we're looking at building things. So the infrastructure component of transportation is building out a road, widening a highway, constructing a new facility. So those are heavier touches that require a bit more effort to go through, to get approvals, to build whatever it is you're trying to do. A lighter touches when we can go in and say, how can we right size a road? How can we make recommendations that are easier to implement quickly? Sometimes that even includes tactical approaches. So we're going in and saying we have the asphalt there already, what can we do with it differently? Because we're now thinking about transportation differently. So, you know, maybe we... An example is we are working on the Emory/Moncaster Road Trail project where we have this very conventional traffic situation, a T intersection, really wide road, a lot of additional asphalt. And we said, well, maybe we could repurpose some of that to build this trail so it would lower the cost of implementing that project, reuse a lot of the facilities that are already there and minimize our impacts that would be associated with the traditional type project where you come in and construct everything new. So it's really about looking at the environment that we're working in, trying to make recommendations that fit the purpose of the project, but they don't require as much invasive change in that area. And think about ways that we can implement with a lighter touch. As I said, to make sure that those improvements are suitable for the environment and not that we're adapting our approach. I guess I would say to make sure that it's the best recommendation possible. Yeah. And I would say to like one of the things we're just recommended for DDOT to do. So we wanted to close a free right turn. And that's a lot of asphalt. There's a lot of pavement there. It's just a safety hazard. There's a lot of pedestrians in the area. So people are just zipping around this corner. So before we build new curb and expand the sidewalk, we do a tactical urbanism project. So we're just painting that asphalt, putting in a couple planters. Then you can put in movable seating or, you know, picnic style table tables or umbrellas and seating and then it becomes a people place. So it's about the convergence of the safety and the improvement with creating a place that people can enjoy. So that's some of the light and touch stuff that we do. It seems like these kind of improvements, especially these lighter touches and these sort of rethinking of of traditional spaces would be well received by the client and the public in general and my I'm going out on a limb here asking a question that I don't know the answer to, which they say you shouldn't do. But I mean, I can see that in some situations they would not always be the most popular things to do. But you're when you're talking about sort of being fiscally responsible and reusing things in a way that doesn't require this heavy touch. Does that generally... It seems like it provides value to the client. Indeed. Gosh, I hope so. Well, you know, I think a lot of the communities are asking for, you know, complete streets. They want to be serving all there... They want to slow cars down. They want to accommodate pedestrians, cyclists. So, you know, our clients are hearing it from the community. So they're responding. They know those values are their client's, too. So they do want a lighter touch. Certainly cost is always an issue, so they're always looking ways to be more cost effective. So the best way we can repurpose the right of way and use our existing payment for satisfying the community is this is what we want to do. So clients are definitely on board. I think most communities are on board. There's always some people who are going to pose things, because it is a balancing act. You're also usually talking, you know, your balancing parking needs versus bike lanes or sidewalks, and so everybody has different... The key thing is that we talk and explain what are the benefits and the pros and cons of the different options. So I think the other thing that we do is we always try to identify a champion in the community. So some of the things that we're proposing, like when we were in Sykesville proposing like painting the intersections and doing like art projects. Right. So it's kind of like community art project. That's a good way to get the community excited about the further implementation of something that's more infrastructure heavy. So it's like you get those community champions. They, you know, go out on the Saturday, paint these intersections. And it really changes the space. But you kind of keep that momentum up for the next stage of the project and the next implementation, the next set of funding. It seems like the community is is a really big part of these projects that you all do. Maybe more so than traditional projects? I would say so because it's very community driven. Everything we do. Usually we're inside communities as opposed to being out on the open highway somewhere. You know, you are surrounded by communities and businesses and different government facilities. So it's always working with people on the corridor. I think I'd just jump in there and say that it's really a focus of our practice. Melissa and I really want to make sure that as we are working with the community, we're responding. So one of the one of my big pet peeves is when people say they're going to go out and do public input because we're not there to just receive input, discard it, and it just happened, it was a point in time. When we go in and work with communities, our focus is really about engaging with the community, responding to what we're hearing, making sure that we apply our own professional areas of expertise. But we're using that input to make sure that we've also adapted our approach, that we're responsive to the the desires of a community, and that we're making appropriate recommendations, which I think really gets back to that human centric component of what we're trying to build in this Healthy Communities team. And we're responsive to people. And we're big listeners like we we never go to our first public meeting with a proposed concept, no matter what we're talking about. We walk in and we say, 'What do you need? What are your challenges?' And people will tell us things that are not even related to the project we're working on. So we're working on a connectivity study and people are like, 'I want an ice cream shop.' I'm like, you know what? That's awesome. Because what that tells me is that you want a place where you can walk to where you can sit outside. So like someone's saying, ice cream shop to me is: circulation and space and place making and shade. And there's just so many other elements to it. So it's just a different way of approaching a project and listening to the community about what they want. Rick, you mentioned earlier complete streets, and that's sort of a word that we hear a lot around here. Can the three of you walk us through maybe what a typical complete streets project might look like from start to finish or if there's a better example of something? But I just I know of so much of what we do is this complete streets concept. When you guys think? I mean, there's a lot of different examples. I mean, we we could talk about the DDOT's project down in the protected bike lanes project? You know, downtown D.C., major corridors came a lot of traffic, serving multiple residents, as well as businesses and big government institutions. And certainly, though, they want to make it safer for bicyclists to travel our streets, too. So you're facing a lot of challenges. It's already very congested here in the heart of D.C.. How do you make that a more complete street for everybody and how do you make bike lanes? So you're dealing with a lot of different issues. So you've got your cars, but you've got a lot of pedestrians heavy on the sidewalks, even crossing the streets. You're concerned about their safety and then loading and unloading trucks and deliveries and businesses serving places like the Capital One Arena. So a lot of challenges we had on that. So there's a lot of things that we really had to look at to make it a complete street. Yeah. So Connecticut Avenue is a good example. We're working on a streetscape project, which is intended to be a complete streets project.
When we talk about complete streets, we're talking about we don't think about the project in terms of cars being the first and only mode that we're designing for. So the the purpose of the complete streets project is that we're balancing the demands in the right of way and providing priority to whichever mode is prioritized. There's typically a priority within each corridor and maybe multiple priorities. So we have to make sure we're balancing those needs and making appropriate recommendations that best serve all modes. So on the Connecticut Avenue project we started out that project was primarily a streetscape project just to clean up the environment of the street and make it safer and newer. It's, you know, a bit dated and has potholes, things like that. So coming in and cleaning up the street was the original intent of that project. But it's also a very heavy pedestrian corridor. So we're right next to the Dupont Circle Metro Station. We have over 1,000 peak hour pedestrians crossing at several of the intersections. We actually had over 100 bicyclists on one of the approaches into the corridor. So we've got a lot of traffic coming through this corridor. We also have a lot of bus traffic serving that metro so that when we're working on a complete street project, you need to understand all this demands and think about how to creatively use the space. And the reason I bring that project up is because it started out as where we're going to make sure we reorient the environment to serve the cars and the pedestrians in the corridor, try to minimize impact on the metro operations to make sure we can maintain that bus. And then it was decided that we needed to add bike lanes, which is where I come in, because I'm the person who will traditionally review the feasibility of that approach, make sure it's something that we can do. And that's a very delicate balancing act when we have to try and fit one more facility into a complete streets project. Because something else has to be... Because something else has to go away. And, you know, bicycle and pedestrian, I'm not only focused on the bicycle aspect of a project, I'm looking at the pedestrian components as well. So, you know, my approach is never going to be let's take more space back from pedestrians and give it to bicycles. We need to balance out what are the tradeoffs and how do we make this facility fit without compromising safety, without compromising operations, at least to too great a detriment. We have to balance all of those demands. So, you know, in that case, where we had to start making some very tough decisions is how do we maintain traffic operations, because that's one of the biggest challenges on almost every project that I do. We're going to have some sort of adverse impact. How do we make sure that that impact is not too much for... to be palatable, because that is getting back to the human side of the equation, that's where the project really starts to break down. If I'm recommending something that does not work, then we're going to get a lot of pushback and I'm not going to be able to get that project through the approval process, let alone get it to construction. So we have to really understand those demands, make appropriate recommendations, maybe think outside the box a little bit, which we traditionally have to do. So that might that might mean that we have to look elsewhere to see how how can we make all of this stuff work together. It's not just that street. It's now we're looking at the neighborhood. We're looking in in the surrounding area to see how can we make this whole project work to serve the needs of everybody along this one corridor. It's not something that we can just look at that corridor. Now we have to look a little bit more broadly. Yeah, I was going to say, like, when we start, we're not you know, we might get a quarter in a study area like this, but our brains immediately go, 'Wait a second. How does this fit into the overall network?' Because a city or a suburb or even a rural road, it's part of a bigger living organism. And so, you know, people might think that... We hate to say this, but you can't put a bike lane on every road. Right? Like, it's just not appropriate. So it's about having an appropriate layered system of how people circulate. So there might be a project that comes along and people say, we want a side path or we want a cycle track or we want this. And, you know, Nathan and I, while we love bicycle infrastructure, we'll be the first people to say this is not an appropriate solution. I mean, we feel like that's part of our job to is making sure that we're doing the appropriate thing for the entire system. We're your first reality check. Most of the time. Yeah. And then I think the community folds back into that because sometimes our client maybe it will be a city, you know, says, oh, 'we want this on this street.' And so we design it. And, you know, as an alternative, when we get to that point and we look at it and then we gut check ourselves and we go. 'I don't think this community wants this thing.' So we were working on a project where the client asked us to put to change a sidewalk and make it into a greenway, essentially, in a city. And so that means we're taking out trees, we're widening sidewalks, we're taking up space in the roadway, we might have to give up parking. And we're like, wait a second, we know this neighborhood. We know these people. They don't want to lose their street trees. They want to lose their shade. Then don't want to lose that nice sense of enclosure, they don't want to lose their parking because they live in the city. And we know that that's always a challenge. So we designed something else that was a delicate touch, that was a combination of bicycle friendly speed humps. We did curb bulbouts with, you know, vegetation. We did the light tactical urbanism touch first with the painted bulbouts that could be art or, you know, whatever that community wanted to. And then later, they could do the bigger infrastructure with the planters. But it just it really resonated with the community because... poor Nathan. So we went into a community community engagement session and they walked in and they saw this big path in their neighborhood. And they are like, 'we do not like this. Why did you guys come here, like, get out of our neighborhood?' And so he really took the brunt of everything. And then I said, 'Go talk to Melissa.' Yeah. 'I think you'll like what she has on her table a bit more than what I'm showing you here.' Pay no attention to this table. So then I got all the people who came over and they were like, 'oh, yeah, we like you.' And I was like, 'I'm sorry Nathan, that was terrible.' But it just you know, it's just getting to know the neighborhood and understanding what the people want instead of forcing infrastructure on them. So so a lot of what we talked about so far is is sort of the value that this all brings to the client. You talked about walking side by side with the client really helping to deliver that project. So we've we've done this complete street project now we've delivered it. Rick, I'll ask you this question first. How do we measure the success of that project? I mean, I think, I always see this start with the community. I mean, obviously we want our clients to be satisfied with the project. So we're always trying to make clients happy. But I really see in the community a lot of times you see that a groundbreakings or the ribbon cuttings for the project, because you see successful projects, you see a lot of community members out there. They're all happy, they're all smiling, they're all anxious to receive this project. So that to me is the real successful measure that the community is happy with it because they're the ones you're serving. And I imagine if the community is happy the client's happy. Exactly. Because that's their that's their customer, right? Exactly. Well, OK. So, so fairly straightforward answer there for the project. But how about the people behind the project? I mean, we've got all kinds of people working on this project. And this is sort of a bigger picture question. But how do we measure the success of those people as they work through different kinds of projects? I think I'll reorient the question just a little bit. Feel free. Thanks for asking that question, but let me let me pose the better question for you to ask me. So when we work on projects, we're early on, like we said, planning. So our project's success is really measured on. Does that project get off the shelf? So when you work on the planning side, you want to see things get done. I think that's safe to say. Yeah. And if you don't deliver a good project, if it's not something that the community supports, it goes on a shelf and it starts collecting dust and it goes nowhere. So success is really measured in what happens to a recommendation or a plan after we've gotten finished with it at the planning stage. Does it secure funding, which is something that we love, helping our clients with both messaging and branding and then generating that support that helps them secure funding to build projects? It's also just making sure that the project, after it gets out of planning and gets into design is taking that next step is usually the most important part of measuring success of a planning project, which is what Healthy Communities is really all about. We're there to support the next steps, but we're really teeing up a lot of work and then trying to see shovels get in the ground as fast as they can. I think that's a big part of what we're trying to do here. Yeah. And I would say like the the biggest measure of success for me is, you know, people know that I do a lot of trail work. And so I'll run into someone at a conference or at some type of event. They're like, oh, 'You're a trail person. You should go to this Greenway. It's amazing. You should write it. It's so cool. There's an ice cream shop and the wayfinding is amazing.' And I go, 'Yeah. I designed that, thanks, so, it is amazing. I'm glad you enjoyed it.' Or, you know, someone will be like, 'oh my gosh, I went to a conference and someone was giving a thing on this trail system. It's amazing. Like this package is amazing. And they're building 800 miles of it.' And I'm like, 'oh, yeah, I wrote those design guidelines.' So that's I mean, that stuff to have someone else like bring up a project that you, you know, poured your heart and soul into for, you know, sometimes like six years, you know, it's like you start a project from vision and you're like a champion waiting for it to happen. And then it finally goes on and people are enjoying it and talking about it. And it just there's so much stuff that sits on the shelf that it's such like a warm, fuzzy feeling when something is built and people are enjoying it and lives are changing and people are riding their bikes to work instead of driving or they're, you know, taking their kids to school on a trail. I mean, that's... When you see that happen, that is like, oh, gosh, those late nights and, you know, all those revisions and being driven, you know, crazy by each other, trying to tweak every tiny detail and make it perfect. That is when it's all worth it. Seems like one of the recurring themes of civil engineering is the joy that all of you get from seeing work out there live and or you know, that the bridge the structural engineer gets from driving across the bridge. So it's that same kind of excitement. I think it's watching other people enjoy it. It's like watching people just like, I don't know, enjoy it and kind of expect it in the every day now like this, 'oh, we should have a trial for this. Like we should be able to ride our bikes.' And that like cultural shift and watching people. That's I think that's what it's all about. Sure. Let's take a step back row real quick. Big picture question here. And this can be for all of you. But what's what's something you wish you had known earlier in your career. That I could be a bike planner?
What would you have done with that information had you known you could be a bike planner? Oh geez. Well, you know, I really appreciate my experience, so I don't think I would ever go back and change it. But I I certainly would have come on this path a lot faster had I known I could, you know, deliver these projects that are bike oriented, that are pedestrian oriented, that focus on community. I certainly worked on projects earlier in my career that I that I don't feel fit my own value system. So I think it was really cool when I had an opportunity to step back, find a new opportunity to focus on community, to focus on the public as opposed to maybe more private interests. And that's I certainly would have made the jump a lot sooner had I known that opportunity was out there. Interesting. Yeah. I'd just jump in. I guess I answered a little differently, but, you know, when I started in the business, it was really focused on highways and cars and moving cars and building roads. And it's been rewarding, I guess, to — and I think that's the way my career has gone is — to work with these counties and municipalities, the cities and the communities within them to build like complete streets and trails, because it is something that people really enjoy seeing. So it's a much more cooperative environment. People want you out there helping them with their community facilities. And when you're on the big highway side, sometimes there's a lot of opposition to those projects. That's not always the most rewarding. You know, when people don't want a six lane highway coming through their community. So I like where my career is going as far as helping communities and building complete streets that they are enjoying for them and their families. Hmm. I feel like I'm going to tie this to what I love and appreciate about being at RK&K. Okay, so I used to work at a smaller firm and we didn't have multiple disciplines. You know, we had a few, but we didn't have like all of these specialty people who did all of these things. So you're doing a trail plan and you're doing the research and the cultural, you know, all the cultural resources stuff. And you're kind of fumbling and stumbling through a few things that you know about them because you live on the periphery of them, but it's not your area of expertise. And so I think the longer I work here and every day around all of these people who do all of these different things and just really have a specialty in it. I mean, I just appreciate and love the fact that I don't have to write a permitting process anymore because someone here does that, you know? I don't have to do, I don't have to fudge my way through architectural history because someone here does that. So it kind of works both ways that I realized it last week when Christine Taniguchi was like, can you review this memo, make sure I'm using the right vocabulary. And for me, it's like I think words like vegetation and, you know, conifers and deciduous, like all of that, herbaceous, you know, all of that stuff is in my world of vocabulary. And so I think for me, it's just like appreciating the fact that I now live in a world with all of these resources. I don't have to do everything myself, and my product is better because I have all these people who know more about things than I do and I don't have to know everything. I think that's the point is that, you know, you get to a point and a comfort level in your career and your maturity that you know that you don't have to know everything. And it's like a relief and a comfort and just like an appreciation, like I don't have to know everything about the radius, the turning radius of something or X vehicle that has to make because I have people who do that with me. So I think that is just relaxing into knowing that you don't have to know everything. But then also being around it and learning about it is just it's like it's so rewarding. So there's something very special about being able to walk down the hallway and anybody you need access to, they're there. So if we have a question on a trail that is structural, we walk down the hall, talk to J.J., it's just really nice to have all those resources at your fingertips. Yeah, they're never more than a quick phone call away or walk down the hall. And that's a really special thing to have. You know, there's literally nothing we don't have an answer to with one or two phone calls. That's really cool. And it makes you more confident in what you do. Like before, I would just, you know, for an abutment of a bridge like it, I know how much a prefab bridge cost because we've built them before. But doing the abutment in a certain location that I haven't been exposed to that before, I could fudge it and say, not fudge it, that's the wrong word. But, you know, you can estimate and you're doing a planning level study, so you're like it's about here to here. But now I walk down the hallway and I say, J.J., here's the thing. And he's like, oh, this is what it is. And I'm like, that's fantastic. Now, I feel very confident about putting this number in. If I were right or wrong, it doesn't matter. I just felt confident. JJ's getting a lot of press in this. You know what he is? We're gonna have to have him on. Yeah. All right. So we've arrived at the point in the in the show where we like to do what's called the pick of the week. You're going to pretend that you knew about this in advance and you're going to recommend something to us that you think we might be interested in. It can be anything. We've had people do books. We've had people do podcasts, hiking trails, outdoor festivals, bands, anything. So who's ready first? I'm I can start, I guess I'll start. Because it was on my mind. The Anacostia River Walk Trail. You mentioned trail. It's a great facility is one definitely the highlights of my career that was built down in D.C.. But Jeff Parker in our office has arranged a ride on that and a couple of weeks. So that's gonna be a neat thing. So that's. That's a great facility. Take a ride. Yeah. I mean. Yeah. That is really a cool facility. I mean, I can go for miles and miles from D.C. up through Maryland, even down in the Virginia on trails. Right. So Anacostia River Walk Trail. Yeah. All right. Good. Thanks, Rick. Nathan or Melissa? I got one. It's not like I wanted to like a shameless, RK&K plug or something. But this really isn't. This is the first thing I was trying to think. Like, what is something I just like wowed me. And so a little bit of why this wowed me. When I was a kid, my best friend, his mom was an astronaut. And I wanted to be an astronaut. I just not even just wanted to be like I thought I was going to be an astronaut. I mean it was like, not a choice. Right. Like, I just, like, prepared my whole life. Like, I'm going to be an astronaut. And until I realize that I will probably vomit all over the place with the whole like G forces thing, I could not handle that. So whoops. But anyway, I feel like everyone should go to the Air and Space Museum at Dulles and see the space shuttle because it is the most amazing thing I've ever seen. It's so big. And it's just amazing to look at this thing that, you know, have like it has gone outside of the atmosphere of this earth and came back in one piece and carried people and equipment and science experiments. And I mean, it just like this is years and years of people's careers and life and brainpower and problem solving in this thing that's never going to, you know, go up again. I mean, it's just like it is something to think about everything that went into that becoming a thing and all the the failure and the success and people just driving and pushing through to make something happen that they believed in that seemed absolutely impossible. So, I don't know, for me, like I think everyone should go see the space shuttle because it's just it's something to see. And you say that's at Dulles. It's at the, what's the Air and Space Museum called? Udvar-Hazy Smithsonian Museum. Okay. In DC. In DC. Yeah, it's at Dulles on the south side of the airport. Oh so it's at Dulles? Yeah. It's at Dulles. It's not it's not downtown D.C.. Ah, interesting. OK. I didn't know there was an air and space museum. And there's like the Concorde is in there and all these other things. But like seeing something that went up in space is just, it's mind blowing. SR-71 one flew from California to Dulles in an hour. Yeah. Yeah. It's crazy. Or just over an hour. That's great. Wow. Alright Nathan. Alright. So first, Melissa mentioned, we're friends, we're on video. I want a fistbump. Alright. So my pick. A lot of times when I talk about the work that I do or when I give a presentation about what does it mean to be a bike-ped planner? I like to go back to the origins — so this is a book — but I like to go back to the origins of this whole road building movement. So a book that I share with people all the time is The Big Roads by Earl Swift. It tells the story of building our roads and then our interstate highway system. Very different from the work that I do, but it is a really good look back at what brought about this whole road building drive in our country to create these big things that convey people and goods and what were the reasons behind it? He did a lot of research, told that story. It's really cool. What I love about the book selfishly is that the road building movement actually started with bicyclists. They wanted to have safe places to ride their bikes back in the 1800's. That's crazy when you think about it, that these people who are riding on bikes were the reason that we built roads for cars. But we we got a little bit sidetracked building the interstates, making sure that they could convey cars and focusing on safety. There's a huge history there, and that book tells the story really well. And I'll close with saying I love that the team, Healthy Communities, we're focusing on the next chapter in that book. What does it mean to build roads today? That's what we're trying to write that chapter. We're trying to tell the story of building roads that better serve the communities they're in, better serve the people who use them. So that's what this team is all about. You just wrapped up the whole episode with a nice little bow. Well done. It's done. Yeah. Well, did you get the e-mail with the homework?
Not planned at all. Well, thank you all. Thank you, Melissa. Thank you, Nathan. Thank you, Rick, for coming out. Thanks. We appreciate you all being here and talking about what you do. I think it's a really interesting topic. So hopefully our our listeners appreciate it. So thank you all for joining us for another episode. Inside Engineering comes out every Tuesday. We are on all your favorite podcasting platforms. So please check us out. You can also find us at our home at rkk.com/podcast where you can stream every episode on demand as well as subscribe to any of those platforms. So thanks again for joining us. And we'll see you next week on another episode of Inside Engineering.
Nathan wants to see projects get built and not just sit on a shelf as recommendations.
Melissa says success is seeing people use the projects that she’s been involved in. She says, “…those late nights and all those revisions and being driven crazy by each other, trying to tweak every tiny detail and make it perfect. That is when it’s all worth it.”
Rick says seeing the community excited to receive a finished project is his mark of success.
What they wish they had known earlier
Nathan wishes he had known he could be a bike planner, but doesn’t want to change anything about his experience.
Melissa wishes she had known that she didn’t need to know everything and is thankful she’s surrounded by people who are experts in their area of focus.
Rick is thankful that he’s had the opportunity to deliver projects that make communities happy, despite how the industry was trending earlier in his career.
Pick of the Week
Rick’s pick is the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, a project he considers one of the highlights of his career.
Melissa wants everyone to see the space shuttle at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, on the south side of Dulles airport (IAD). The center is a companion facility to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall in Washington, DC.
Nathan’s pick is the book The Big Roads by Earl Swift. He wants the Health Communities Team to be the next chapter in that book.