“Helping to design roadways and bridges that unite us, help deliver goods and facilitate travel across borders is part of how I help to deliver a better world,” writes Daniel Mariscal, a senior structural engineer in Tampa, Florida, as he reflects on his passion around designing one of the most crucial infrastructure elements in our lives:

I began working with AECOM in 1999 as a structural engineer with the bridge design group in Tampa, Florida. My area of expertise is in design of complex bridges, such as segmental, cable-stayed, arch or non-conventional bridges. I also work on conventional bridges, such as girder and concrete.

An inspiration for me is working on large projects ― projects that will be recognized by our industry. I enjoy working on interesting, international projects with other teams across our company and appreciate the opportunity to learn more about different cultures.

Uniting communities for a better world

I am proud to have worked on two U.S.-based projects. One is the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge – also known as the Q-Bridge — because it is a “signature” bridge in New Haven, Connecticut. The second is the Big-I Interchange in Albuquerque, New Mexico, because it was my first project when I began working at AECOM.

My line of work is important because bridges are connectors. You can’t have transportation without bridges and this work helps with the development of a country. Without bridges we can’t move goods or travel effectively.

When my kids were young, I would go to their schools to participate in “What does your parent do?” or “Career Day” events and my presentations were always about engineering. I would explain that engineering is about everything we see and use. Helping to design roadways and bridges that unite us, help deliver goods and aid travel around a country is part of how I help to deliver a better world.

It’s amazing to see the bridges I designed being built and then used. I was able to show my kids the 17th Street Bridge in Atlanta, Georgia — a bridge I designed. It’s a proud feeling.

Currently, I am working on the global modeling of the Gordie Howe International Bridge between the cities of Detroit, Michigan, and Windsor, Canada. This bridge, which is part of a US$5.7 billion project for a much-needed new international crossing, will be the longest cable-stayed bridge in the U.S. and one of the longest in the world, with a total bridge length of 5,125 feet (1,562 meters) and a main span of 2,800 feet (853 meters). The new bridge with a roadway width of 100 feet (30.5 meters) will carry in eight lanes of international commercial traffic between the U.S. and Canada. Working on this project is what an engineer dreams about. I am so proud to be part of the fantastic design team working on this signature bridge and looking forward to the day, once it is built and in use, when I can go visit it and be able to say that I was part of a great team that designed this bridge.

Next frontier in bridge design

I appreciate how bridge design is evolving through project technologies like newer and faster computers and sophisticated structural analysis and design software. The newest trend in engineering design is BIM (Building Information Modeling), where an intelligent 3D model is used for all stages of the planning, design, drafting, construction and maintenance. We are not yet using this new technology in bridge design, but I have seen a couple of preludes and I am excited to take a further look at this.

Basics first, tools second

Personally, I have always said I am proud of the education that I received during my undergraduate years at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru, in Lima, Peru. My education was cemented (no pun intended) when I obtained my master’s degree from the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida. I believe that the courses that we take in our initial years of engineering, be it math, physics, statistics, dynamics, materials, mechanics, etc., are important as every advanced engineering principle is based on the subject matter learned therein. Learning them, and most importantly, understanding the basic concepts is what has helped me deal with complicated design issues in my career. Another important piece of advice is to learn how to efficiently use engineering computer programs, and from there, to learn how to effectively “model” in structural engineering software for the bridge structures that we imagine.

Originally published 05.5.2020

Author: Daniel Mariscal