C+S January 2020 Vol. 6 Issue 1 (web)

(engineer-procure-construct) and design-build in an intentional and larger way. Now, three years into that strategy, we are really beginning to see the fruits of that labor with project wins and significantly better value for our transportation clients as we take on the entire project under one contract for one owner. A nice hometown project again is the PEL study, which we called Be- yond the Loop, where we did a first-of-its-kind look at the I-70 Loop through downtown Kansas City. It surfaced a wide spectrum of alterna- tives, from keeping the status quo to completely closing the interstate in downtown and pushing traffic to parallel interstates and repurposing that area for development in the future. This is truly a long-term hori- zon, looking at years 2030 and 2040 as scenarios. What is interesting is that for the first time in a study I’ve been involved with, we looked at autonomous vehicles, EVs, and connected vehicles because we believe those will be quite prevalent then. C+S: Kansas City is a great American city. You’re part of the Big 5 transportation initiative with the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. Tell us about giving back to the community where you live. MD: As co-champion of the Big 5 transportation initiative, I am hon- ored to be in a role that can make a difference. This is an effort with the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce to develop future trans- portation strategies for the region. It was established in 2011 under our former chairman and CEO, Greg Graves, while he served as chairman of the chamber. The goal of the Big 5 is to focus on critical areas of need in our community – from education to transportation – that can help make Kansas City one of America’s best places to work, live, start a business and grow a business. It’s been enjoyable to work with my co-champion and the KC Chamber leadership to engage the business community in transportation because we need it and use it every day. One primary initiative is workforce ac- cess – connecting people in the central city to job corridors across the metro area. We have some pilot projects under consideration, including looking at how the region can better support transportation investment. We have a strong recent history of supporting transportation ballots for transportation safety, such as education and advocacy on eliminat- ing distracted driving. The community also strongly supports bike and pedestrian corridors and scooter safety. We are working with our delegation of elected leaders and the business community to advocate in those areas. I have had other leadership roles in the industry, including serving as chairman of the American Council of Engineering Companies for Missouri, participating in the leadership academy of the International Bridge, Tunnel, and Turnpike Association and serving in several roles with chambers of commerce and nonprofit organizations. At Burns & McDonnell, we believe we have an obligation to give back to the communities where we live and work. This goes far beyond serving on committees and boards. It involves corporate and personal giving and volunteer efforts for dozens of organizations across North America.

Mike DeBacker

before we see it at the federal level. Even with a new authorization, we still have to have the money, and new revenue will need to be addressed. C+S: What are a few things you’d like achieve in the next five to 10 years? MD: One priority is to continue a leadership role in good policy devel- opment and to support our clients with our knowledge and experience. We can learn from other industries where Burns & McDonnell plays a leadership role, such as energy and electric transmission and distribu- tion. The public or network utility model is not perfect, but it does provide a level of equity for users, or customers, of transportation to pay for what they use. This is similar to the utility model we use for en- ergy, water, telecommunications, etc., where we pay monthly for what we use, along with some level of fixed payment for being connected to the network. C+S: Since being at Burns & McDonnell, what’s the most challenging project you’ve ever managed and why? What was the lesson learned? MD: We have many great projects in the portfolio. The ones that stand out are often those with many stakeholders, which means there are dif- ferent interests that have to be addressed. The projects with the greatest challenges also carry the greatest opportunities. One that stands out is the project environmental linkage study (PEL) in downtown Kansas City. It brought those opportunities because of its regional impact, in- volving multiple cities, two states, and many stakeholders. It is a model in which we learned many key lessons about never overlooking any detail when it comes to communications with multiple stakeholders. It is hard to narrow any particular big milestone project at Burns &Mc- Donnell. There are several big projects that we have been privileged to be a part of. We made a decision several years ago to get into EPC


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