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Female lead engineers on North Metro Rail Line breaking barriers, traditions
When complete, RTD's 18.5-mile North Metro Rail Line FasTracks project will operate between Denver Union Station and North Thornton•Hwy 7.
Regional Rail Partners (RRP) is designing and building the first section of the project to the Eastlake•124th station, with an option to extend to the North Thornton•Hwy 7 station as funds become available.
As part of the project, the North Metro Rail team will construct the longest bridge in the state of Colorado at 9,533 feet long.
Coordination is key in building the entire North Metro Rail, especially when building features like the nearly 2-mile-long Skyway Bridge.
Not only does the North Metro team work with cities, property owners, and the public, they have to work together to design the project as well. A faceted element of the project includes a number of lead women engineers.
Our female lead engineers offer diverse expertise
Women are often under-represented in the fields of construction and engineering, but contributing greatly to the diversity of the North Metro Rail project are four lead female engineers in diverse fields of expertise.
Nicole Harwell, drainage engineer, specializes in designing and implementing improvements for drainage systems not only for the railway, but for the local jurisdictions the tracks run through.
Effective drainage systems are necessary to prevent flooding and ensure detention ponds aren't contaminated over time. The design for each of the North Metro Rail stations will include the construction of a detention pond that will collect storm water runoff to control the flow and quality of the discharge leaving the site and assist in protecting the water quality of the downstream receiving waters.
Designing effective drainage systems is an immense coordination effort with building North Metro Rail infrastructure including rail stations and bridges.
Leading the engineering design of these infrastructures are Jennifer Whiteside, structures engineer, and Katrina Rodriguez, station architect.
Besides implementing drainage along the rail corridor, building bridges is among one of the first activities in constructing a rail line.
As the lead structural engineer, Whiteside is responsible for oversight of all design-build efforts related to structural engineering on the North Metro project.
This includes review and audit of the design and construction of horizontal and vertical alignments, typical cross sections, drainage, roadway and track work design, station interface and construction phasing for design and construction.
In order to perform this role, Whiteside needs to have a clear understanding of applicable engineering standards including American Railway Engineering and Maintenance (AREMA); American Association of State and Highway and Transportation Official (AASHTO); RTD; Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT); and Union Pacific (UPRR) and BNSF Railway standards, including an understanding of all loading conditions due to the live and dead load of train vehicles, snow, wind and earthquake loading and the load combinations generated to produce the structure design.
With 13 bridges on the project, including walls along the alignment, there is a great deal of responsibility ensuring North Metro Rail structures are able to withstand the stresses and pressures of the environment and remain safe, stable and secure throughout operation of service for passengers.
Designing stations also requires a hand-in-hand approach with the design of drainage systems and its structural integrity.
Station construction is one of the most exciting parts of building a rail line because it gives the public the opportunity to imagine what their future transportation options will look like.
Rodriguez works closely with other engineers, as well as the public, to develop a rail station that fits into the fabric of the community-which is a delicate challenge.
A challenging, yet critical role to the development and construction of the rail line is the deputy project manager.
Jane Donovan, deputy project manager of the North Metro Rail Line, oversees the entirety of the project making sure each discipline is interweaved and cohesive to constructing a well-built line.
"It's exciting to be a part of such a monumental project for the region. To have women as the lead on diverse disciplines on this project means we are breaking barriers and changing traditions." Donovan said.
"Our Denver metro region is growing at a rapid pace, and investment in our transit infrastructure is important. People want to live, work and play here. And this growth is putting more demands upon our choices for mobility. We need a public transit system that can handle this growth safely and efficiently. I believe the North Metro Line and the entire FasTracks program are keeping us ahead of that growth curve," Donovan said.
Skyway Bridge construction