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Blog Posts (33)
  • A Multi-Disciplinary Approach for Historical Renovation Projects

    Case History Jackson Avenue Ramps Project The Project Back in early 2008, Vaughn & Melton was contracted by the City of Knoxville to participate in the development of the engineering and architectural plans as well as the oversight and construction inspection of the renovation and restoration of the Jackson Avenue ramps in downtown Knoxville. The Jackson Avenue ramps were built in 1920 as a structural component of the original Gay Street Viaduct that spanned the Southern Railway rail yard. The only major repair work on the century-old ramps since their construction occurred between 2008 and 2010 when the east ramp was closed by Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) after a routine inspection revealed some serious structural issues. The project extends only 656 feet, but the entire area, including the adjacent historic buildings, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, (NRHP) thus adding to the complexity of the project. The Challenge There were several factors contributing to the complexity of this project. The coordination of infrastructure construction, utilities and the historical aesthetics as well as having to work within the one half-inch space between the ramps and the adjacent buildings to remove two large ramps without inflicting any damage all while maintaining a safe thoroughfare for pedestrians were the overarching challenges to the project. In order to bring the structure back to its former glory and without any unnecessary damage, there were a number of diverse team members brought together to study and assess all the historical, socio-economical, archeological and architectural issues that could affect the project. These agencies spent an innumerable amount of hours conducting their studies and making their recommendations to the City as well as the Vaughn & Melton design team. All of these recommendations were considered and implemented in the design, modeling and construction renovation process to ensure that the historical aspects as well as the structural and architectural integrity were maintained. In addition, because of the proximity to several historic buildings -- which are also listed in the NRHP -- the owners of those buildings all had to be consulted with to ensure that the new construction would not hinder or damage the buildings and that the historical nature of the area would be preserved. History In its early days, the area in which the ramps are located was home to several railroad hotels and boarding houses that were located at the railroad yard. The surrounding area featured businesses such as restaurants and saloons patronized by railroad workers and visitors. Now, the area has evolved into a robust, energetic, and trendy commercial district with artist’s galleries, antique stores, pubs, dance clubs, and newsstands. Located in what locals call the “Old City,” the area also features private offices as well as loft apartments and condominiums. Much like many historical places, Knoxville’s antiquities hold great value with the local community which is why so much time and effort has gone into the preservation of this unique and iconic area of downtown Knoxville. The Solution Vaughn & Melton's recommendations included demolishing the existing elevated Jackson Avenue ramps on either side of the Gay Street Overpass, reconstruction of the ramp support structures, relocation and realignment of above ground and underground utilities, and replacement of ground-level features under the ramp. This new area under the ramps will feature a mix of retail and business space. A significant amount of research and planning went into choosing materials that would be similar in size, scale, massing and width of the original ramps. Every feature from the brick pavers covering the ramps, support columns, the railings, and ornamental lighting fixtures all had to contain elements complimentary to original ramps. The contractor selected to replicate and fabricate the one-foot thick pavers covering the ramps was able to preserve some of the original pavers and many of those were placed alongside the new replicated pavers. Altogether there were over 4900 man hours invested in the project in just the construction and engineering phase alone. Along with Vaughn and Melton, there were a total of 50 individuals from five other agencies who contributed their time and expertise. The nearly $10 million project spanned almost a decade and is just in the final completion stage as of February 2021.

  • Prayer, Ice, Steep Ledge and a Red Porsche

    By Patrick Gallagher, PE | Bridge Engineer and Adventurer When Working Passionately and Doing the Right Thing Collide A lot of people often think of my faith as fairy tales that make me comfortable. And I'm fine with that. I'm confident in what I believe. But there are times, like that in the story I'm about to tell, that remind me of why I'm confident. It's a funny story and presents an unlikely series of coincidences. Before getting into the story, I need to set the back story. This story takes place towards the end of a bridge inspection trip in the North Carolina mountains in the middle of winter. A few hours before this adventure began, I was standing in an ice cold creek in the mountains inspecting a bridge in knee deep water. While in the creek, I slipped, filled up my thigh waders, and put my torso and arms most of the way in the water. I was cold, wet, and far away from a warm shower, and a long way down a mountain road. Luckily, my coworker had his suitcase with him, and offered to lend me one of his pairs of pants. So, went into the back of the truck, changed out of my cold wet pants and socks and put on his pants, and put on a pair of chest waders with no socks on. I also changed my coat and was okay with the wet shirt, after warming up in the truck for a while. As that workday ended, I decided to take a different way back to the hotel than Google Maps defaulted to. My coworker was heading home at the end of the day, since he lived closer than me. (That’s why he had his suitcase in his car.) The route I chose to get to the hotel was a little bit longer than Google’s suggested route, but not ridiculously longer. Plus, I grew up in the mountains and I was excited because this route took me over a mountain pass! So, I decided to go this other route and have some fun. As I ascended up the mountain pass, the paved road turned to gravel, then it got very narrow, windy, muddy, steep, and then icy. I remember looking up the mountainside early on the journey thinking, "I’ve got this!" After a certain point, turning around a large truck on the edge of a mountain would have been tough. When the road surface turned to ice part of the way up the mountain side, I stopped the truck to reconsider one last time whether or not I should continue. I wasn’t used to seeing ice in North Carolina, and I expected it to be a brief section of slushy ice like I usually see in Raleigh when it snows. So again, I decided to go for it! As I rounded the first corner about 200 feet from the beginning of the ice, the truck slid and was moving downhill towards the edge of the steep, icy mountain road and I was in serious trouble. So, I parked the truck when it stopped sliding, walked around it a few times, and evaluated the situation. Every time I moved the truck, it slid ever closer to the edge of the road. If it had slid down the mountain with me inside, I was a goner. If it went down the mountain without me, I would be in serious trouble at work. So, I said a very brief, passionate little prayer in a moment of desperation. "Lord help me get out of this mess!" And then deliverance came in the most unusual way. I’m very handy and have experience getting out of difficult situations, and I’ve spent plenty of time getting out of a jam in the snow and ice. But this time was different. If I got in trouble at work, the lives of five people I love would have been impacted and I was overwhelmed with the stress and emotion I was feeling at the time. About a minute after I said my prayer a brand-new red, shiny Porsche came driving up the icy road. It looked like it drove there straight from the dealership. It had very little mud on it and had special paint on the brakes making them look cool behind the fancy rims. What was a car like that doing there? The man behind the wheel drove through the same mud and ice, and around the same and windy curves I did. It was completely unnatural! I stopped the Porsche, asked the men inside for help, and told them plainly, "I want you to tell me what to do and I'll do it." It was a desperate plea and a complete surrender. So, they helped me! Realize, I was in a company truck, standing on a mountain road, in bare feet and wearing someone else's pants that didn't fit quite right, and my shirt was wet. I must have looked ridiculous. I was in an awkward situation, but so were they. Their sports car probably cost a lot more than my company truck. We were all in a tense situation. I suppose that passion and drive for adventure is what gives some people their strength and character. We could relate to each other, we found the humor in the situation, and all three of us understood why we were there. There was no need to explain ourselves to each other. We were driven by passion within us that motivates us in our daily lives, and that’s what brought us there. And we worked as one mind in getting out of the situation. Had I gone through this experience with someone else, I might be telling a whole different story. I’m glad they were there. It happens one of these men recognized the V&M logo on the truck and knew the president of the company, David Harrell, very well. When I stopped his car, he saw me, the truck, my bare feet, poorly fitted pants, and wet shirt. And he was good friends with the man at the top of the company. What are the odds? I didn’t know if I should be thankful or fearful I would get busted. Not only was my appearance and preparedness for the situation ridiculous, this person had direct and personal contact with the person at the very top of my “do not tell” list. These men knew how to get all of us turned around and off the edge of the road. And one of them was an engineer! They talked me through the situation and got me out of this jam. Once my truck was off the ice and turned around, I said a simple thanks, they drove off….. and that was it. Poof! The whole situation was over and I was fine, just as if nothing happened. Ten minutes earlier I was sweating icicles and now I was warm and cozy winding my way down the mountain back to normalcy. Looking back, you might expect someone in a jacked-up Jeep, or a mudding truck to pull me out. And I would have been glad for their help too. But a shiny red Porsche?! If that's not a sign from God, I don't know what is. Given my nature, I honestly might have blown off the guy in the Jeep thinking "I'll show him, I'm man enough to handle it." I basically said the same thing to the mountain twice as I started this journey. But this symbolism caught my attention, and I surrendered. It might sound cliché to compare it to the "Jesus Take the Wheel" song. But it kind of was. In an act of desperation, I had no choice but to let someone else get me out of a mess and trust the right thing would happen. Doing the right thing is never in question, and I joke about my “do not tell” list above. There is no do not tell list. But I had to be careful how I told the story. The story was going to get out. With David’s friends helping me, how could it not?! Awkward situations naturally happen and telling your coworkers what happened is always best. But in this case, I was dealing with people at a level in the company I don’t usually interact with. And I had no idea how they’d react. Now, I’m still working at V&M and doing well. I’m still performing my regular duties just as I have always been. But I won’t be getting off the beaten path anytime soon! So, was this a coincidence? Maybe. But I'm thinking not. These men are not necessarily angels, they’re just grown adults like me looking for adventure. But the three of us just got into and out of a bad situation together. And a little prayer of mine was answered the way I hoped. And we’re all better for it! I’m going to end the story with this: This is a funny story. I have a great time telling this story because the series of events are relatable to all of us, and the irony is absolutely amazing. But it could have easily been a very different story. Our company values passion. It’s one of our core values. Passion has driven me throughout my life, and it drives me now as I seek growth personally and professionally at V&M. But there are times when passion can get ahead of our ability to manage our situations. It’s natural for all of us. Our company also values doing the right thing. Looking back, the right thing to do would have been to turn around. This story could have been very different. I am grateful for the life I have and thankful for how this story ended. So, the lesson here isn’t a chance to entertain our friends with a cool story. Although I absolutely do that. The lesson here is to stay focused on the task at hand. Have fun with your job. But be mindful of your own natural tendencies and recognize that your greatest strengths can also be your greatest weakness. Sometimes it’s best to slow down and take it easy before we let our passion get the best of us.

  • Designing in the 3D World

    By Robert Garrett, PE | Open Roads Expert and Trainer An Engineer’s Imagination Becomes Reality They say hindsight is 2020. Had someone told me 30 years ago that my ideas and fingerprints would be so intricately intertwined in what the engineering world esteems as the industry standard for 3D modeling I would not have believed them. When I was just 23 years old and working for the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT), everything we did back then was two dimensional. Essentially, we would design something and then turn it around and redesign it to show elevation and then we would turn it around and design it again so you could see a cross-section. I recall a time that I was working on a drainage design on a particular pipe and we were drawing lines on paper and I distinctly remember thinking the only way this is really a pipe is in my imagination. We eventually put labels on things that read, “this is a pipe” but, what I started thinking about at that early age was that what we really need is for this thing to look like a pipe with an actual hole through it showing its wall thickness among other details. There were many young engineers at the time dreaming up these concepts, but even if we wanted to do those things, there was no software that could do that and computers were clunky and slow. That was back in 1989 and so our industry has come full circle and our dreams have come to fruition. They are no longer a part of the imagination of engineers anymore because we have the technology and many bright minds making it happen. Aside from not having the capability back then, as things began to evolve in the industry there also was a need for a collective mind shift. I’m sure many of my fellow engineers can relate to the old adage that it’s challenging to teach an old dog new tricks especially if he or she is a seasoned engineer. Gaining the collective buy in for moving away from 2D drawings to 3D modeling was not going to be an easy task. I spent nearly 12 years with TDOT and while computer-aided design (CAD) had made its way into the transportation industry, it really wasn't being exploited during that time. TDOT had rooms full of computers on a special floor with special air conditioning, but they just sat there collecting dust. I remember walking into the Knoxville office and there was a brand new, Hewlett Packard, pen plotter - nothing more than a vintage decorative piece now. However, it had been sitting there for two years and nobody had used it because they didn't know what to do with it. In true engineering fashion I began to tinker with it to see if we could make use of it. I started a niche for myself back then being able to take technology that the industry wanted to use but didn’t know how or was resistant to it and make use of it. I began to unravel the mysteriousness of it and add in some efficiencies to start moving the technology forward inside the DOT, which led to a big push to advance its use. I soon left the DOT for a private engineering firm continuing to advance technology, but also designing roadways as well. All of the software at this time was being developed by Bentley Systems. I was spending quite a bit of time on support calls with them and one day they asked, “have you ever thought about working for us?” And I answered yes, of course. By then, Bentley had started to dive head first into their 3d modeling technology development. It was 2007 and up until then, everything that we did was still two dimensional. 3D really only existed in our heads. A short time later I received a call from a gentleman who said, “Robert, I want you to come work for me. We are going to develop a 3D modeling solution.” I spent the next decade working with Bentley developing from the ground up what is now widely known in the industry today as Open Roads. In 2018, I was fortunate to be at the right place at the right time and was offered a position with Vaughn & Melton to develop and oversee a team of young and aspiring engineers. I now find myself in the position of actually taking the software that I helped develop and advance and put it into production helping and mentoring other young, eager engineers practice something that engineers 30 years ago only dreamed about. It’s truly the highlight of my career to see the imaginations and creativity of these bright young minds, and I am fortunate to get to work alongside some of our industry’s best still today.

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  • Structures | Vaughn & Melton

    Structures Return to All Services Vaughn & Melton’s structural engineers combine innovation, imaginative thinking and common-sense solutions to engineer and deliver a broad spectrum of structural projects. Our structures work includes safe, sustainable, and cost-effective projects such as bridges, culverts, and retaining walls. Additional Vaughn & Melton structural engineering services include maintenance condition assessments, NBIS-certified inspections, rehabilitation, construction support and resident engineering. We also offer phase construction plans for complete bridge replacement, as well as load rating, fatigue and seismic analysis and modeling. Project History A Multi-Disciplinary Approach for Historical Renovation Projects Case History Jackson Avenue Ramps Project - Knoxville, TN Read More Expertise Supporting our structural engineering team is a team of hydraulic engineering experts. These water resources specialists are proficient in: Bridge/railroad design Highways Pedestrian Railroad Bridge inspection Environment studies/permits

  • Services | Vaughn & Melton

    A customized solution for every project Vaughn & Melton’s civil engineering and surveying team offers a comprehensive portfolio of services tailored to our client’s specific needs. Our multiple services to meet growing and more diverse needs means that we can deliver turnkey solutions. Not only do we perform important infrastructure work for departments of transportation, but we also offer growing services for municipalities, cities, towns as well as various government agencies and commercial businesses. Civil Design Right-of-Way Acquisition (ROW) Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) Utility Coordination Community Engagement SmartCampus Surveying & GIS Water Resources Construction Engineering and Inspection (CEI) Structures Transportation

  • Right-of-Way Acquisition (ROW) | Vaughn & Melton

    Right-of-Way Acquisition (ROW) Return to All Services Projects that involve the use of eminent domain must conform to the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970. Vaughn & Melton’s right-of-way acquisition (ROW) experts have extensive experience managing this entire critical process and assuring full legal compliance. From accurate surveying through the final sale, our ROW teams provide a true turnkey process, resulting in a high-quality acquisition project in accordance with state and federal legal requirements. As a testament to our quality of work, stakeholder cooperation, and timeliness, Vaughn & Melton have closed the sale of over 1,000 parcels in more than 300 relocations In addition, our 13 percent condemnation rate substantially exceeds the industry average. Project History U-2519AA/AB, Future I-295, Fayetteville Outer Loop CLIENT: NCDOT, Division 6 (contracted through STV) Vaughn & Melton teamed with STV, Inc., thru Balfour-Beatty in this design-build pursuit. Our team was selected by the NCDOT based on the strength of both partners, an excellent reputation as a full-service right of way firm and the contractor’s low bid. Vaughn & Melton led right of way services for this project, consisting of 146 parcels of land along the approximately 6 miles of road improvements for NCDOT which is part of the future I-295, Fayetteville Outer Loop. Right-of-way services included project management, title opinion, right-of-way acquisition, relocation assistance, and closings. Read More Expertise Title reports Appraisals (Surface & Mineral) Acquisitions (Easement & Mineral) Curatives Appraisal Reviews Negotiations Relocation Assistance Closings Replacement Housing Calculation

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