Obituary - James Wilton - TunnelTalk


James Wilton 1926 - 2010
Former Jacobs Associates President and Chairman, James Wilton, died on Saturday, March 13, aged 83.

James Wilton 1926 - 2010

"Jim was an Engineer's Engineer, with a reputation for being able to solve almost any construction problem," said current Jacobs Associates President, Bill Edgerton. "He was extremely detail oriented and was known for his meticulous construction drawings and calculations, which helped establish a quality standard within the firm. Jim was a recognized expert in excavation support for deep cut-and-cover structures, and the memory of his significant contributions will continue at Jacobs Associates."
Jim was born in Los Angeles in 1926. After received his discharge from the U.S. Navy in 1946, he enrolled at Stanford University as an aspirant civil engineer. He received his B.S.C.E. degree in 1950 and immediately went to work for Macco Corporation. It didn't take long for him to realize that his vocation was construction engineering. In 1957, Jim joined Jacobs Associates. With his on-the-job experience and his aptitude for designing, Jim immediately assumed responsibility for the firm's construction engineering services. He became a Principal in 1963, was made President in 1974, and was elected Chairman of the Board of Directors in 1985. Jim remained at Jacobs Associates for nearly 40 years.
Most of Jim's noteworthy projects have been underground structures, excavation support systems, cofferdams, and custom-built construction plants. Some of the designs he handled include tunneling alternatives to open-cut construction on sections of rapid transit systems in both San Francisco and Washington, D.C.; the Yacambu Irrigation Tunnel, Venezuela; the Arenal Power Tunnel, Costa Rica; and the Renton Effluent Transfer System tunnels in Seattle. In addition, he undertook significant consulting assignments on more than 30 tunnels in the U.S. and abroad. In the 1970s he published several papers and studies on these projects under federal research grants, and these papers are still relevant today.
Excavation support systems incorporating Jim's designs were used on more than half of the San Francisco BART stations; the N-1 and N-2 sewer tunnels in San Francisco; an 8,000ft long open trench in San Francisco for the West Side Sewage Transport; the Chicago Deep Tunnel (TARP) project; the Victoria Arts Center foundations in Melbourne, Australia; and individual cut-and-cover contracts for subway tunnels in New York City, Atlanta, Boston, and Washington, D.C. Jim was known for his expertise in deep, complex excavation support systems, and was the author of the cut-and-cover chapter of the Tunnel Engineering Handbook, 2nd Edition.
A few of his many other projects include the world's largest aggregate processing plant for Mangla Dam in Pakistan; a two-mile-long downhill belt conveyor system to transport 20 million tons of core material from borrow to fill for the Trinity Dam in California; and aggregate processing plants for several western U.S. dams, including San Antonio and Bullards Bar in California and Lower Granite Dam on the Columbia River.
After retiring from Jacobs Associates, Jim continued his involvement in consulting and dispute resolution through 2009. Jim was a member of the San Vicente tunnel project DRB (Dispute Resolution Board) in San Diego before he resigned for health reasons. He was a Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers and received a Golden Beaver Award for Engineering in 1987.
He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Ellen, of Woodside, California; his two daughters, Shelly and Leslie; and his five grandchildren.