Obituary - Tom Kuesel - TunnelTalk

Obituary

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Thomas R. Kuesel

Thomas R. Kuesel 1926 - 2010
Thomas R. Kuesel, a recognized authority on tunnel and bridge engineering and former partner at Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB), died on February 17. He was 83 and lived in Connecticut. During a 43-year career with PB, Kuesel contributed to the design of more than 130 bridges and more than 140 tunnels in 36 states and on six continents.
Kuesel was a graduate of Yale University, from which he received Bachelor's and Master's degrees in civil engineering. He joined PB in 1947 as a junior bridge engineer. He was named partner in 1968 and in 1984 became Chairman of the Board of Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas, Inc., then PB's U.S. transportation engineering arm. He retired in 1990 but remained a consultant to PB.
Kuesel was co-editor, with PB's John O. Bickel, of the Tunnel Engineering Handbook, first published in 1982, a comprehensive guide to the design and construction of virtually every type of tunnel. He published more than 60 technical articles on tunnels, structures, and contracting practices and was a registered Professional Engineer in 21 states.
Kuesel was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1977. He was an honorary member of the American Underground Construction Association. He received the Golden Beaver Award in Engineering in 1989 from The Beavers, the West Coast heavy construction honorary association.
Tribute by George Munfakh, Director, Geotechnical & Tunnelling, Parsons Brinckerhoff
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Tom and I (George Munfakh, right) at a social event

TOM KUESEL - THE TUNNEL ENGINEER'S ENGINEER
"February 17, 2010 was a sad day in the 125-year history of Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) because of the passing of one of the firm's greats - Tom Kuesel. As Partner, Chief Engineer and Chairman of PB's U.S. infrastructure company, Tom was one of a kind. His contributions to PB and the tunneling industry are beyond measure. He was a perfect gentleman, a brilliant engineer and a man of great vision and leadership qualities. He started his career as a bridge structural engineer and ended it as the firm's top expert in both bridges and tunnels, a distinction that no one else has ever achieved at PB-with the possible exception of the firm's founder, William Barclay Parsons.
When I joined PB in 1973, Tom was the partner in charge of the firm's bridge work and he also supervised the small contingent of geotechnical engineers employed by the firm. At that time, some of the partners were against having in-house geotechnical (or tunneling) practice because of its potential risk. Tom, however, had the vision, courage and resolve to fight against that idea, and to lead PB's penetration into, and deep involvement with, the tunneling field----and the results speak for themselves. PB is without question one of the top U.S. firms in underground engineering.
In the early 1980s, Tom was a member of a panel of five tunneling experts invited by the People's Republic of China to visit that country and provide advice on how to set China's national strategic plan for underground construction. George Fox, Al Matthews, Ralph Peck and Bob Jenny were the other members of the famous Tunneling Five. Tom's philosophical approach to tunneling and insights on how to construct facilities underground were well documented in technical papers, presentations and lectures, including the Tunnel Engineering Handbook. His two-part publication 'An Education in Tunneling', which appeared in the March and April 1989 issues of Civil Engineering, has become a classic and highlighted his vision of the evolution of tunneling and how underground facilities can best be built taking into account geotechnical, structural, construction and contractual considerations.
Tom was a real believer in the observational method of design advocated by Ralph Peck. In his 1988 Martin S. Kapp Lecture titled 'Soils and Structures', he clearly defined the necessary interactive role of the structural and geotechnical engineer in the design of underground facilities, and highlighted the power of the observational method. "Geotechnical or structural theory alone is of little use," he declared, adding "the most valuable tool is the prototype, the tunnel itself". He was also of the opinion that of all the obstacles to a successful tunnel project, the most serious were "the wedges being driven into our ball by the accounting, insurance, and legal fraternities."
A strong believer in innovation, Tom gave our staff the freedom and encouragement to apply the state-of-the-art on PB's projects. Under his watch, NATM came to America (the Mount Lebanon Tunnel of the Pittsburgh light rail); the first precast concrete segmental liner was used on a transit system (Lexington Market Section of the Baltimore Metro), and the first EPB TBM was driven in the U.S. In directing the engineering of the BART system in the 1960s, he was instrumental in developing innovative seismic designs that allowed the transit system to continue operation during the Loma Prieta earthquake 20 years later.
Perhaps Tom's biggest strength was his ability to solve technical problems. Regardless of the degree of complexity, he quickly got to the heart of the problem and applied his ingenuity, technical skills and common sense to find a solution. When NORAD was being mined in the Cheyenne Mountain, an unforeseen and potentially unsafe rock discontinuity was encountered which almost threw the entire construction into crisis. Sitting in a dingy café, Tom quickly developed an alternative design he described as "a grapefruit with four tin cans" which supported the rock loads and allowed construction to be completed on time.
At a meeting Tom and I attended in the early 1980s regarding an interceptor tunnel in Brooklyn, New York, with George Fox, the then president of Grow Tunneling, a serious construction issue was discussed involving mining a soft ground tunnel over an existing tunnel with about 18 inches of clearance between the two. Tom looked at the presented documents, asked a few pointed questions, closed his eyes for a couple of minutes then declared "no problem". After six weeks of studies and analyses by our geotechnical and structural engineers-and the support of the University of Illinois-our formal report could be summarized in two words "no problem".
Although Tom's role at PB was not to market our services, his contributions to the firm's ability to win major projects were substantial. His engineering brilliance, technical savvy, credibility, and practical approach to solving difficult problems gained the respect of many clients to the point that projects and tasks were sometimes awarded to PB because of him, even without submitting detailed technical proposals. I personally witnessed a number of such occasions.
As PB writes its 125-year history, Tom's name will undoubtedly be mentioned quite often and be associated with some of the firm's greatest achievements, particularly bridges and tunnels. In reflecting on my 36-year career with the firm, I treasure my memories of Tom's brilliance, leadership, support of our staff and contributions to the success of the firm and the advancement of our tunneling practice. To me, he was a leader, a teacher, a mentor, an advisor, a consultant, a problem solver and, above all, a very nice human being. In my opinion, Tom Kuesel was the tunnel engineer's engineer. He will be missed greatly."
George Munfakh
Parsons Brinckerhoff
Thomas R. Kuesel, Chairman Emeritus, Parsons Brinckerhoff 1926 - 2010
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Thomas R. Kuesel

One of the finest gentlemen engineers died on February 17. Tom Kuesel, former partner at Parsons Brinckerhoff and a recognized authority on tunnel and bridge engineering was 83 when he died at his home in Connecticut.
During a 43-year career with Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB), Kuesel contributed to the design of more than 140 tunnels and 130 bridges in 36 states and on six continents. "Tom Kuesel was one of the great PB engineers of the last half-century," said George J. Pierson, PB's Chief Executive Officer. "His contributions to tunnel and bridge projects that are well-known to millions."
Among projects on which Kuesel served as PB's principal-in-charge, project manager, or project engineer, were the Fort McHenry Tunnel in Baltimore, Maryland; the second Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel in Virginia; the Cumberland Gap Tunnel between Tennessee and Kentucky; the Newport/Pell Bridge in Newport, Rhode Island; and the original Talmadge Bridge in Savannah, Georgia.
For the North American Air Defense Command Center (NORAD) outside Colorado Springs, Colorado, Kuesel designed a unique structural support system for deep underground chambers that used intersecting spherical and cylindrical surfaces to mutually reinforce and support each other, and to transfer load-bearing from weak to solid rock. For Atlanta's MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) system, Kuesel led the design of an innovative method for excavating the Peachtree Center subway station using the rock itself as a structural reinforcement.
From 1963 to 1967, Kuesel was Assistant Manager of Engineering for a joint venture of PB, Tutor and Bechtel that served as general engineering consultant to the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) in California. In that position, he directed the design of 20 miles of subway, 25 miles of aerial structures, two hard-rock tunnels and a 3.6-mile immersed tube tunnel under San Francisco Bay to link San Francisco and Oakland.For almost 20 years, from 1985 through 2004, he was senior advisor on the development, design and construction of Boston's Big Dig, the Central Artery/Tunnel project.
Other tunnel and bridge projects to which Kuesel contributed include: the Mount Macdonald/Rogers Pass Tunnel in British Columbia, Canada; the Lehigh Tunnel on the Pennsylvania Turnpike; the Glenwood Canyon Tunnel in Colorado; the Tetsuo Harano Tunnel in Oahu, Hawaii; the Coleman Bridge at Yorktown, Virginia; the Admiral Clarey Bridge across Pearl Harbor in Hawaii; and the Rama IX Bridge in Bangkok. He was also involved in subway projects in Boston, New York, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Caracas, Singapore, and Taipei.
In Turkey, Kuesel designed the earliest proposals for creating an immersed tube fixed link across the Bosphorus in Istanbul. That it is being realized today is a credit to his engineering foresight, skill and expertise.
Kuesel was a graduate of Yale University, from which he received Bachelor's and Master's degrees in civil engineering. He joined PB in 1947 as a junior bridge engineer. He was named partner in 1968 and in 1984 became Chairman of the Board of Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas, Inc., then PB's U.S. transportation engineering arm. He retired in 1990 but remained a consultant to PB.
Kuesel co-edited the Tunnel Engineering Handbook, first published in 1982, a comprehensive guide to the design and construction of virtually every type of tunnel. He published more than 60 technical articles on tunnels, structures, and contracting practices and was a registered professional engineer in 21 states. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1977 and was an honorary member of the American Underground Construction Association. He received the Golden Beaver Award in Engineering in 1989 from The Beavers, the West Coast heavy construction honorary association.
Kuesel is survived by his wife of 51 years, Lucia Fisher Kuesel and by his two children, Robert Livingston Kuesel and William Baldwin Kuesel; and five grandchildren.