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Obituary 26 Mar 2018

Walter Grantz 1929-2018

International expert of immersed tube tunnel construction techniques Walter Christian Grantz died peacefully at age 88 on March 02, 2018 at his home place of Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA, and after an adventurous life filled with work, travel and family.

Walter Grantz 1929-2018
Walter Grantz 1929-2018

Born in Argentina in 1929 at a time when his father was leading the construction of Line B of the Buenos Aires Underground, Grantz would later follow in his father’s international engineering footsteps contributing to the design studies and construction of groundbreaking and iconic civil engineering marine and immersed tube tunnel projects worldwide. After graduating from Cornell University in 1954 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering Grantz took a position with Parsons, Brinkerhoff, Quade & Douglas in New York (PBQ&D) and contributed, during his long career with the company, to the bridge and tunnel infrastructure of the Eastern US Seaboard including the Portsmouth Marine Terminal; the original and Second Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnels; the Second James River Bridge; the I-95 Fort McHenry Tunnel in Baltimore; the Ted Williams Tunnel in Boston.

After 40 years with PBQ&D, Grantz returned to Virginia to be the Chief Engineer for the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel District leading the construction of the Chesapeake Bay Parallel Crossing Project. Though he retired in 2000, he continued to provide design services for a broad range of bridge and tunnel projects around the world.

Launch for a Fort McHenry Tunnel element
Launch for a Fort McHenry Tunnel element
Photo by Walter C Grantz

As a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and of the International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association, Grantz was regarded as a world expert in immersed tube tunnel construction techniques and completed the design studies for many heavy marine construction projects in Thailand, East Pakistan, and Scandinavia.

At age 57, Grantz moved to live and work in Istanbul, Turkey to work on the design study of an immersed tube tunnel under the Bosphorus to connect Europe and Asia with light rail. Twenty years later, at age 77, he returned as part of the construction team that completed the Marmaray immersed tube railway crossing of the Bosphorus that opened in 2013.

Having been mentored by key individuals in his life, Grantz shared resolutely his expertise and commitment to the field of civil engineering whenever called upon. He was a Lifetime Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and an active long-term contributor to the International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association Working Group 11: Immersed and Floating Tunnels. He authored 30 leading technical papers and authored a layman’s view of The Immersed-Tunnel Method(1) in the Invention & Technology Magazine and, for the price of a copy for his grandchildren, he was the technical advisor for the childrens book Dig a Tunnel.

Aerial of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel
Aerial of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel
Photo by Walter C Grantz

When not working, Grantz combined two of his greatest joys: photography and flying. Many of the classic billboard and brochure photos of the Hampton Roads and Chesapeake Bay Bridge Crossings are aerial photos composed and freely shared by Grantz with the community. He was an accomplished instrument rated pilot, built and flew a Rutan Long Eze and used a Cessna 172 as his frequent photo-taking platform.

With a quiet humor and an exacting work ethic, Grantz is remembered by all who worked with him, whether in the office, on a lay-barge, in operations, maintenance or as a contracting vendor. He is survived by Barbara Grantz, his loving wife and travel partner of 60 years, by his son and daughter Arthur and Kathryn, by his grandchildren, and by tens of thousands of slides, negatives, images and meters of film.

In support of his belief in education and his love of engineering, the Grantz family suggests memorial donations to a university Civil Engineering program in his name.

Group tour after Strait Crossings Symposium in 2009
Group tour after Strait Crossings Symposium in 2009
Photo by Walter C Grantz

TunnelTalk Editor Shani Wallis, remembers Walter and his wife Barbara as regular attendees at international conferences and in particular remembers a memorable meeting at the Fifth Strait Crossings Symposium in Trondheim, Norway, in June 2009. Immersed tubes and the innovative, and yet to be built in prototype, floating tunnels concept, as well as mined undersea connections of extraordinary scope, were discussed during the conference before a post conference tour of undersea tunnelling projects along the majestic coastline of Norway that included bus and ferry touring during a week of glorious northern hemisphere summer. Walter’s legacy is a passion for advancing the possibilities of creating fixed links across waterways and to ensuring knowledge sharing without barriers. The legacy lives on through all who knew and shared his enthusiasm for national and international connectivity.

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