Landmark for the 21st Century

Landmark for the 21st Century

Civil Engineering Tech students tour Hwy 61 Hastings Bridge project

Shannon MeeksOn Friday, April 5, 2013, 20 students from the Civil Engineering Technology program at Dakota County Technical College took a tour of the new Hwy 61 Bridge under construction over the Mississippi River at Hastings, Minn. Shannon Meeks, a construction quality manager at Parsons, an engineering firm working on the project, gave the tour of the bridge, which is expected to last 100 years and cost $120 million. Based in Pasadena, Calif., Parsons is one of the largest engineering, construction, technical and management services firms in the U.S. The students learned what jobs civil techs could perform during the construction of what will be the longest freestanding tied-arch bridge in North America.

“The bridge construction tour gave our students the chance to see firsthand a high-profile, real-world project,” said Alan Hancock, the CET instructor at the college. “You can accomplish a lot of good work in labs, classrooms and outside on campus, but nothing beats visiting an actual site to see what civil techs really do.” Hancock added that DCTC and the CET program wished to thank Parsons for arranging the tour.

CET students visiting main span assembly siteFriday’s tour marked the second time students visited the project site. Students also visited the site where the main span of the bridge was assembled before engineers floated it downriver to the bridge crossing. Hancock pointed out that adjunct faculty from the engineering industry give his students direct knowledge and insights into their future careers.

“We have a number of professional engineers, or PEs, teaching our students,” Hancock said. “Chuck Hubbard and Ben Dzioba are both PEs with Braun Intertec, an environmental engineering company that provides testing and consulting services for government and business. Chuck is a principal engineer and geologist at Braun. Ben is a principal/senior engineer. Adam Parker, also a PE, owns his own company. Travis Van Neste, an RLS, or registered land surveyor, also owns his own company. Our CET adjuncts bring an amazing amount of experience and expertise to the program. They are rock stars.”

Hwy 61 Hastings Bridge Time-Lapse Construction Video

Meet the instructor

Alan Hancock has an A.A.S. degree in civil engineering technology from St. Cloud Community & Technical College. He served in the U.S. Army Reserve as an arctic light infantryman in Alaska and in the Minnesota National Guard as an M60 tank crewman. He has more than 20 years of experience in the civil engineering industry, having worked in a comprehensive range of areas, including:

  • Survey crews
    • Boundary
    • Topographic
    • Construction staking
  • Design
    • AutoCad Civil 3D
  • Inspection
  • Right of way
  • Permitting
  • Wetland delineation
  • Bridge inspection
  • Federal, state, county, city and township projects
  • Road research projects
  • Eminent domain cases
  • County ditch projects (agricultural drainage)
  • Sanitary sewer, water and storm sewer projects
  • Project memorandums

“Civil engineering technicians are in demand when the economy cools off as well as when it heats up,” Hancock said. “When times are lean, the government pours money into infrastructure construction and repair. When times get better, new construction picks up, providing even more opportunities for civil techs with associate degrees. Civil techs can work for governments at the local, state and national level. They also work for private engineering firms that provide professional, consulting and business services.”

Hancock noted that his program offers graduates options to go on and get their bachelor’s degrees. “We have a 2+2 pathway lined up with St. Cloud State University for graduates interested in getting their B.S. in Land Surveying and Mapping Sciences,” he said. “With Minnesota State University Moorhead , we have a 2+2 path to a B.S. in Operations Management and a 2+3 to a B.S. in Construction Management.”

Attitude and a desire to learn

CET Adjunct Instructor Chuck Hubbard, PE, PG and principal at Braun Intertec, pointed out that CET students at the college could have performed a lot of the work on the Hwy 61 Hastings Bridge project, including:

  • Assisting on the barge and with the drill rig during drilling operations (see photos below)
  • Selecting soil samples for testing and helping log samples back in Braun’s geotechnical laboratory
  • Performing basic tests on soil samples, including moisture content, density, Atterberg limits, gradation, Proctor density, unconfined compressive strength and consolidation
  • Organizing and setting up the instrumentation components in the field, including devices, cables, casings and remote reading and transmission equipment
  • Gathering and organizing/plotting instrument data

“As a professional in the industry, I am not just a teacher, but also a potential employer—that’s pretty significant,” Hubbard said. “The students that impress me the most are the ones that show up regularly, show up on time (or early), ask questions, get the work done on time or sooner than others, and show a willingness not only to learn, but to improve. As a good friend of mine at Braun said, ‘The job you are working on now is your interview for the next job.’ So true.”

Hubbard added that he knows of several graduates who developed the necessary work ethic and have already landed jobs in the industry, some with Braun. “Good grades and what a graduate takes away from our program are important,” he said. “But as an instructor and industry professional, I value attitude and a desire to learn as much as a student’s ability to do the work.”

CET student perspectives

Brandon Cesafsky, 21, from Stanley, Wis., is graduating in May 2013 with his Civil Engineering Technology A.A.S. degree. His next step is to earn a B.S. in construction management at the University of Wisconsin–Stout. His career goals include working as a civil tech or construction manager—he likes both roles equally—in the public or private sector. He hasn’t ruled out continuing his schooling to become a professional engineer.

“There are so many things you can do with a civil engineering technology degree,” said Cesafsky, who interned with Dakota County for four months over the summer in 2012, surveying, inspecting and testing materials. “That’s one of the main reasons I chose the program.”

Cesafsky, a 2010 graduate of Stanley-Boyd High School, particularly enjoys student outings like the bridge tour. “Visiting the Hastings Bridge was great,” he said. “I was amazed at how well everything came together so fast.”

St. Paul native Justin Winter, 34, is impressed by the array of adjunct instructors who teach the program. “They are straight from the engineering industry,” said Winter, who is also graduating this May. “They are more than current with the technology we need to know.”

Winter enjoys working with the software used by civil techs, including AutoCAD Civil 3D. One of his favorites is ArcGIS made by Esri. “GIS is everywhere,” he said. “Engineers and technicians use ArcGIS to apply geographic knowledge to project solutions.”

He also learned a lot at the main span assembly site, where Braun Intertec engineers illustrated the fine points of soil boring, materials testing and state compliance. “Now that I’ve seen the process,” he said, “I know just how complicated a project like the Hastings Bridge is to design and build.”

After earning his CET A.A.S. degree, Winter is heading for Anchorage, Alaska, to interview for jobs in the mining industry. “Mining runs in my family,” he said. “Mining is one more field where civil engineering technicians are needed.”

Hwy 61 Hastings Bridge Key Facts
Courtesy of MnDOT

Main Span

  • Comprised of arches, girders, beams, stringers and roadway
  • Length: 545 feet
  • Width: 104 feet


  • Comprised of steel arches and hanger assemblies
  • Height of arch rib (at maximum): 94 feet
  • Height of arches: varies from 6 feet to 8 feet 5 inches
  • Width of arches: varies from 8 feet 4 inches to 9 feet 4 inches at the top; 6 feet wide at the bottom


  • Poured-in-place concrete deck
  • 90 feet wide (barrier to barrier)
  • Four lanes of traffic plus 12 feet mixed use pedestrian and bike path
  • Crews will pour the roadway deck in spring 2013

Landmarks gone, going and here to stay

Hastings Spiral Bridge

Hastings High Bridge

  • Continuous steel through truss bridge
  • Retirement expedited in wake of  I-35W Mississippi River bridge collapse
  • 1951 c. 2013

Hwy 61 Hastings Bridge

  • Freestanding tied-arch bridge
  • Four lanes of traffic; 12-foot pedestrian/bike path
  • c. 2013 c. 2113
Bureau of Labor Statistics
Occupational Outlook Handbook
Civil Engineering Technicians

What Civil Engineering Technicians Do
Civil engineering technicians help civil engineers plan and design the construction of highways, bridges, utilities, and other major infrastructure projects. They also help with commercial, residential, and land development. Civil engineering technicians work under the direction of a licensed civil engineer.

Work Environment
Civil engineering technicians work in offices where they help civil engineers plan and design projects. Civil engineering technicians sometimes visit the job site where a construction project is taking place to test materials or inspect the project.

How to Become a Civil Engineering Technician
Although not always required, an associate’s degree in civil engineering technology is preferred for civil engineering technicians.

The median annual wage for civil engineering technicians was $46,290 in May 2010. ($22.26 per hour)*

Job Outlook
Employment of civil engineering technicians is expected to grow 12 percent from 2010 to 2020, about as fast as the average for all occupations. The need to maintain and repair an aging infrastructure will sustain demand for civil engineering technicians.

* Current data from ISEEK, Minnesota’s go-to resource for education and job info, puts the average wage at nearly $30 an hour for civil engineering technicians in the seven-county Twin Cities area. Top earners make more than $36 an hour.

For more information about Civil Engineering Technology at DCTC, contact:
Civil Engineering Technology students @Hwy 61 Hastings Bridge