Living laboratory in central Illinois driving region’s transportation future

Evolving technology and social trends are changing how people and products move. In the automotive industry, both original equipment manufacturers and startups are driving the adoption of connected, autonomous, shared and electric (CASE) mobility trends at rapidly increasing rates. In the future, vehicles of many forms will be more accessible to more people, transportation will be cheaper and more efficient and commuting will be more convenient, with integrated options for multiple modes of transportation for a single trip.

To prepare for this future, Hanson has partnered with Peoria, Illinois-based Distillery Labs, one of 15 Illinois Innovation Network hubs, to create and manage the Central Illinois Living Laboratory. The living laboratory serves as a testing hub for CASE mobility solutions. The objective of the living laboratory is to create a smart technology network within the public right of way that will allow technology companies the opportunity to beta-test products and solutions that will eventually be brought to market.

The impact from CASE solutions will be generated from using a combination of technologies. But right now, mobility products are at different stages of development and need a testing environment. The goal is to build tools into the public infrastructure that create a mobility workshop for inventors to create new companies and currently unimagined jobs.

To align with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity initiative, the living laboratory will involve such focus areas as the movement of people, agriculture and goods and applications for agriculture, construction and logistics. As the plan develops, increasing the footprint beyond the Peoria region will be explored based on market needs. The cities within central Illinois are well-connected, and the living laboratory will explore the transition from urban to suburban to rural. Some CASE technologies have the potential to have the biggest impact in rural settings.

In exchange for access to the living laboratory, the companies will provide the ecosystem host and sponsors with access to data and support of the ecosystem. Ultimately, the living laboratory should provide data that is necessary for research on transportation technologies, improve the transportation options to residents and create technology jobs in central Illinois.

Connectivity, in terms of mobility, will revolutionize how we move and pay for services. With project experience like the Central Illinois Living Laboratory, Hanson’s goal is to help our customers embrace the changes to the built environment that are needed to inform travelers in real time and seamlessly integrate the multimodal user experience into one journey.

To learn more about the Central Illinois Living Laboratory, contact Kurt Bialobreski at or Philip Lockwood at

This article first appeared on Hanson’s Forming the Future blog on May 13, 2021.

Moved to design: Meet Hanson’s Isaiah Cano

As a high school student, Isaiah Cano took an introduction to engineering class that set him on a path to pursue engineering as a career. He chose civil engineering as his major in college and graduated from Texas A&M University – Kingsville in 2019 with a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering.

Before graduating, Isaiah completed an internship at Hanson, working for the infrastructure market at the company’s Corpus Christi, Texas, office. This was another step on his path to becoming an engineer. When asked what he hoped to achieve during his internship, Isaiah said, “I hope to gain knowledge in the field and get some hands-on experience working with professional engineers.”

His internship yielded valuable work experience and a full-time employment offer from Hanson. Today, he works as a roadway designer at the Corpus Christi office, assisting with a variety of design work for roadways and drainage systems.

Here, Isaiah talks more about his career and what drives him at work and in life.

What led me to pursue this career?

I took an introduction to engineering class in high school, and that’s what really piqued my interest in the field of engineering. And it made me want to pursue it even further.

What I do on a typical day on the job:

Most of the time, I am in the office doing geometric design for roads. I also help with drafting on roadway projects. I also have done a few drainage analyses for some projects, with the help of others.

My favorite part of my job:

By far, the favorite part about my job is being able to work with others in the same field. And even better is getting the opportunity to learn from others and using that to grow in my career path.

Notable projects I have worked on:

The South Staples Street reconstruction from Baldwin Boulevard to Kostoryz Road in Corpus Christi. Hanson was the prime consultant on this roadway reconstruction project for the city of Corpus Christi. The project involved drainage, public development and environment study documentation, public involvement, roadway support and utility coordination.

What I like to do when I’m not working:

I love to collect sports trading cards, whether it’s football, basketball or baseball.

Forward thinking: How transportation research, advancements and insights will impact our roads

Hanson employees present at the 2021 Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting

By David McDonald Jr., P.E., PTOE, Ph.D.

I have attended the TRB’s annual meetings since I was a graduate student in 1998, but this year marked the first virtual annual meeting for TRB and me.

The pandemic has not slowed down the advancement of technology. Transportation research has continued. Thousands of researchers, engineers, scientists, planners and designers participated in the 2021 Transportation Research Board (TRB) Annual Meeting in January. Hanson employees contributed to this important conference through sessions, workshops, committee meetings and by leading subcommittees. Hanson staff presented several papers in multiple sessions during the virtual conference.

Senior transportation engineers Bikram Wadhawan, P.E., PTOE, and Kavita Parikh, P.E., PTOE, who work at Hanson’s Jacksonville, Florida, office, presented “Analysis of Complex Weaves in Managed Lanes” during a poster session Jan. 25. They were joined during the presentation by Amy Causseaux from the Florida Department of Transportation and Maria Overton, P.E., CPM, from CTS Engineering Inc.

Session focuses on design and performance

Since 2016, I have been evaluating the impacts highly automated vehicles (AV) will have on our roads, including how these vehicles could influence road design. My paper and presentation for this conference focused on how the AVs may perceive and react faster than a human driver and how they may be able to establish precise vehicle operational characteristics, such as speed or acceleration and deceleration rates. Using these vehicle advancements, several important design parameters were examined that depend on these abilities. If we were to design for a fully automated vehicle, the following impacts were described:

  • Ramp terminals with acceleration lanes and ramp deceleration lanes could be much shorter in length, saving on pavement and land-related costs.
  • Crest vertical curves may switch from sight line control to passenger comfort control. However, if sight lines were still to be a controlling feature, sharper curves would be a possibility, because stopping sight-distance requirements would be much less for an AV over a human-driven vehicle.
  • At-grade rail crossing design with AVs would impact sight triangle requirements and eliminate much of the current corner clear area requirements. The crossing road guidance to cross perpendicular to the tracks would not be as critical.

From this research, intersection sight distances are likely to be affected by AVs as well, because of the similarity of sight triangle requirements explored with at-grade rail design.

During my second presentation and poster session, “How Autonomous Vehicles May Influence Vertical Curves, At-Grade Railroad Crossings and Ramp Terminals,” I shared my ongoing research on how automated vehicles (AV) might perform better than human drivers and how roadway designs will need to change to accommodate these AVs.

Exploring lessons learned in roadway design

The spotlight theme for TRB’s 100th annual meeting was “Launching a New Century of Mobility and Quality of Life.” TRB also found ways to explore some of the important findings from its first 100 years.

That theme fit well with the second paper I presented on lessons learned over my 30 years of working in the transportation industry. During a lectern and poster session, I highlighted some of these lessons learned, with the hope that the next generation of roadway engineers and designers will benefit and pick up a nugget of knowledge or two they can use. Highlights included understanding the design assignment, maintaining clear communications, providing the expected deliverable, thinking ahead, preparing documentation (design and review) and exploring lessons learned related to roadway plans, profiles, sections and earthwork.

I presented my technical paper, “Lessons Learned in Roadway Design: A Few Nuggets of Knowledge,” at the Transportation Research Board’s (TRB) virtual 2021 Annual Meeting Jan. 29. The full presentation is available on Hanson’s YouTube channel.

Both papers and presentations have been selected for presentation to the European engineering community in summer 2022 as part of the 6th International Symposium on Highway Geometric Design, featuring the 6th Urban Street Symposium, in Amsterdam.

David McDonald Jr., P.E., PTOE, Ph.D., is a vice president, roadway discipline manager and chief roadway engineer at Hanson. He has been with the company since 2002. Contact him at

Moved to design: Meet Hanson’s Matthew Dawson, P.E., PTOE

Matthew Dawson, P.E., PTOE, is Hanson’s transportation practice lead, managing roadway, traffic, railway and logistics disciplines from Hanson’s Peoria, Illinois, office. He also serves as a project engineer on a range of transportation projects and provides quality assurance reviews of technical documents and plans for projects across the country.

Matthew Dawson, P.E., PTOE

During his 20-year career, he has worked on the reconstruction of interstates and roadways, bridge replacements, studies and designs of multimodal corridors and provided support services for Class I railroad projects nationwide.

Matthew serves on the Transportation Research Board’s Standing Committee on Performance Effects of Geometric Design, for which he is the co-chair of the Contextual and Multimodal Design Subcommittee. He also helps with peer reviews of research papers and is a frequent member of the Best Paper and Best Graduate Poster committees. He was named the Young Engineer of the Year by the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) Central Illinois Section in 2013, a Rising Star in Civil Engineering by Zweig White in 2012, one of InterBusiness Issues’ 40 Leaders Under Forty in 2011 and ASCE’s Outstanding Practitioner Advisor for Zone III in 2001. He is the membership chair for ASCE’s Illinois Valley Branch and is a member of the Institute of Transportation Engineers.

Matthew earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering in 2000 and 2010, respectively, from Bradley University. He is a licensed professional engineer in Illinois, Idaho and Missouri and a certified professional traffic operations engineer (PTOE).

“What I still enjoy most about being an engineer is seeing the projects that we have worked on be built and put into service.”

— Matthew Dawson, P.E., PTOE

Here, Matthew talks more about his career and what drives him at work and in life.

What led me to pursue this career?

Growing up, I would spend my days playing in the sandbox building roads and using Legos to construct buildings and vehicles of all types. Originally, I wanted to be an architect and took several classes in high school on AutoCAD and basic architectural design. When discussing my future career aspirations with my guidance counselor, he steered me away from architecture, claiming that I could not make a reasonable living in that profession, and I turned to engineering. That may have been the best piece of likely inaccurate advice that he bestowed upon me during high school, since it led me to the best possible career choice I could have made.

Hanson’s Hannah Engel, left, a civil airport designer, former intern and Bradley University graduate, and Matthew represented Hanson at a job fair at Bradley in Peoria in 2019.

What I do on a typical day on the job:

This can vary widely from day to day. Most days are a combination of managing Hanson’s transportation practice and designing projects for various clients. Together with Hanson’s discipline managers, we work to balance staffing needs and address challenges across our various offices. On the technical side, I am typically leading multiple ongoing roadway projects in Illinois and Missouri. In addition to those projects, I often provide design and plan set reviews for projects big and small.

My favorite part of my job:

Solving problems! That can be technical challenges on a project and meeting a deadline or helping to manage staff within Hanson’s transportation practice. There is never a dull or ordinary day in this job. Considering all of that, what I still enjoy most about being an engineer is seeing the projects that we have worked on be built and put into service.

The biggest challenge I have faced on the job:

The easy answer is the rapid and now sustained adjustments that we all have had to make for COVID-19. We have done a great job adjusting to, and balancing, the changes required to work from home, and in many cases, acting as our children’s teachers. Thinking beyond the current circumstances, it is always tough when friends and colleagues choose to leave and pursue new opportunities. It is a fact of most businesses that staff will change over time, but that doesn’t make it easy to part ways with those whom you have helped train and come to depend on.

Matthew shows Peoria area eighth-grade students how to construct hoop gliders during the first Greater Peoria CareerSpark event in Peoria in 2017.

Notable projects I have worked on:

I have been lucky to work on a wide variety of project types and sizes over the last 20 years. I spent the first three years of my career at Hanson redesigning Interstate 74 through downtown Peoria, followed by a year and half on the south Tri-State Tollway (I-294) near Chicago. These were great learning experiences that helped me build relationships with team members in numerous offices. Since those first big jobs, I have worked on several Complete Streets projects in Illinois, which involved designing safe, accessible streets to improve mobility for all users. The Washington Street and Warehouse District projects in Peoria and the Multimodal Corridor Enhancement Project in Champaign and Urbana have been particularly rewarding. Working for the Missouri Department of Transportation and helping Hanson’s railway market with projects in various states has also been a fascinating experience as we work to unravel how each new jurisdiction likes their designs to be prepared at least a little bit differently than their neighbors.

What I like to do when I’m not working:

We have three sons, from ages 3 to 12, who keep my wife and I busy. When I can, I like to do woodworking. In our previous home, I spent a lot of time gutting and remodeling various rooms, but when we moved a few years ago to a newer home, there was not a need for that. Instead, I am now more focused on building projects for the kids and our yard, such as their sand box, a self-watering garden and floating shelves for my oldest son’s Star Wars Lego collection. Recently, I have been trying my hand at building cabinets. When global conditions allow, I love to watch the Chicago Cubs and Bradley’s basketball team play!

Downtown dilemma: One-way pair will ease traffic congestion and protect historic properties

By Clint Smith, P.E., CFM

The slogan welcoming travelers into the city of Newberry, Florida, is “Enhancing the future while embracing the past.” That principle was put to good use recently on a study to improve traffic flow and multimodal safety on a main thoroughfare through the city while protecting the historic downtown.

Newberry is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. The city had an estimated 6,200 residents in 2019, according to the U.S. Census, a 24 percent increase since 2010. Newberry sits just 20 miles west of Gainesville, the largest city in north central Florida and the home of the University of Florida.

The expected population growth will continue to clog State Road 26 entering downtown Newberry, Florida. A proposed one-way pair configuration, developed during an extensive project development and environment study, will alleviate these concerns and open doors to future commercial development in the area while protecting Newberry’s historical district.

The influx of new residents has brought many positive things to the former phosphate mining town; however, expansion also can bring challenges. One such obstacle was congested traffic on State Road 26 entering downtown. SR 26 serves as the main access route from Newberry and counties west of Gainesville, the region’s major employment center. The traffic jams have hindered economic growth and caused safety and quality-of-life concerns for city leaders and residents.

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) District 2 began studying options to increase capacity on this 4-mile stretch in 2007. An initial idea to create a bypass around the downtown did not garner support. In 2014, FDOT hired Hanson to conduct a project development and environment (PD&E) study to explore options other than a bypass. The preferred alternative generated from the study was a one-way pair roadway system into downtown using existing roadway corridors to minimize impacts. The idea received public support and endorsement in 2019, and FDOT hired Hanson last summer to produce the final design.

The one-way pair for SR 26 leading into downtown Newberry will greatly improve transportation while providing safety and improved quality of life for residents. The approximately 4-mile-long project will ease traffic congestion while providing enhanced safety measures, protecting the city’s historical district and existing land use.

Project paves way for improved traffic flow and safety measures

The project will convert SR 26/West Newberry Road and Northwest First Avenue from two-way, two-lane roadways into a one-way pair system, with two lanes in each direction. The design incorporates context-sensitive solutions features: the complete streets concept will increase roadway capacity while incorporating safety and traffic-calming measures, such as sidewalks, bicycle lanes, on-street parking and a roundabout.

The one-way pair provided the most feasible option to improve traffic flow, provide economic growth opportunities and minimize negative impacts to downtown and the environment without using conventional widening or a bypass. Newberry’s historic district was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987 and contains nearly 50 historic buildings, and protecting these landmarks was imperative.

The pictures on these display boards show a portion of the 3D roadway model overlaying existing conditions to demonstrate how the one-way pair harmonizes with the Newberry historic district without major negative impacts.

While the one-way pair concept is not new to Florida, some Newberry residents were unfamiliar and initially skeptical. Hanson worked alongside FDOT staff to educate and engage the public about one-way pairs before moving forward. The effort included a 3D-animated drive-through video to demonstrate realistic views of the travel lanes, pedestrian walkways and bicycle lanes and using case studies on successful one-way pairs in other areas.

It will be awhile before residents and commuters can reap the benefits, with design and construction still a few years away. Even so, FDOT leaders and the community are excited about the prospects of the revamped roadway. The study earned an Honor Award this month from the American Council of Engineering Companies of Florida in its 2021 Engineering Excellence Awards competition.

This screen capture is from a 3D, fly-through rendering video used during public involvement efforts. The roundabout at the intersection of SR 26/CR 337 (Northwest 266th Street) will enhance safety and serve as a smooth transition to the one-way pair configuration. The video was instrumental in gaining public support by showing a realistic illustration to residents and business owners.

“The project is indicative of the types of positive transportation improvements FDOT District 2 strives for in our communities, using partnerships with affected parties and well-researched studies to benefit numerous stakeholders and provide the best value to our constituents,” said Robert “Larry” Parks, P.E., the district’s director of transportation development.

Clint Smith, P.E., CFM, is Hanson’s Florida infrastructure disciplines manager and works in the company’s Jacksonville, Florida, office. For more information about this project or ideas on Florida transportation projects, contact Clint at Also, visit Hanson’s project portfolio to see this and other projects.

Hanson works on ADA curb ramp improvements for Illinois DOT

Hanson received five work orders from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to prepare Phase II plans, specifications and estimates for Americans with Disabilities (ADA) curb ramp improvements at various locations in IDOT’s District 1, which is in northeastern Illinois and includes Chicago and six counties. Three work orders were standalone ADA improvement projects. The two others were a part of in-house resurfacing plans prepared by IDOT. Hanson’s design services included the evaluation of Phase I ADA curb ramp designs prepared by others, preparing designs at a few added locations and repackaging Phase I designs prepared by other consultants into Phase II plans, specifications and estimates.

Moved to design: Meet Hanson’s Jason Rowley, P.E.

Jason Rowley, P.E., is a senior project manager in Hanson’s Indianapolis office who serves infrastructure clients in Indiana and across the U.S.

Fortunately for Jason Rowley, P.E., his teachers and parents helped encourage and guide him toward a career in engineering. And that encouragement and guidance is something he’s grateful for and willing to share with others, including students and young engineers.

Designing roadways and pathways is an important part of Jason’s job as a senior project manager, serving Hanson’s infrastructure clients from the company’s office in Indianapolis. Jason helps clients deliver their transportation projects to meet the needs of their communities. He says that one of the favorite parts of his job is seeing a team work together to successfully design and build infrastructure projects.

Jason joined Hanson in 2016 and has 23 years of experience working on engineering projects. He is a licensed professional engineer in Indiana, a member of the American Council of Engineering Companies of Indiana’s Education Committee and a former member of the Indiana Department of Transportation’s Americans with Disabilities Act advisory group. He has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Michigan Technological University.

There’s almost always a sweet spot in every design where the client and the engineer agree. The challenge, and ultimately the solution, is finding the right design to fit each client.”

— Jason Rowley, P.E.
Senior project manager

Here, Jason talks more about his career and what drives him at work and in his life.

What led me to pursue this career?

Growing up in a small town in central Michigan, a kid isn’t exposed to a lot of different professions. I was fortunate to take a drafting class in eighth grade and have the same engineering teacher in ninth through 12th grade. I didn’t know any “engineers” throughout high school, so I took a leap of faith that this profession was the right path for me, mostly because of one great teacher. I was also fortunate to have wonderful parents who helped to guide me along my early path. We forget how moldable we were in high school until we look back and realize how our teachers and family lifted us and directed us to where we are today. Because of their mentoring and guidance, I’m committed to helping others find their career path.

What I do on a typical day on the job:

My daily routine as a project manager involves managing projects for the Indiana Department of Transportation and other cities and counties in Indiana. I am responsible for helping my clients deliver their projects to meet the needs of their communities. I meet with our clients then work with our infrastructure team in our Indiana office. I also work with Hanson staff outside Indiana on our projects in Indiana and across the country.

Jason was the project manager for the Wildcat Creek Walk of Excellence in Kokomo, Indiana. Hanson worked with the city of Kokomo to create a pedestrian- and bicyclist-friendly recreational trail along the north and south sides of Wildcat Creek through the heart of downtown Kokomo. The project team received a Merit Award from the American Council of Engineering Companies of Indiana in 2020.

My favorite part of my job:

The favorite part of my job has evolved over my 23-year career. I still enjoy designing projects with CAD and different design programs, then overseeing those design documents during construction. Nowadays, the favorite part of my job is seeing a team of designers, environmental scientists, subconsultants and our clients all work together to design and build infrastructure projects.

The biggest challenge I have faced on the job:

During my career, I’ve found that it can be easy to design “something,” but challenging to design exactly what the client envisioned and what the engineer feels is the right option. There’s almost always a sweet spot in every design where the client and the engineer agree. The challenge, and ultimately the solution, is finding the right design to fit each client.

Jason managed the design team for the $300 million U.S. 31 highway and bridge project in central Indiana.

Notable projects I have worked on:

I’ve worked on large and small projects during my career. One of my first projects was a sanitary sewer system for a new campground. I also spent about 15 years working on large projects that ranged in construction size from $200 million to $800 million. I consider my most notable project a $300 million, U.S. 31 highway and bridge project in central Indiana that I managed the design team for seven years. This project opened my eyes to community involvement, value engineering during design and construction and how to accelerate project delivery while maintaining quality. I had the opportunity to see the teamwork required to deliver a project of this size while working with a lot of great engineers, environmental scientists and local and state officials.   

What I like to do when I’m not working:

Jason and his family enjoy exploring new places and trying new things.

Outside of work, I like to spend time with my family and friends. We try to travel to new places and experience new things as often as possible. My wife and I also enjoy remodeling and renting real estate property around Indianapolis.

What does the future hold for transportation agencies?

Hanson’s chief roadway engineer spends a busy week with 13,000 transportation professionals in our nation’s capital

By David McDonald Jr., P.E., PTOE, Ph.D.

Each January, thousands of transportation professionals make a pilgrimage to Washington, D.C., to participate in the Transportation Research Board’s annual meeting. It’s the world’s largest congregation of transportation professionals who are exploring the results of transportation research and identifying how additional research can benefit our transportation system. I have attended TRB’s annual meeting since I was a graduate student in 1998. At the time, I was intent on identifying a research need that was also of interest to me that would help me complete my doctoral degree requirements. I was a student in need of a dissertation topic! During that initial trip, I identified five main activities that occur at TRB’s annual meeting: workshops, lectern sessions, poster sessions, committee and subcommittee meetings and networking events.

Twenty-two years later, I attended TRB’s 99th Annual Meeting, where the organization celebrated the beginning of 100 years of research. This year, like other years, our attendees learned about emerging transportation research. The important aspect for our company is to identify how this new, emerging knowledge may affect what we do and how it could affect our clients.

This was a special annual meeting for me because of my involvement as a member of the Operational Effects of Geometrics Committee. This committee, along with another TRB committee, was selected for the organization’s Blue Ribbon Award for Implementation, which is defined as moving research ideas into transportation practice. Only two out of 212 committees received this recognition.

Changes that will influence road design

With more than 5,000 presentations in over 800 sessions, it is impossible to attend everything, so I gravitate toward activities that could affect how we design roads. Based on my interests and activities at the annual meeting, I learned about four changes that will influence road design:

  1. Connected vehicles (CV), automated/autonomous vehicles (AV) and connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV) are coming and will affect transportation agencies and road design.

  2. Safety is becoming a more significant part of the design process.

  3. More road projects will occur in the built environment. This will lead to less space for new infrastructure and greater challenges to maintain traffic on roads during construction. For more details about this, check out the Institute of Transportation Engineers’ sixth edition of its Traffic Engineering Handbook. My colleague, Amber Petkevicius, P.E., a senior transportation engineer at Hanson’s Chicago regional office, and I were lead authors of Chapter 18, “Maintenance of Traffic Design and Construction Staging.”

  4. Researchers have identified some simple design changes to reduce wrong-way driving at interchanges.

I participated in two workshops related to CV/AV technologies. The first was “Impacts Connected and Autonomous Vehicles Could Have on Geometrics.” The second was for a Federal Highway Administration project called “Investigate Key Automated Vehicle Human Factors Safety Issues Related to Infrastructure,” for which I participated as part of a panel of experts in the field.

If you are interested in learning more about how these four changes can affect road design, reach out to me, and I can connect you to good resources and engineering staff that are ready to help. With CV/AV impacts to road design being one of my special interests, I would love the opportunity to discuss thoughts and ideas on how this new technology may influence our road designs. I even have several papers and presentations developed on this topic.

Back to 1998. Did I find a topic for my dissertation? Yes, I did. It was related to design — a bit specialized and now a bit outdated — but at the time, it was relevant. The dissertation was approved by Vanderbilt University and published with the title, “Development of Toll Plaza Design Guidelines and Creation of a Toll Plaza Design Model.”

David McDonald Jr., P.E., PTOE, Ph.D., is a vice president at Hanson and the firm’s roadway discipline manager and chief roadway engineer. He has been with the company since 2002 and works at Hanson’s Chicago regional office. Contact him at