Matt Willey, P.E., S.E., loves a challenge, whether on rail projects or a paddleboard. As a structural engineer working at Hanson’s Springfield, Illinois, headquarters, he has worked on bridges across the United States since he joined the company in 2001.
Matt earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from Bradley University and from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, respectively. He is a licensed professional engineer in Alabama, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi and North Carolina, a licensed structural engineer in Illinois and a member of the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association and the Illinois Society of Professional Engineers.
How I became interested in engineering: The first time I can recall considering the profession of engineering was through the influence of my grandparents. My grandfather, who was a professional land surveyor, said I would probably make a good engineer one day because of my detail-oriented nature. My favorite pastime as a child was free-building with Legos.
What I do on a typical day on the job: On a typical day, I design or prepare plans for railway bridges, foundations and retaining walls. Increasingly, I have become involved in assisting project managers and leveraging our experience on past projects to overcome new obstacles.
My favorite part of my job: The most rewarding aspect of structural engineering to me is being a part of a team on challenging projects and building structures that will benefit future generations. My family has worked in the construction field for the last three generations as tile setters, masons, electricians and construction managers. We take a great deal of pride in showing our children the work of our parents and grandparents.
The biggest challenge I have faced on the job: My biggest challenge in engineering is probably resisting the urge to further refine a design or search for an elegant solution, when an acceptable result has already been achieved.
Interesting projects I have worked on at Hanson and innovations or efficiencies that were used on those projects: The Fifth Street and Sixth Street bridge replacements on the Springfield Rail Improvements Project has been a challenging and interesting project to be involved in. The four double-track, through-plate girder bridges carry the Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific lines over the roadway at a 30-degree skew. Each railroad and location had substantially different design requirements, including one bridge that required a bolted bottom flange. To meet the accelerated project schedule, we were able to lean on our experience and catalog of past through-plate girder bridges to design all four bridges in parallel instead of designing each one individually. The bridges were especially rewarding because they are located blocks away from the Hanson headquarters, and many of us drive under them every day.
What I like to do when I’m not working: When I am not working, I am the Cubmaster for my son’s Cub Scouts pack. I also enjoy bodybuilding, and graphic/web design and have recently taken to stand-up paddleboarding.