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Employee Spotlight: Catie Hall

Catie Hall Senior Marketing Coordinator and Definitely Not A Veterinarian

1.  What drew you to Hoyle, Tanner?
I actually always wanted to work at an engineering company. Both my parents were very technically-gifted, so I think I wanted to measure up in some way since I got a degree in journalism. At a time when I was looking for a job, this position popped up on my radar and I was eager to join!
2. What’s something invaluable you’ve learned here?
I’ve learned that peace and challenge can co-exist. Hoyle, Tanner has a great culture and can feel like home – but it also encourages you to grow along with it. I’ve been up against very difficult deadlines but have still appreciated all the growth I’ve been able to experience here!
3. What’s your favorite time of year to work at Hoyle, Tanner?
It used to be Christmas time because of the cheery energy and competition for Christmas decorations. But now I don’t think I have a favorite Hoyle, Tanner season – I like them all so long as the people around me are striving to be the best versions of themselves and adding to our culture.
4. What’s the coolest thing you are working on?
I’m lucky right now to be working on the rebranding effort with the rest of my marketing team. It’s so interesting to witness the growth and change that’s taking place before us. I’ve seen people adopt new logos – but I’ve never seen the process of creating one. So neat!
5. What’s the best thing that’s happened to you so far this week?
It’s warm enough to keep the window open and not shiver, and that’s a nice change.
6. How many different states have you lived in?
Just Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire. But fun fact, I’ve lived in Vermont three different times after moving out of state!
7. If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life what would it be?
Nothing else matters except pizza and chocolate. I would eat pizza of all varieties followed by a dessert of some chocolate thing and I would be okay with that if it was my forever.
8. What kind of pet do you have and how did you choose to name it?
I don’t have a pet right now, but do I look at adoptable dogs online all the time? You bet. Do I want to get a pug puppy and name it Claudia? Sure do.
9. What are three things still left on your bucket list
1. Write a Book
2. Get a Dog
3. Visit Alaska. Specifically Juneau (where the book “A Wolf Called Romeo” was written)

10. What characteristic do you admire most in others?
I don’t know that there’s just one, and I don’t know that it would apply to everyone the same way. Honesty from one person might sound cruel whereas from another person, might be the best thing. I will say I really appreciate kindness and clarity from people, but there must be genuineness underlying it. I also appreciate curiosity.
11. How old is the oldest item in your closet?
My parents and grandparents have given me so many old items over the years. I have furniture from my great grandmother that’s probably 80 years old? I have a tiny hat my parents gave me to wear when I was a baby, too.
12. Words to live by? Favorite Quote?
“Do less, be more.”
I love this quote. It’s a call to slow down and realize that just because you “do a bunch of things” doesn’t mean you “are a bunch of things.” I think we get swept up in tying our identity to our to-do lists and our activities and not enough in just appreciating the core of who we are without the distractions.

13. What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A veterinarian! I held that dream close to my heart until I had to dissect a cat every day for a month in high school biology. That dream died with that cat.
14. If you were to skydive from an airplane what would you think about on the way down?
Honestly, probably just “nope” till I was back on the ground.

Traffic Modeling 101: Using Traffic Modeling Software to Improve Mobility

Traffic model snip showing intersection and cars

What it is

Traffic modeling takes raw data (in the form of traffic counts and speed data) and builds a visual representation. This visual representation allows us to see how things interact with each other, which can be as simple as a stop-controlled intersection or as complicated as an entire city grid. The modeling allows us to look at how intersections perform in terms of level of service, traffic delay, and capacity utilized among other metrics.

Traffic modeling doesn’t just show how cars move in a straight line on a road. Instead, the modeling shows how traffic might back up at an intersection based on how much green (light) time each direction of traffic is given, how side roads are affected by long lines of vehicles, and what is happening at turn lanes. We also include pedestrians when there’s significant data for them; at small, rural intersections, there is not enough demand to show them in the model.

The level of service is the key metric for analyzing how well a signal functions. Level of service is categorized by five letter grades (A through F), but it’s really just an incremental delay in seconds. For example, if the average driver is stuck at a traffic light for less than 10 seconds, that’s level of service A. If it’s over 10 but less than 20, that’s level of service B, and so on. So really, the level of service is just a way to say this is the range of delay that the average person gets at this intersection. It’s key that it’s the average driver; so the first person who pulls up to a red light is likely going to be sitting there for more of the full signal cycle, but someone that arrives on green had a zero second delay – that’s why it’s key to measure the average.

Why it’s useful

I’ve been using the modeling software since I started here in 2013. It was pretty basic for the first few years, really just using it to model temporary signals; like if we had to go to a one-lane work zone with alternating directions of traffic, we’d use a temporary signal for that and need to model it to make sure the queues didn’t cause any big problems. In terms of how traffic modeling differs from pure calculations, it really has to do with its scale. You know, you can input some parameters into the software, and it runs all the iterations you need and can simulate random traffic patterns that a calculation wouldn’t be able to do. It also helps give you a visual representation of it. I could do a calculation that says, okay there’s a 300-foot queue here, but then when we put it in the modeling software, we can see that the queue is actually blocking a side road or spilling into the next traffic signal.

The flexibility to play around in the software is also significant. With a calculation, if you want to change something, you more or less have to restart the calc; but in the model, you can toggle a switch and it just completely changed your model – and you can change it back if you need to.

Our standard traffic modeling program is Synchro which is the static model, and then we also have SimTraffic which creates a video simulation of cars moving through the model. The video is the simulation of when the system is populated – that’s what uses the random traffic patterns, which is helpful because there is no calculation for random traffic patterns. You need to have the computer algorithm that best approximates random traffic driving patterns. With that simulation, you get to see how signals interact with each other; so you have one signal, and then you have another one 300 feet away; they might not be coordinated, but they will still influence the traffic patterns at each other, and it’s crucial to see what sort of problems they may cause.

What the challenges are

There are only minor downsides to traffic modeling software. There are so many different parameters in the programs that you might get a totally different result if you overlook one that’s buried deep in the dialogue boxes. In terms of reporting, there are also several different analysis methods you can get from the program. The simulation doesn’t change, but I can have the same traffic volumes and signal timing and still get three slightly different results based on the analysis method. There’s no significant difference, but depending on what the client or agency expects when they review it, it can impact the program’s options.

A good example is New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT) has published preferences for their report formats, but many clients do not have preferences, and so the lack of standardization can be a challenge.

Where it’s headed in the future

In the future, we will be using traffic modeling software more often. The developers of the traffic modeling software are continuously working on and releasing updates for the programs. We as designers are constantly trying to come up with new ways for traffic signals to be safer or to handle higher capacity. Sometimes, the software doesn’t have the availability to model those correctly because it’s a new innovation that hasn’t made it back into the software yet. So sometimes these updates are just the software catching up to what’s actually being in done in the field.

I expect there will also be some improved bicycle and pedestrian modeling capabilities. Right now, we can say there’s X number of bicycles per hour, but I envision software developers will be adding bicycle signal heads next to traffic lights because that’s an up-and-coming technology. It’s been tested in a couple of states already, and it could become an important part of traffic modeling software updates in the near future.

I’m part of a team that prepares traffic modeling projects for municipalities and state agencies across New England. Reach out to me with traffic questions or to learn more about NHITE.

All About LPA: A Valuable Funding Source for Maine Transportation Projects

We’re excited to have another professional get LPA certified in Maine! Sean James, PE, Senior Vice President, joins our growing number of LPA certified project managers, engineers and technicians who can coordinate on these specific projects. Sean has worked on dozens of LPA projects in the state of New Hampshire and is looking forward to bringing his tenured experience to LPA projects in Maine.

What is an LPA Project?

The Local Project Administration (LPA) program leverages local dollars with state or federal dollars through the Maine Department of Transportation (DOT) on a wide variety of projects statewide. These projects can include resurfacing and rebuilding of roads, intersection improvements and non-vehicular transportation alternatives such as sidewalk and shared-use paths, pier and float installations and bridge and culvert replacement.

 
Who is Eligible & for How Much?

An LPA project can be administered by a variety of organizations including municipalities, regional transportation agencies, education institutions and tribal governments. The selection of projects is competitive and includes a variety of programs including Transportation Alternative, Low-Use Redundant Bridge Program, Small Harbor Improvement Program and the Hazard Elimination Program. Funding reimbursement varies from 50 to 80 percent of the project’s eligible costs.

Is there Certification Required?

LPA program certification is required for all projects that include federal funding; however, the training is beneficial for non-federally funded programs as well. The certification program covers the financial aspects of projects, hiring consultants, project design including environmental review, utility coordination, Right-of-Way and construction administration. Hoyle, Tanner’s team includes LPA certified professionals who understand the program and assist our clients in meeting their project goals.

The Role of Consultants

Engineering consultants act as an extension of the owner’s organization and bring specialized technical and funding program experience to the project. The consultant’s role is to understand the purpose and need of the owner, to study and provide alternatives for consideration, turn the project vision into a final design and permit the project and finally provide assistance with bidding and construction administration and oversight as well as final project closeout for reimbursement. 

The LPA program provides opportunity to improve our communities while minimizing the cost to local budgets. Our bridge, transportation and environmental teams have a wide variety of design and construction experience with LPA projects including bridges (vehicle and pedestrian), sidewalks, roadway improvement and safety and intersection improvements. For more information on how to get started and how we can assist in meeting your project goals, please contact Sean.

Celebrating Moth Week: What you Might Not Know about Moths in Your Backyard

Happy National Moth Week! This week, citizen scientists around the country will turn on their flashlights, exterior lights, and specialized UV lights to observe this often overlooked and vilified group of organisms. Although moths are perceived as pests because their caterpillars damage cloth and tree foliage, they are one of the most diverse organisms on the planet and vary greatly in size, color, shape, ecology, and abundance.

Moths tend to be feeding specialists and rely on the presence of a host plant to feed on and use for cover during all their life stages. Some species can use a variety of plant species as hosts, but others are strictly specialized. Moth species relying on plant species from imperiled natural communities inevitably become critically endangered.

Here are some interesting details about two well-known moth species that can be observed in your yard:

Forest Tent Caterpillar Moth (Malacosoma disstria)

The Forest Tent Caterpillar Moth is one of the most vilified moth species in North America. They are known for their caterpillars’ tent-like silk mats and the damage they can do to the leaves of hardwood tree species such as alder, basswood, cherry, and oak. This moth species is prone to multi-year population explosions when localized defoliation can be dramatic, leaving trees draped in tangles of silken mats.

But guess what!

The Forest Tent Caterpillar Moth has a fascinating life history. Adult females of this species lay up to 300 eggs on a tree branch and cover them with a cement-like substance to protect them from drying out or freezing during the winter. In the spring, the eggs hatch, producing a “family” of caterpillars that feed, rest, and molt communally. Members of the group produce pheromone-covered strands of silk that the group follows together around their resident tree to feed and then use to return to their resting area. As each member of the leaf-loving family grows larger and nears pupation size, they begin to compete for food resources and start to forage more independently. Parents of teenagers can probably relate to this family dynamic.

Luna Moth (Actias luna)

The Luna Moth is one of the most recognized local species of moth due to its large size and brilliant lime green wings during adulthood. It has a markedly different life cycle from the Forest Tent Caterpillar Moth, as it spends only two weeks as an egg, less than two months as a lime green caterpillar, and completes the majority of its development in a cocoon during its nine months of pupation. Luna Moth host tree species are hardwoods, such as paper birch. Luna Moths make it their business to actively fend off predators with a couple of special skills. First, their brilliant green coloration makes them very visible when they perch under your deck light, but it allows them to camouflage among leaves very effectively both as caterpillars and as adults. If an adult Luna Moth is threatened, it will make a warning clicking noise with its mandibles. Then, it will regurgitate fowl-tasting fluids to deter the attack. Finally, studies have shown that the long hindwing tails of the Luna Moth can serve as a false sonar target to deflect attacks by bats.

We have much more to learn about moths to understand each species’ importance to ecological communities and conservation needs. Due to their diversity and typically nocturnal habits, moths can be evasive and difficult to research and monitor. National Moth Week is a time when anyone can take a few minutes to look in their yard or neighborhood, photograph moths, and share the data to help the learning continue. Visit the National Moth Week website to learn more about how you can contribute to this effort.  

NEC/AAAE Panelist Evan McDougal: Opportunities and Regulatory Challenges with UAS Operations Within 5 Miles of your Airport

Man holding drone in a field

At the Annual Airports Conference in Pennsylvania, Evan McDougal, CM was a panellist and discussed the challenges and opportunities that sUAS technology creates for airport management. The continuing education session entitled “UAS Operations Within 5 Miles of your Airport. Restrict, Support, & Permit” explored the use of the rapidly evolving sUAS technology from the legal, airport management, commercial operator and regulatory perspective.

Evan is the Manager of Hoyle, Tanner’s Airport Planning and sUAS services. In 2016, Mr. McDougal acquired his Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate, complimenting his existing manned fixed wing and rotary pilot certifications. Hoyle, Tanner has four certified sUAS operators and provides these services in many locations.

During the panel discussion, Evan focused on how commercial operators can use unmanned aerial systems to efficiently collect data and verify approach surfaces, document pre- and post-construction site development and assist with accident documentation. He also discussed the challenges associated with the current authorization process for operating an sUAS in controlled and restricted airspace.

The goal of the conference is to educate attendees on the leadership skills necessary to “plan, develop and execute a safe and efficient regional airport system that satisfies the needs of its constituents with due consideration for economics, environmental compatibility, local property rights, and safeguarding the public investment.”

 

 

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