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(Left to right) Construction Deputy Peter Chan, 2006 RE of the Year Hussein Saad, and Construction Area Chief Scott McKenzie.

RESIDENT ENGINEERS SMOOTH OUT BUMPS IN THE ROAD
by  Judy Gish
Issue Date: 10/2007

Need some coffee and donuts on the freeway in the middle of the night? Call an RE!

Before a freeway project is built, virtually every division in the district is involved. As soon as it goes to construction, however, much of the responsibility rests on the often-tired shoulders of the Resident Engineer (RE).

The duties of an RE include administering the contract; working with other agencies to make decisions in the field; resolving project issues and conflicts; submitting cost estimates; issuing Change Orders (CCOs); and generally handling every bump in the road between start and completion.

“Challenges arise all the time,” said Hussain Saad, “but we try to minimize impacts.” Saad has dealt with a number of those impacts himself as the RE on numerous projects over the years.  He’s obviously doing something right because he was chosen 2006 RE of the Year, an annual award presented at the Construction Division off-site, usually held sometime in the Spring.

The awards program, which also includes Structures Representative of the Year, began in the late 1980s. It is currently headed by Fekade Mesfin, Construction Engineering Management Office Chief. Candidates are nominated by their Office Chiefs and selected by the highest scores in various categories, including Labor Compliance, Estimates, CCOs, Safety, Stormwater program compliance, Claims and various other categories having to do with scheduling, contractor relations and record-keeping.

Saad was recognized for four projects: replacing Portland Cement Concrete in the cities of Industry and Diamond Bar; concrete pavement replacement; overlay and cold planing of ramps; and removing and replacing diseased trees at various locations in Los Angeles.

Project challenges can include working with many cities at one time, Saad said. For example, he had a $23 million pavement rehabilitation project on the Santa Ana Freeway (I-5) from the Orange County Line to Washington Boulevard, involving 11 cities with different construction regulations and resident issues. “We had to meet on a weekly basis to explain exactly what we were doing,” he said. “They were going to stop the project.”

 The construction team dealt with a lot of angry people but managed to remain calm and professional. The project required a couple of Change Orders and the relocation of some residents to hotels. “Once everything is resolved and they are happy, you feel good,” he said.

In order to be RE of the Year, it is necessary to be knowledgeable and experienced, work well with other divisions and “know the project specifications like the back of your hand.” You also have to have dedication and commitment, be willing to go out into the field at all hours, and always be available."I have gone out in the middle of the night with coffee and donuts to let the workers know they are not alone," Saad added.

Was he happy to win? “I’m proud to be a part of an organization where I am appreciated and receive recognition from management,” he said. "But even the best REs have room for improvement."