Mott MacDonald tunnel practice

Elm Road Raw Water Intake

Mott MacDonald’s tunnel practice will remain a major presence in North America following the split of the more than 20-year-old joint venture of Hatch Mott MacDonald (HMM).

By Jim Harris

Formed in 1996 as a joint venture between two veteran international engineering and infrastructure specialists, HMM grew into one of North America’s leading infrastructure engineering firms.

In the first quarter of 2016, the U.S. operations of the HMM joint venture, and its Oil and Gas operation in the U.S. and Canada, will do business as Mott MacDonald. This adds 2,000 additional staff and 61 offices to Mott MacDonald’s current North American operations.

Mott MacDonald will continue to operate in the same sectors HMM served, which include the transportation, water/wastewater, tunneling, and oil and gas pipelines markets as well as the broader markets already served by the firm. Mott MacDonald will be building resources and investing in the infrastructure market throughout all of North America. This includes the fertile transportation, water, and power markets poised for growth over the next few decades.

“At a time of significant renewal in North American infrastructure, this change allows Mott MacDonald and the staff of HMM to build and invest in new ways,” said Keith Howells, chairman of Mott MacDonald.

Tunnel Specialists

Although the company’s name may be changing, the quality and expertise it brings to its tunnel and other projects is not. “From my perspective, we’re one of the top tunnel firms in North America if not the world, because of not only the quantity, but the quality of our tunnel personnel,” says Mike Vitale, senior vice president and regional US tunnel practice leader. “We have hundreds of specialists who day-in and day-out provide tunnel design and project management.”

Vitale, who is based in Cleveland and oversees projects in the Midwest, is one of four regional tunnel practice leaders reporting to Colin Lawrence, the company’s North American tunnel practice leader. “Our clients can expect the same level of service that they currently receive, because they will continue working with the same people, but now we will also have greater access to the resources of our global business,” Vitale says. “There will be more opportunities for us overseas, and more opportunities for our global resources to work here.”

Mott MacDonald traces its origins back to 1888, when engineers Basil Mott and David Hay worked together on the City and South London Railway. The two formed their own company, known as Mott & Hay, in 1902. The company gained its current name in 1989, when Mott, Hay & Anderson (as it was then known) merged with Sir M. MacDonald & Partners.  Known for its work on the Channel Tunnel, Mott MacDonald is responsible for many such marquee projects around the world. 

Ongoing Projects

The company’s tunnel practice offers expertise in a variety of project types for both private and public-sector customers. This includes working on highway tunnels as well as tunnels used for water conveyance, combined sewer overflow storage, wastewater drainage and rail and transit. The company also operates several other practices including aviation, highways and bridges, water, oil and gas, environment, and rail and transit.

The company is staffed with experts in the use of trenchless technologies in areas where traditional open-cut construction methods are not appropriate, such as environmentally sensitive or congested urban areas. Trenchless installations also include constructing tunnels or pipelines beneath railways, runways, transportation corridors, or bodies of water.

Most of the company’s current tunnel projects in the Midwest are related to wastewater disposal. The company last year completed the Euclid Creek Tunnel for the Cleveland-based Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NOERSD). This work included design and construction administration services.

The tunnel is one of several the district is constructing in the next 25 years as part of a federal consent decree agreement to reduce the total volume of raw sewage discharges into Lake Erie. Currently the firm is working in a joint venture with consultant MWH Global for design and construction administration services on both the NOERSD Dugway and Westerly Tunnel projects, two of the District’s five remaining tunnels.

The company’s other recent tunnel projects in the Midwest include the design and construction management services for the 7-mile-long Western Regional Conveyance Tunnel in Northern Kentucky, the Wisconsin Electric Lake Tap design-build tunnel with Kenny (Granite) Construction, and construction administration services for a 10-foot-diameter tunnel below the Des Plaines River in Joliet, Ill.

Nationwide, the company is involved in a number of large-scale tunneling projects including the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s East Side Access project in New York City, which will extend the Long Island Rail Road under the East River. The company is also serving as program manager on the replacement of the Alaskan Way viaduct in Seattle, a project that required the construction of the world’s largest tunnel boring machine. In addition, the company is a world leader in the application of trenchless technology such as Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD).

“At any given time we have more than 100 tunnel projects underway in North America,” Vitale says. 

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