Friday, August 17, 2018

My Summer at WSDOT

By Kendall Rees

This summer I worked as a transportation engineer intern in WSDOT’s Bellingham office. It was a new and exciting experience for me as I had never been to the Pacific Northwest. I am from Kansas and will be returning to Arizona State University (Go Devils!) at the end of the summer to start my junior year in the civil engineering program. The Cascades were definitely a welcomed change from the plains of Kansas and the deserts of Arizona! During my time here I’ve had the chance to work in the field as an inspector, learn how to test materials, help design part of a roadway improvement project, tag along with the survey crew, and of course, do a little night work. I’ve been provided with countless opportunities to learn and grow as a student and as an engineer.
Kendall rescuing fish from the old Gribble Creek culvert.

One of the first, and largest, projects I got to be a part of was the Sharpes Corner roundabout in Anacortes. I got to tag along with the inspection crew and see what actually happens on a construction site. Because the project moved so fast, I saw the intersection transition from a signaled stop to a free-flowing roundabout in the span of a month. I watched the crews cut electric lines, mill the old intersection, pour new asphalt, and install new drainage structures. The project moved so fast that after a couple of days all work that had been done made it seem like a completely different project. This was also my first time on a job site and all of the crews were extremely nice and willing to answer any questions. During my time in the field with the inspectors, I learned how to test concrete and was eventually qualified to do so. Luckily the red concrete they were using for the center island matched my pink boots!
Helping  capture fish at the Gribble Creek culvert job was one of several opportunities Kendall had this summer.

I spent my free time exploring all around the Mount Baker area, from weekend hikes to fresh ice cream from the local dairies. Seeing snow in July was not something I was used to! I watched the annual Ski to Sea race in Bellingham and the surrounding areas, drove up to Artist Point, hiked up to Washington Pass, and did my best to follow the speed limits in British Columbia. Coming from Kansas, I loved being able to buy fresh produce and dairy products from the local farmers up here. Also, hiking here was a nice change from hiking in Arizona!
Kendall headed under a bridge with a bridge
 inspection crew.

One day, our office got wind that a bridge inspection crew was up the road inspecting a bridge and were willing to let me tag along with them. While under a bridge, I learned just how much that crew gets done, from inspecting not only all the bridges, but also the signs, retaining walls, and other structures scattered across the state. I also learned that I could never be a bridge inspector because I would much rather have both of my feet firmly on the ground! I really admire all the work the bridge inspectors do!
By far one the most surprising jobs I worked on was the fish passage project at Gribble Creek. I worked with our biologists to help move the fish downstream from the job site. I was not expecting how hard the work was going to be! We spent a couple of days catching, counting, and releasing fish from the stream and existing fish barriers. I was nominated to climb in the culvert to rescue any fish that were caught inside due to my. …  exceptional skills in the height department.  This project, though tiring, was one of the most rewarding projects I got to be a part of. All in all, we caught more than 2,000 types of fish, including lamprey, mussels, and crayfish!
Kendall got some pointers from public information officer Andrea Petrich, a fellow Arizona State Sun Devil.

Moving out to the Pacific Northwest was a big move for me. Fortunately, I had a great office that supported me and were more than willing to share their knowledge of the area. I’d like to give a special thank you to the entire Bellingham project office for answering every question I had, helping me navigate Mircostation, letting me tag along to job sites, meetings, and bridge inspections, and making me feel at home. I learned so much in my internship this summer and I am excited to be able to relate it to the things I’ll learn in the coming year as I finish my degree. I had an amazing summer!