Tunnel Education at the Mile High Level

The demand for tunnel construction in the United States and Canada — and worldwide, for that matter — continues at a high rate. And, as long as the population continues to rise and existing facilities begin to reach and exceed their design life, that demand should continue well into the future.

With this in mind, the Colorado School of Mines, in conjunction with Microtunneling Inc. and TBM: Tunnel Business Magazine (a sister publication of Trenchless Technology), hosted the third annual Tunnel Short Course, titled “Breakthroughs in Tunneling.”

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The course covers all aspects of tunnel construction from planning to implementation — all presented from recognized international aspects in the field of tunneling and heavy civil construction. Because tunnel and underground construction is so radically different from conventional construction, this course is particularly valuable to owners, engineers or contractors who may be uninitiated in tunnel construction.

This year’s course was held Sept. 22-24 at the Green Center on the campus of the Colorado School of Mines in Golden. The course directors were Dr. Levent Ozdemir, professor emeritus at the School of Mines, and Tim Coss, president of Microtunneling Inc. The course reached its capacity of 150, with participants registering from the United States, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Chile, Singapore, Ecuador and Austria.

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The Colorado School of Mines is at the forefront of tunneling education and research in the United States. It boasts the first student chapter of the Underground Construction Association of SME, and it is one of the pre-eminent testing labs in the country. Ozdemir spent 40 years at the school as a student, researcher and professor before retiring last year and is recognized as one the leading authorities on mechanized hard rock excavation

In the 1990s, Ozdemir began offering one-day courses in conjunction industry functions like the North American Tunneling Conference and Rapid Excavation and Tunneling Conferences, and recognized the need for further education in the marketplace.

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“With a one-day course you are limited with how much you can cover, and we had a lot of feedback from the industry saying that course would be expanded and go into much more detail,” Ozdemir said. “So, three years ago we began to offer the three-day course and it has been extremely well-received. In fact, the interest seems to be growing.”

The purpose of the course is to keep attendees up-to-date on the developments in the evolving field of tunneling. Since the course was first offered in 2008, there has been an increased interest in soft-ground tunneling, Ozdemir said. “We are seeing more and more projects using slurry machines and EPB machines — such as the Port of Miami Tunnel project and the Alaskan Way tunnel project, which at 56 ft in diameter would be the biggest slurry machine in the world,” he said. “In addition, we are seeing more emphasis and ground support techniques and site investigation methods as they relate to soft ground tunnels.”

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In addition to the in-depth classroom presentations, the Tunnel Short Course provides a unique networking opportunity. “We cover from A to Z in tunneling technology so everybody is up to speed on the latest developments in the market, but the course also provides a good forum for people to mingle, talk to each other, and get to know each other in the industry,” Ozdemir said. “So it accomplishes several things.”

One of the social highlights of the event each year is the Banquet Dinner, which was held at the nearby Golden Hotel. The keynote speaker was Dr. Gary Brierley, Brierley Associates, who gave a fascinating presentation on the construction of the Hoosac Tunnel, a five-mile long railroad tunnel in western Massachusetts constructed between 1852 and 1876.

Brierley submitted that the construction methods pioneered on the tunnel defined the standard for hard rock tunneling for the next 100 years. Also discussed were failed attempts at utilizing tunnel boring machines as well as the development of the drill-and-shoot technique utilizing nitroglycerine (the project was complete before the widespread use of dynamite) and mechanized drills.  The tunnel was built at a high cost — 199 workers lost their lives and the $2 million construction estimated totaled in excess of $17 million.

Sponsors for the course included: Brierley Associates, Event Sponsor; Hayward Baker Inc., Kiewit Construction Co., and Shotcrete Technologies, Lunch Sponsors; Sanvik Mining and Construction, Attendee Bag Sponsor; Atlas Copco, Cocktail Sponsor; Herrenknehct, Arup and MWH, Coffee Sponsors; Ruen Drilling Inc., Derrick Equipment Co., Trimble Navigation Ltd. and Jennmar Corp., Course Sponsors; Moretrench, Lanyard Sponsor; and Ruen Drilling Inc., Name Badge Sponsor.

The next Tunnel Short Course will be held Sept. 19-21, 2011, in Golden.  For information visit: www.tunneling.com.