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On the job training

Leading Virginia’s largest construction project requires tricky environmental engineering.

As project director for the massive Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel Expansion in Virginia, Ryan Banas ’08 has his eye on more than cement and steel. He’s had to move a rare turtle, alert state police to cannonballs, and keep the dolphins happy in Chesapeake Bay.

That’s because his responsibilities include saving marine life and preserving historical artifacts as he oversees a nearly $4 billion construction project. Though at times astonished, the Case engineer takes it in stride.

“As an engineer, I wasn’t trained in cannonballs and turtle handling,” he admitted to The Peninsula Chronicle. “That makes it an exciting career. Things like this they don’t teach you in engineering school.”

Banas, who earned his Case degree in civil engineering, is an associate vice president for HNTB, a national engineering firm specializing in transportation infrastructure. In February, he was named project director of the largest construction project in Virginia history. His teams are boring twin 7,000-foot tunnels to connect Newport News and Norfolk, Virginia.

Meanwhile, he must keep a lookout for endangered species and historical artifacts –an aspect of the job he had to learn fast.

“Nobody can train you,” Banas told the newspaper. “You just have to experience it and hope you’ve got a good team in place and react quickly and collaborate with a lot of the experts that we have in our area. It’s a lot of fun.”

When shipwreck timbers were discovered, Banas and his team reached out to the College of William & Mary’s Center for Architectural Research to understand what was discovered and its importance. When cannonballs were unearthed, Virginia State Police were called.

One 90-pound cannonball was traced to 1862’s Battle of Hampton Roads between the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia (formerly the USS Merrimack).

Banas is also in charge of monitoring the sound, to ensure dolphins aren’t spooked from their habitat. A recreational angler and hunter, he expressed pride in the effort to protect the ecosystem as he practices civil engineering.

“We’re not just out here performing work with blinders on,” he said. “We want to make sure that we are being stewards of the environment. It’s all of these things that make our job extremely interesting.”

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