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County engineers win prestigious statewide honor

Patrick, Cox named Project Managers of the Year for work on West Cashmere Bridge

By CRAB

The Washington State County Road Administration Board, or CRAB, recently announced that Paula Cox, PE, and Josh Patrick, PE, of Chelan County Public Works have been named co-recipients of the 2023 Project Manager of the Year award for their significant work on the West Cashmere Bridge replacement project.

Cox is the assistant county engineer and Patrick is the assistant director at public works.

Since 2013, the agency has presented a Project Manager of the Year award to recognize outstanding performance, public service, and contributions toward the programs and projects that make a difference in our communities across the state. Depending on the merit of the nominations, the award may be split at the discretion of the review committee.

Josh Patrick“(Paula and Josh) are nominated together for this award because no one person could have led this project, which took seven years to complete” said Eric Pierson, Chelan County engineer and director of Public Works. “The West Cashmere Bridge Replacement is the largest construction project ever undertaken by Chelan County and we relied heavily on their leadership and skills.”

Built in 1929, the West Cashmere Bridge was identified as a “fracture-critical, functionally obsolete structure” and closed for safety in 2020. If it had not been replaced, it would have permanently eliminated the only over-the-railroad access across the BNSF rail line that intersects the center of the small community of 3,100.

While the bridge serves a central role in the community, its former height and weight restrictions prohibited heavy trucks, school buses and emergency response vehicles from using it. As a result, Cashmere’s volunteer fire department, located on the east side of the tracks, was forced to take an 8-mile detour on rural roads with steep grades to respond to emergencies on the west side each time a train was passing through town, which occurs over 150 times a week.

As the primary bridge inspector, Cox was involved in the project from day one. She served as the lead grant writer for the project, obtaining the funds needed for the project. Almost the entire cost of the $26.7 million bridge was paid for with federal and state grants, requiring Chelan County to contribute only $214,000. Cox also led the internal designs of the project and oversaw consultant-led design efforts until 2020, when it was handed over to Patrick for construction.

“Paula takes a hands-on approach to her work and effectively managed multiple stakeholders through the design, environmental, permitting, and right-of-way acquisition processes,” said Drew Woods, CRAB's deputy director, while presenting the awards on Aug. 29 at the regular meeting of the Chelan County Board of County Commissioners. “Her strengths in project management and bridge engineering were heavily relied upon to great success throughout this project.”

Once the construction contract was awarded in early 2020, Patrick took the lead on the project. Because the Cashmere bridge spanned a railroad line, the logistics were significantly more complex and necessitated managing compliance requirements for contractors, permitting, federal contracts and state audits.

Frequent and consistent communication with the multitude of stakeholders was essential to keep the project moving forward and on budget. Patrick also frequently went above and beyond to address local resident concerns in an approachable and friendly way.

“Josh’s strengths include a vast knowledge of road construction but also a level-headed approach to people," Woods said. "The project required constant communication with the public, especially businesses and residents in the project area. Having the ability to take complex technical information and communicate it in a way folks can understand it – that’s a gift.”

The newly completed, 952 foot long structure opened June 12, 2022. The bridge included 20 steel girders weighing 1.7 million pounds to ensure that it could support all users, including heavy trucks, transit vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians.

It is noteworthy that Cox and Patrick brought the Cashmere bridge project to fruition while carrying out their regular duties, including managing staff and moving current and future projects forward.

“If this had been a larger public agency project, a project of this magnitude would have had multiple staff members just to do what Paula and Josh did," shared Woods. "They should be commended, appreciated and recognized, which is why we are here today."

Nominations for the award were accepted across the state from county commissioners, councilmembers, public works directors and county engineers for projects completed in 2022.

The Washington State County Road Administration Board, or CRAB, is a unique, innovative agency that ensures the success and accountability of the state’s 39 county road departments. The agency administers transportation funds, collects and certifies statewide data, and provides support to reach compliance requirements with engineering training, cutting-edge technology, mentorship and support.

Last Updated: 10/04/2023 02:25 PM

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