Engineer Profiles

The Memorial Bridge, both the 1922 and 2013 bridges, have been designed by professionals some consider genius. Meet the men responsible for the innovative design elements of the Memorial Bridges that have made international news, separated by approximately 90 years.

Theodore P. Zoli: Engineer / Innovative Advisor,
2013 Memorial Bridge

Ted Zoli has served his role as Innovative Advisor for the new Memorial Bridge well. Ted has played an enormous part in the success of the bridge design and the incorporation of 21st century innovations that is setting the stage for future bridges worldwide.

Not only is the new Memorial Bridge the first truss bridge in the world with no gusset plates, it is also the first to incorporate cold bending of steel, and, the first to tuck its machine room underneath the bridge.

In a recent interview by Engineering New Record’s Aileen Cho, Ted explained his thought process regarding these innovations. With new generations of steel available and a better understanding of cold bending, he saw these aspects of the new bridge as examples of “a very subtle departure in the way we do things, yet very big. We tend to do the same things over and over again. We should always be trying to expand upon what we know about.”

These are only a few of the innovations that have been incorporated into the new bridge design by Ted and the entire team of very talented professionals.

Ted also has a strong belief in public input and remaining engaged with the public throughout the design phase of any project. He told ENR, “These are public works. Public interest should be something that we recognize.” He has made good on this belief by attending public information meetings and also meeting with the business community along with Archer Western Contractors, the lead firm on the project. And, teamed with Archer Western, he has been intimately engaged with the project’s public Advisory Committee.  Archer Western and Ted have been assisting the committee on technical aspects so they can hone their input on portions of the design, especially on how to re-use the 1922 plaques and portal monument on the new bridge.

In another recent interview conducted by the Portsmouth Herald’s Deborah McDermott, Ted stated that since the beginning of the project, the designer of the original Memorial Bridge, John Alexander Waddell, is never far from his mind — nor is the Seacoast.

“The Memorial Bridge was an incredibly important work in the history of bridge engineering. It made international news when it was built,” he said. “It was one of the most important structures of that decade and set a number of precedents,” he stated in the interview with Deborah. Ted said he looked at what Waddell did in designing the Memorial Bridge and “innovated in a similar way, but using a different strategy.”

When he’s not working on the Memorial Bridge project, Ted works as HNTB’s national bridge chief engineer and is in charge of technical aspects of the bridge practice firm-wide. After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, he also started HNTB’s infrastructure security practice and has developed innovative protective measures for some of our nation’s largest and most important bridges.

Zoli has been selected as one of ENR’s Top 25 Newsmakers for 2011. In 2009, he was selected as a MacArthur Fellow, the first structural engineer to receive this honor. With this grant, he is currently pursuing three new innovative bridge designs. He has authored a number of technical papers on various aspects of bridge design with a focus on enhancing bridge safety and is an adjunct professor Columbia University.

There is so much to say about Ted and his qualifications. However, let’s just say that in addition to his impressive skills and recognized genius, he’s great fun to work with and thrives on problem solving. Stephen DelGrosso, from Archer Western Contractors (the genius behind the construction aspects of the new Memorial Bridge), told ENR, “Ted has made it fun to work 15-hour days, if that’s possible.”


John Alexander Low (J.A.L.) Waddell, Engineer / Designer,
1922 Memorial Bridge

Similar to Ted Zoli, J.A.L. Waddell was a man of many talents.

The original Memorial Bridge was designed by Waddell in 1920 after it was decided a vertical lift span was the best and most economical option for this crossing of the Piscataqua River. Waddell held the patents for vertical lift spans at the time.

He was a Canadian born engineer and had a long and distinguished career as a bridge engineer, writer, and professor. He was at various times a professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), where he graduated in 1875, and the chair of the civil engineering department at the Imperial University of Tokyo, Japan. Over his career who wrote several books on the design of bridges, including “The Designing of Ordinary Iron Highway Bridges” which became the seminal text at major engineering schools throughout the world, the “gold standard” text on iron / steel bridge design.

During his career, Waddell designed more than 100 moveable bridges all over the world, many of which are still in use today. From his earliest working days, Waddell wrote technical papers on a wide range of subjects, from railroads and bridges to lighthouses.

Also around this time, as he was preparing to leave the life of a professor, Engineering News published one of his major papers – “Civil Engineering Education,” a comprehensive dissertation on improving engineering education overall. This paper set the stage for the direction that the training of engineers would take around the world.

Waddell was among the first wave of U.S. private-practice engineers to establish a better concept, one where consulting engineers represented the client and prepared all the necessary design documents and contracts, then supervised the construction work of the firm that had secured the building contract through competitive bidding.

By the early part of the 20th century, Waddell’s client list included several dozen major railroads and numerous municipalities and governments worldwide. He designed more than 200 railroad bridges for the Vera Cruz and Pacific Railroad of Mexico, and a series of highway bridges in Cuba. In Canada, his Y-shaped railway and trolley bridge over the Fraser River at New Westminster, British Columbia, was the talk of the profession. Waddell’s reputation had grown so widespread that industry leaders placed him at top of the world’s great bridge engineers, recognized as a leading-edge designer, innovator and inventor.

Waddell died in 1938 at the age of 84.

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