'Burg Underground Utilities project wins award

Mar. 14, 2013 @ 11:23 PM

The Gatlinburg Underground Utilities project has won a prestigious, state-wide engineering award, bringing recognition to a 19-year, $24 million effort to improve the city's streetscape and enhance its mountain-village feel.

"We thought we had a good project and a good opportunity to win, otherwise we would not have submitted," said design consultant Steve Fritts, the vice president of the project's engineering and architectural firm, Barge, Waggoner, Sumner & Cannon. "I couldn't speculate on why exactly it won, but I can't help but think that the impact that all the projects have had on transforming the character of downtown Gatlinburg over a 20-year period had to have been a factor in the judges' decision."

The firm submitted the last of six phases of the project for consideration in the Engineering Excellence Awards, presented by the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) of Tennessee. At the March 5 awards reception in Franklin, Tenn., the Underground Utilities won the Grand Award in the Special Projects category.

The award is “one of the highest honors a project team can receive,” according to a press release for the awards reception. The Special Projects category encompassed six of the less traditional engineering projects in the state.

"It's kind of a category that doesn't fit structures and things like that," said ACEC Executive Director Candy Toler. "It's not like a structural system, not a study, not environmental. It is kind of none of the above. It's a unique category of more complicated projects."

These projects fell under categories like land development and corrosion protection. Some of the projects the Underground Utilities project won over included the Wolf River Greenway in Memphis, the Duck River Walk in Columbia and the Ridgeway Trace Shopping Center in Memphis.

"I think what the judges found most interesting was that it was a 19-year-long project with little disruption to tourism and business," Toler said of the Underground Utilities project.

Barge, Waggoner, Sumner & Cannon has won several ACEC awards over the years, including another one this year for the Opryland levee project in Nashville. Fritts said the awards don't necessarily change anything.

"It's a recognition of the engineering design in a project that is worthy of merit," Fritts said. "It's the state's engineering community's recognition of these efforts on a project that's made a real difference in the quality of life in Gatlinburg."

For the Underground Utilities project award, the firm received two "very nice, engraved glass trophies," Fritts said, one of which will be delivered to the city some time next week.

rhargett@themountainpress.com