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Fox Conference kicks off a new year

Wow! The George A. Fox Conference is the underground industry’s premier event to kick off the year and what a way to start 2024. The program was packed with great speakers, inspiring topics, and we saw the largest attendance ever with the Moles Inc. annual awards dinner the following day. The Fox Conference, held annually in New York City, has expanded to include projects, participants and attendees from across the United States and the world who are directly involved in or support heavy civil and underground infrastructure projects.
In the United States and internationally, the underground industry is seeing rapid growth in the number of large and complex underground infrastructure-related projects that will challenge the industry, but I feel we are up for the challenge.
The recent large investments in infrastructure is a good thing that will improve our cities on all levels. The large infrastructure projects will continue to expand, improve and connect communities, improve quality of life and protect the environment. Underground projects are a great solution to address these needs and provide a long-term durable facility. It takes care, dedication, technology, leadership and investment.
Why is the Fox Conference the “go-to event” to kick off the year?
Dale Ericco from Railroad Construction Co. Inc. said, “As a member of the UCA, I can’t wait to start off the year attending the Fox Conference that recognizes George A. Fox for his accomplishments in tunneling and underground construction. It is truly enjoyable to meet and listen to the leaders in the industry from around the world who provide the insight and experience of the tunneling and underground construction.”
Laura Mason, executive vice president, Capital Delivery, Amtrak, opened with the history of Amtrak and the transition Amtrak is making to be able to meet the unprecedented demands and challenges by updating and upgrading rail passenger service in the United States. It is this large investment in passenger rail that is necessitating Amtrak to look toward to a new approach. Amtrak is organizing itself and its contracts to streamline the way projects are implemented by grouping similar types of work. Amtrak is also implementing alternative delivery methods to include a delivery partner contract that is more common in other countries such as Australia. This is similar to a program manager but with incentives for achieving goals as measured by key performance indicators. In addition, Amtrak is investing in education of the workforce by building a training center.
I think it is encouraging that the industry is seeing more large infrastructure owners, including Amtrak, recognizing the need to meet the challenges and the need to implement new approaches and methods that are critical for success.
Luigi Rosa, AVP, Frederick Douglass Tunnel Program, Amtrak, gave an inspiring talk titled “I already see the light at the end of the tunnel.” Rosa spoke about his past with experience in Italy, Oman and now New York on transportation improvements opening up opportunities for people in the communities to connect and work in places they would not be able to if not connected by rail. He emphasized the importance of the team. I could not agree more — on large complex mega projects — it is about the specific people and working together as a cohesive team focused on the same objectives. That is one of the things that has attracted me to this amazing industry – large complex projects that are successful because of the amazing people that come together and work to overcome these challenges.
There were presentations on other major projects and technical aspects of construction. We heard from Joe Sopko, Keller North America about solid techniques on ground freezing for tunnels and adits and the last session in true tradition fashion was the U.S. Tunneling Industry Update by Jim Rush, of Benjamin Media. He recapped the completed projects and reviewed the long list of active and upcoming underground projects for the still jam-packed room.
“The 2024 Fox Conference provided an excellent balance between technical issues and project updates with a nation-wide perspective” said Randall Divito, from Hatch.
Thank you to the conference chair Victor Paterno of Skanska, the conference committee, and the speakers and attendees for making the conference a great success.

A few take aways from the conference – through many of the presentations that align to the UCA’s Strategic Plan & Goals
• Alternative delivery methods – advancing technology and the industry as whole.
• Connecting communities – bringing opportunities for more people.
• Building a workforce – dedicating time and resources for training centers and investing in the local community skills development.
Link to strategic goal:
The UCA has many activities to connect and keep the dialogue going for owners, contractors, designers and suppliers. If you are an owner you may want to join the Owners Forum virtual meetings held during the year. The Down for That program is holding tunnel tours for young professionals. If you or someone you know is considering the underground industry as a career choice, attend one of the upcoming tours and/or check out the resources on the Down for That website. The next big event is the North American Tunneling Conference, in Nashville, TN June 23-26.
It truly is a great time to be in the underground construction industry. We see some big changes in our future and up for the challenge. Here’s to a great start to 2024 and may we all continue to collaborate and work together as we build infrastructure and leave a legacy.

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