World Tunnel Congress and ITA General Assembly updates

I’ve recently returned from the World Tunnel Congress (WTC), held this year in Naples, Italy. WTC is an extremely busy event. In addition to the many technical presentations, it is the only time each year where the entire General Assembly convenes. With the number of member nations now totaling 78, there is much to cover in a short period of time. I will summarize the highlights of this year’s congress here.

Various elections are always a large part of the General Assembly, and this year was no different. As chair of the UCA of SME Executive Committee, I am your voting representative from the United States to the General Assembly. Prior to the elections, UCA held a breakfast for all UCA members attending the conference. The main objective of this breakfast was to inform our members of the current business before the General Assembly, including issues of governance, policy and of course, the upcoming elections. Discussions were lively, as many in the room had varying opinions on the issues and candidates. I appreciated hearing everyone’s comments and concerns prior to casting votes on behalf of our organization.

To get things started, three new member nations were admitted; Kenya, Albania and Lebanon. Surprisingly, Kenya was voted in without being in attendance.

The next vote could have been dubbed “The main event” — President of the ITA Executive Council. The two nominated candidates were:

  • Eric Leca, France
  • Jinxiu “Jenny” Yan, China

In a very close ballot (32-30), Yan was elected, becoming the first woman to hold the position of ITA president.

The following vote was to place four new vice presidents on the Executive Council. The five nominated candidates were:

  • Randy Essex, U.S.A.
  • Lars Babendererde, Germany
  • Arnold Dix, Australia
  • Giuseppe Lunardi, Italy
  • Davorin Kolic, Croatia

The first four listed above were elected. Congratulations to Randy for being elected vice president. When you see Randy at RETC, be sure to give him a pat on the back. He has been doing fantastic work with the ITA.

Because three sitting members of the Executive Council were elevated to the position of vice president, six spots on the Executive Council were open. By coincidence, six candidates were nominated.

  • Abidemi Agwor, Nigeria
  • Hamdi Aydin, Turkey
  • Hangseok Choi, Korea
  • Jeyatharan Kumarasamy, Singapore
  • Andres Marulanda, Colombia
  • Jamal Rostami, Iran

All six were elected.

At every General Assembly, the member nations vote for the location of the World Tunnel Congress three years out. Proposals were received from India (Goa) and Mexico (Cancun). By a wide margin, Mexico was selected as the 2022 host country.

Other business of the General Assembly centered around procedures and governance. There were numerous proposed revisions to the ITA bylaws to be voted on. Some of these were benign, others significant. Following a review of the proposed changes and considering that the agenda called for voting on all of them as a bundle, it did not seem prudent to proceed without proper assessment and discussion of the more significant proposed changes. In the hours prior to the second session of the Assembly, the extension of the Wilshire subway to West Los Angeles, which is being built in three phases.

Labor shortages typically drive up the price of bids from contractors, Clarke said, because companies end up raising salary offers to attract qualified workers. That could lead to Metro paying more to build each project.

The biggest crunch for Metro will come over the next decade, as the agency works to finish 28 transit and highway projects before the 2028 Summer Olympic Games, an initiative dubbed “28 by ’28.”

Twenty of the projects are slated to be finished within the decade, including the Crenshaw Line, a smaller train to Los Angeles International Airport, the Wilshire subway extension and a Van Nuys light-rail line.

Metro would need an additional $26.2 billion to build the other eight projects by then. Those include several interchange improvements, a rail line to Artesia and a Sepulveda Pass transit line.

Metro is also tracking several issues that could add costs to the Regional Connector’s budget, Baker said.

That includes negotiations with the City of Los Angeles over a yard where Metro stages construction vehicles, and plans to build a permanent ventilation fan plant. City negotiators asked for $25 million for a three-year lease for the staging yard, $10 million higher than Metro had expected, Baker said.

And a new design for a pedestrian bridge from a Metro station to the Broad museum could add $6 million to the $10-million budget, Clarke said.

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