December 1998: ASCE History and Heritage
By: C. S. Papacostas

ASCE has recently published the sixth edition of its Guide to the History and Heritage of Civil Engineering.  In it we read that ASCE was the first engineering society to establish a permanent history committee. This 1964 action was motivated by the realization that, although civil engineering had a profound impact in shaping the history of the nation, "the contributions of civil engineers have gone unnoticed by the public and even ignored by the profession itself."

A major contributing factor to this condition is, ironically, the fact that civil engineering works are so ubiquitous as to be taken for granted, and thus ignored!

The Guide provides information on ASCE National Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks, including Hawaii's Kamehameha V Post Office and the Red Hill Underground Storage Facility.

A chronology of American Civil Engineering to 1948 is also included as is a description of ASCE's Oral History Program that aims at preserving the firsthand memories of eyewitnesses to important events.

November 1998: OMPO
By: C. S. Papacostas

Historically, the states developed a strong relationship with the federal government regarding the construction of intercity highways and, later, urban extensions. The federal Bureau of Public Roads (BPR) played a pivotal role in this relationship.

The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1962 mandated that, by 1965, federal funding for highways would require a continuing, comprehensive and cooperative (3C) planning process. In 1966, when the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) was established, many of the functions of BPR were absorbed within the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

On the other hand, urban areas had traditionally interacted with federal housing agencies such as the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and the Housing and Home Finance Agency (HHFA). Federal funds for urban transportation planning were first authorized by the Housing Act of 1961 under the control of HHFA which in 1965 merged into the newly established Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). In 1968, federal transportation assistance to urban areas became the responsibility of the Urban Mass Transportation Administration (UMTA) that resided within the USDOT and is now known as the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

In the same year, the Intergovernmental Cooperation Act provided for a wide review of projects seeking federal aid and a year later, the Bureau of the Budget required that state and metropolitan areas designate specific agencies as clearinghouses to facilitate these reviews, hereafter known as A-95 reviews. This was because the Budget Bureau had published this requirement in Circular A-95.

As the year 1975 rolled around, FHWA and UMTA issued joint regulations that required urban areas of certain size to designate a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) to oversee compliance to the increasingly demanding 3C Planning Process.

And this, in short, is why the Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization (OMPO) was created by the state legislature that same year.

October 1998: Planning for Honolulu
By: C. S. Papacostas

Searching for ideas about this month's article, I took a look at a draft document I prepared about 20 years ago that traced the evolution of General and Transportation Planning in Honolulu.

One remarkable pattern I had discovered then was the fact that 20th century urban planning on Oahu paralleled closely the various planning philosophies as they were being embraced across the nation. Here are some examples:

The "city beautiful" movement around the beginning of the century ushered in planning for an urban park system including Kapiolani Park, Ala Wai Canal and Ala Moana Park. In 1906, Charles Mulford Robinson authored a report entitled "The Beautifying of Honolulu," and Lucius Pinkham proposed the "Reclamation of Waikiki District."

The "city practical" movement that emphasized urban infrastructure and engineering brought about subdivision regulations and the formation (in 1915) of an advisory City Planning Commission. Six year's following New York City's lead, a zoning ordinance for Honolulu was adopted, at first as part of the Building Code.

Next, urban "master planning" was emphasized by the Territorial Legislature that transformed the City Planning Commission into a semi-autonomous body. The Commission was put in charge of preparing a master plan and a distinct zoning ordinance for the city of Honolulu. Plan sections were incrementally adopted between 1942 and 1947.

In 1949, the jurisdiction of the City Planning Commission was extended beyond the Honolulu city limits to cover urbanizing areas in rural Oahu. Taking advantage of the 1954 amendments to the U. S. Housing Act of 1949, the City Planning Commission applied for and received funding from the Housing and Home Finance Agency to develop "for the first time, a general plan for the urban and urbanizing areas of the island, excluding those areas that are expected to remain in agricultural uses." In 1958, Oahu Planning Associates, a joint venture, was contracted to provide planning assistance.

When the General Plan was issued in 1960, the master planning function had been transferred to the newly established City and County Planning Department.

September 1998: LTAP
By: C. S. Papacostas

In my November 1997 article I pointed out that there has been a long-standing interest on the part of the federal government to ensure that new knowledge in road building technology be transferred to local jurisdictions. Efforts to effectuate this transfer date to before the turn of the 20th century.

‚ÄčAmong the notable technology transfer endeavors is the Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP). Originally known as the Rural Technical Assistance Program (RTAP), it was established by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in 1982 in accordance with the Department of Transportation and Related Agencies Appropriation Act (Public Law 97-102).

According to its field manual "LTAP is a national effort designed to improve access to highway, road, and street technology for local units of general purpose and tribal government."

A network of LTAP centers was established in cooperation with State highway agencies to increase the accessibility of people in local areas to programmatic and product development at the national level.

By 1996, there were 57 such centers, one in each state, one in Puerto Rico and six associated with American Indian tribal governments.

To accomplish their objectives, LTAP centers cooperate with several partners including the Office of Technology Applications, the National Highway Institute, the American Public Works Association, several professional organizations and many others.

In 1991, the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) extended the program to include cities with populations of up to one million. Considering the complex needs of such urban areas, the scope of the program has seen a concomitant expansion.

During the past few months, the Hawaii LTAP was temporarily housed at the Materials Testing Lab of the Department of Transportation. It is now being transferred to the Department of Civil Engineering of the University of Hawaii.

August 1998: Kohala District
By: C. S. Papacostas

Several months ago, I received an e-mail message from George Curtis, a very good friend who, in his current stage of life, is an Affiliate Professor of Natural Sciences at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. Part of his message read:

"We rode a kayak about three miles on it, through the mountains and tunnels. It was built by 650 Japanese laborers in 1905-1906. You can still see some kanji on the stone work. Where the roof of the tunnels was inadequate, they built an arched ceiling of stone blocks."

George was referring to the Kohala Ditch that "is 22 miles long, includes over two miles of tunnels, was done in 18 months (they say) and only falls 80 feet -- and still is in use after the plantation closed 27 years ago. The only new portions are replacements of many of the redwood flume sections with concrete in the 1930s."

Regarding the difficulty of construction, George points out that the engineer had to order cement and redwood from the mainland, construct trails in the mountains to gain access to the project, and survey to ensure that a constant grade (80 feet/22 miles) was maintained even through 2000-ft tunnels.

The engineer in charge "went on to San Francisco and built their water system with the funny name of Hetch Hetchy."

Hetch Hetchy, of course, is the name of the valley reservoir situated in the Yosemite National Park behind the O'Shaughnessy Dam, the latter named in honor of the Kohala Ditch's hydraulic engineer who also served as San Francisco's city engineer from 1912 to 1932.

Michael Maurice O'Shaugnessy was born in Limerick, Ireland in 1864 and emigrated to the U.S. in 1885. As city engineer, he also investigated the feasibility of a bridge spanning the Golden Gate Strait.

The Hetch Hetchy water and power supply system has its own long and controversial history. Its construction was made possible by a special law, the Raker Act passed in 1913 by the U.S. Congress, in the face of bitter opposition by many, including John Muir.

July 1998: NAVSTAR GPS
By: C. S. Papacostas

In 1973, the Department of Defense developed a new concept known as NAVigation System using Time And Ranging (NAVSTAR) Global Positioning System (GPS). The basic idea was to use "trilateration" to determine the location of a GPS receiver antenna using its distance from orbiting satellite vehicles (SVs) at a known time (or "epoch").

The first prototype SV was launched in February 1978. Another ten were placed into orbit between 1978 and 1985. Together these eleven SVs are known as Block I. Their purpose was to help prove the concept and potential applications. By 1982, at least one commercial surveying company was offering GPS services not for navigation but for surveying applications.

A year later, the National Geodetic Survey (NGS) and the Texas Department of Highways and Public Transportation (SDHPT) purchased several receivers to support geodetic surveys.

Production SVs (known as Block II) were placed in orbit between 1989 and 1993. In 1994 the GPS system was declared to be fully operational. It consists of three major elements: The space segment, the control segment and the user segment.

The space segment is made up of a constellation of 24 SVs arranged in six groups of four. Each group occupies one of six orbital planes inclined to the equatorial plane by 55 degrees and spaced equally (i.e. at 60 degrees apart) around the equator. At least four (and up to eight) satellites are visible at any given time from almost everywhere on the globe.

The control segment includes a Master Control Station located at the Falcon Air Base in Colorado and four tracking stations around the world. One of these is located in Hawaii. Information from the tracking stations is used to compute and upload the precise orbital data of each satellite (known as the "ephemeris"), clock corrections and other data.

The user segment requires GPS receivers and software that use signals transmitted periodically by each satellite to perform navigation, surveying and other positioning tasks.

The SV signals are composed of two carrier frequencies (L1 and L2) modulated by two pseudorandom (PRN) binary codes generated by known and published mathematical equations. The two codes are called low-accuracy Coarse Acquisition (C/A) code and high accuracy Precise (P) code. When "anti-spoofing" is enabled, the P-code is replaced by a classified high-accuracy Y-code known only to authorized users.

The accuracy of GPS also depends on "selective availability" (SA), the deliberate degrading of the signals that can be corrected only by authorized users.  A new network of continuously operating reference stations (CORS) of known locations is being developed to support high accuracy positioning.

Finally, the introduction of GPS necessitated the definition of a reference ellipsoid with a center at the mass center of the earth. Known as the World Geodetic System 1984 (WGS 84), it is almost identical to the "Geodetic Reference System 1980" (GRS 80) which was adopted by the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics in 1979 and is used by the North American Datum 1983 (NAD 83). However, the WGS 84 differs significantly from other ellipsoids such as the Clarke 1866 used by the NAD 27.

June 1998: ASTM
By: C. S. Papacostas

1998 marks the 100th anniversary of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).

This organization issues more than 10,000 standards in 72 volumes of its "Book of Standards." These include standard test methods, specifications, practice, terminology, guides and classifications. And yet it neither performs research nor does it operate a research facility.

ASTM operates on a full-consensus committee structure and approach that brings together diverse interests including producers and suppliers, users, ultimate consumers, government and academia. Its literature states that the standards are developed voluntarily and used voluntarily. They become legally binding only when a government body makes them so, or when they are cited in a contract.

The origins of ASTM can be traced to the last half of the 19th century. A major controversy arose between the railroads and domestic steel suppliers. The former began insisting on standard material specifications, whereas the latter vehemently opposed them.

Charles Dudley, who had earned the Ph.D. at Yale in 1874, was the driving force behind material testing and specification for the Pennsylvania Railroad. To resolve the impasse between suppliers and users, he called for consensus building via joint technical committees. This approach was later adopted by the International Association for Testing Materials (IATM) and its American Section which was formed in 1898 in Philadelphia.

The American Section of IATM was renamed American Society for Testing Materials in 1902 as its "Structural Steel for Bridges" specification was being approved. The first "Book of Standards" was published in 1942 and contained more than 1000 entries.

In 1961, ASTM added the conjunction "and" to its name to reflect its expanded role beyond just testing materials.

In addition to issuing its standards, ASTM publishes several technical journals, offers technical and professional training courses in the use of standards and operates a proficiency testing program for participating laboratories.

May 1998: AASHTO
By: C. S. Papacostas

Every civil engineer is familiar with the acronym AASHTO. It stands for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and is most well known for the Green Book whose full title is A Policy on Geometric Design of Highways and Streets.

Even though the impact of this policy "guide" is universally appreciated, the enormous contributions of AASHTO to all aspects of transportation are less well understood.

The organization was first established in 1914 during the national Good Roads Movement that swept the country. It was then known as the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO). The preparation of the first highway policy document was initiated in 1937 with the establishment of the Committee on Planning and Design Policies.

AASHTO's current voting membership consists of those Departments or Agencies of the States of the United States, Puerto Rico and the district of Columbia in which official highway responsibility for that State or Territory is lodged, and the United States Department of

Transportation which is an ex-officio member. Hawaii is represented by the Department of Transportation (HDOT). Non-voting members include foreign affiliates and local, state and federal agency associate members.

As for its scope of activity, AASHTO addresses issues covering all modes of transportation and in as diverse areas as planning, design, construction, research and management.

Some of the less well-known AASHTO activities include the following:


April 1998: Traffic Simulation

By: C. S. Papacostas

Computer-based traffic simulation is one of the most powerful tools that traffic engineers have in their toolbox. Although contemporary computer technology has made these models readily accessible to anyone, the proper application of computer simulation requires a basic understanding of the fundamental elements of traffic flow and operations.

I have been teaching a course in traffic simulation since coming to the University of Hawaii in 1973. Back then, students had to write their own computer code, punch it on computer cards, debug it, and validate their models to ensure their accuracy and realism. To do this, they had to wade through stacks of computer printouts. These days, computer animation and visualization make this task much easier.

The first attempts to apply computer simulation to traffic were documented in Research Report No. 20 issued by the Institute of Transportation and Traffic Engineering at the University of California. This 1954 report was entitled "Analysis and Simulation of Traffic Flow." D. L. Gerlough's Ph.D. dissertation ("Simulation of Freeway Traffic on a General-Purpose Discrete-Variable Computer") was published a year later.

During the late 1970s, we developed a computer simulation model to study the conversion of Honolulu's Hotel Street into an exclusive bus street and to investigate ways to optimize the speed and capacity of the system. A related article about this Urban Mass Transportation Administration (now, Federal Transit Administration) funded project appeared in a 1982 issue of the Transportation Quarterly.

At the present time, the most ambitious effort is under development at MIT. Known as SIMLAB, it is implemented in C++ using object-oriented programming and a distributed environment. It not only simulates traffic on complex networks (microscopic traffic simulatior, MITSIM) but also simulates effect of responses by a traffic control center (traffic management simulation, TMS). In other words, the model "mimics the relationship between a traffic operation control center and the traffic flows in the road network."

March 1998: Creepy Concrete
By: C. S. Papacostas

Although I am not a structural engineer, I am vaguely familiar with statements that portland cement concrete made with Hawaiian aggregates has different characteristics than concretes using aggregates found on the mainland.

I was also aware that this finding was first identified by a team led by the University of Hawaii's professor Harold Hamada.

To get to the bottom of this, I talked to Harold and discovered the following:

The precast-prestressed concrete industry in Honolulu began in 1954 by a joint venture between Park and Yee, a structural engineering firm, and HC&D, a concrete supplier. At that time, the use of prestressed concrete was new to the territory of Hawaii and the rest of the nation.

In this new structural system, two phenomena are important: "relaxation" (that is, the loss of strength at constant strain) and "creep" (i.e., the increase in strain at constant stess). The high strength prestressing cables exhibit relaxation and the concrete exhibits creep.

In 1969, a research team headed by Harold Hamada discovered that Hawaiian aggregate concrete creeps more than reported in the general literature of the time. This discovery was later confirmed by a study conducted by the firm of Wiss, Janey and Elstner in 1996.

It has been speculated that the reason for the larger creep is the porousness of Hawaiian basalts. This belief is held by both of the major concrete suppliers in Honolulu.

In 1979 the State of Hawaii prohibited the mining of beach sand for use as fine aggregate. Subsequently, crushed basalt and corals have been used instead. These manufactured fine aggregates have not resulted in creep reduction however. More recently, the use of fly ash and silica fume have had some effect but not below that found on the mainland.

To quote Harold, Hawaii has creepy concrete!

February 1998: Portland Cement
By: C. S. Papacostas

It is not atypical for textbooks on engineering materials to describe concrete as an artificial stone composed of a cementing material (binder matrix) and a mineral aggregate (inert filler material).

Many of these textbooks go on to classify cements as being either bituminous or nonbituminous. Examples of the former are asphalts and tars, whereas the latter include natural cements, portland cements, slag cements and pozzolan cements.

I recall a purist engineer I met many years ago who would refuse to use the word "concrete" by itself, but only in terms of "asphalt concrete" or "portland cement concrete," etc.

Most structural engineering books I am familiar with make little reference to nonbituminous cements and go on to classify "cements" as either non-hydraulic (e.g. lime) or hydraulic (i.e., those that have the ability to set and harden under water). Most use the term "cement" interchangeably with "portland cement."

John Cernica (one of my teachers) makes the following points in his 1964 book Fundamentals of Reinforced Concrete: Because of the wide use of portland cement in this country, the term is frequently used as a synonym for concrete. Unless specified otherwise, the discussion of concrete in this text will be based on the assumption that portland cement is the cementing material.

But whence came portland cement? For the answer, I turned to James G. MacGregor's book on reinforced concrete mechanics and design.

He begins the story with the fact that lime mortar was first used by the Minoans about 2000 years before the common era. Being nonhydraulic, however, this mortar could not be used for exposed or underwater construction.

It was the Romans who, three centuries before the common era, discovered that mixing a fine sandy volcanic ash with lime mortar could be used under water. The next development was around the year 1800 when John Smeaton (the first englishman, by the way, to attach the title "civil engineer" to his name) discovered that a mixture of burned limestone and clay could generate a hydraulic cement. Not willing to take a chance, however, he continued to use the Roman cement in buildings such as the Eddystone Lighthouse off the south coast of England. For the next 25 or so years Smeaton's cement found little use because the presence of limestone and clay in the same quarry was rare.  And then came Joseph Aspdin who, in 1824, mixed limestone and clay from different sources and heated them in a kiln. He called his product "Portland cement" because the concrete he made using it resembled a high-grade limestone found on the Isle of Portland in southern England.

Interestingly, when making Aspdin's cement, the mixture was occasionally overheated to form a hard clinker. This was considered to be "waste" and was thrown away. But (surprise!) in 1845, I. C. Johnson discovered that grinding this undesirable clinker produced the best portland cement. And this is how it is produced to this day.

January 1998: Traffic Symbols in Honolulu
By: C. S. Papacostas

A short article in the series Whatever happened to ...? that appeared in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin on December 10, 1997 reminds us of the little known fact that Honolulu was the first city in the United States to adopt traffic signs that incorporate pictures rather than simply words.

The person responsible for this was Henry Tuck Au, a controversial director of the city's Department of Transportation Services whose tenure lasted for most of the 1960s.

According to the Star-Bulletin article, Mr. Au began installing symbolic signs in 1962 after a trip to Europe where this had been the practice. My guess is that Europeans had resorted to pictographs because of the many languages spoken throughout the continent.

And indeed, as Louis J. Pignataro states in his 1973 textbook on Traffic Engineering, symbols that are instantly recognized are far superior to word messages ... and their use should be encouraged to the greatest degree.

It was not until 1971, after considerable national and international debate, that the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) encouraged and began to standardize such signs in the U.S. It did, however, recommend that during the transitional period supplemental word signs be placed along with the symbolic signs.

History & Heritage 1998

2014 Copyright ASCE Hawaii Section

  • Its Material Reference Laboratory (AMRL) program was established in 1965 at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (formerly the National Bureau of Standards) to promore quality and testing in uniformity in laboratories testing asphalt and soils. The HDOT and one private laboratory are currently liste as accredited in Hawaii
  • A Multi-State Technical Assistance program was established in 1987 as an independent information exchange network for State transit agencies. The State of Hawaii is represented by the Statewide Transportation Planning Office of HDOT.
  • A Metrication Clearinghouse aims at facilitating the adoption of the metric system by highway agencies and their suppliers. A progress report indicates that the HDOT is continuing its conversion to metric. HDOT is refining metric drafts of the Standard Specifications and Standard Plans and is planning the metric version of the HDOT Design Manual.
  • In 1994 AASHTO established the National Transportation Products Evaluation Program (NTPEP) to test materials of common interest in a manner that eliminates needless duplication. Similarly, the Cooperative Computer Software activity aids in the development of specialized software products in bridge design and rating, roadway design, construction contract administation and other areas.
  • Finally, in 1997 AASHTO has been designated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as the National Frequency Coordinator for the Highway Maintenance frequencies in the Public Service Radio Service.