Case Studies

Kirkham Michael

Conscious Design and Engineering of Critical Infrastructure

Since 1946 Kirkham Michael (KM) has been a leading consulting engineering firm in the Midwest, focusing on heavy civil construction and specialized environmental field services. Mike Olson, president of KM, says the company’s team of result-oriented professional engineers goes above and beyond standard project delivery.

“KM is an employee-owned company and it shows in our 80 result-oriented people,” Olson shares. “We don’t just do a project; we put our name on it and take great pride in our work, which makes for a fun working environment.”

Olson, who’s been with KM for more than 22 years, was practically raised in the construction industry. “My father was a small-time contractor,” he recollects. “I grew up around construction. When I started my career I got the chance to work for the Iowa DOT and worked there for nine years before joining KM.”

Today, 22 years later, Olson has worked in all of KM’s five offices from Des Moines, Iowa, to Ellsworth, Kan., landing in the company’s Omaha, Neb., headquarters. “It’s been a great journey and an exciting company to work for,” adds Olson. “Our team has had many interesting opportunities and neat projects during my time at KM.”

Paving the Way for Infrastructure Improvement

Today, the employee-owned firm remains based in Omaha, but serves clients throughout the Midwest; primarily in Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska. “We have about 80 professionals specializing in engineering, surveying, planning and design for a range of heavy civil, municipal, environmental – such as water and wastewater – and DOT projects,” reveals Olson. “We often work with small teams at the local municipal level, but at the same time, we do large-scale municipal and DOT projects, as well.”

KM offers environmental planning, surveying and construction engineering, bridge inspection, GIS, land development, municipal support and transportation service for airports, bridges, roadways and traffic infrastructure. “We assist our municipal clients with water supply and wastewater infrastructure planning,” Olson details. For two decades, KM has assisted clients with identifying funding to support projects. The company’s involvement has been a key ingredient in successful project development.

“Our founders Stan Michael and Rowland Kirkham started working on projects with the Omaha District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” shares Olson. “They started out as Kirkham Engineering in bridge design work and we’ve stayed close to those roots. We still have a heavy emphasis on bridge projects.”

KM continues to offer expert engineering consultation in support of infrastructure development throughout the region. “In Kansas, we recently wrapped up the preliminary phase of the U.S. 50 expressway design, as well as the construction of a heavy surface modification of I-70,” details Olson.

In 2011, the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) hired KM to provide engineering services and $14.8 million in moderate pavement rehabilitation on I-70 through Lincoln County. The job involved design and construction of more than 7 miles of interstate.

“KM evaluated several options for the design, including different clear zone and fore slope configurations, as well as alternatives for concrete and asphalt pavement. Other value-added design elements included improvements to the side road at the Exit 233 interchange, bridge rail replacement and the installment of liner pipes on existing corrugated metal pipes.” – KM’s website reads.

The company’s extensive list of highway and roadway work goes on. “In Des Moines, we have completed the environmental process for the cities of Waukee and West Des Moines Alice’s Road diverging diamond interchange [DDI],” adds Olson. “The final design is advancing quickly and will be the first DDI project in Iowa.”

As the lead engineering firm for the multiphase development, KM has directed design and construction of 5.7 miles of the city of Des Moines’ new four-lane major urban arterial route extending from the city’s central business district southeast to U.S. Highway 65. The company completed several studies prior to design and environmental analysis to determine how the SE Connector project could best support urban development and redevelopment of the region and provide efficient transportation connections through the corridor.

In Nebraska, KM is involved in the overall conceptual engineering and environmental documentation for phase one and two of the Kearney Bypass project. “Some of our projects span years, because it takes time to secure federal funding,” details Olson.

Aside from highway and roadway projects, KM also works with water and waste water treatment plants. “We’re doing a large-scale combined sewer overflow [CSO] project in Omaha,” reveals Olson. “We’re utilizing green solutions to detain and slow water more efficiently, saving the citizens of Omaha over a million dollars.”

Finding a Happy Medium

With a sizable number of projects on the horizon, Olson says KM looks forward to a bright future. After 67 years in business, Olson is proud to report KM is focused on steady, organic growth for the future. “There’s the possibility of new locations but right now we’re going to grow from within and maintain the current values of who we are and giving our people the opportunity to take on new challenges,” he says.

Kirkham Michael continues to climb to the forefront of consulting engineering and surveying firms in the Midwest, supporting infrastructure development backed by invested employee owners.

Published on: July 10, 2014

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