TRP Chair Spotlight: Matt O’Connor

Matt O'connerMatthew O’Connor, Hydraulics Unit Group Leader in the Illinois Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Bridges and Structures (BBS), is a Technical Review Panel (TRP) chair for project R27-144, “Development and Implementation of Updated Urban Regional Flood Frequency Equations for Illinois (Phase 2 Study)” a follow-up to project R27-006, “Illinois StreamStats,” which Matt also chaired. The purpose of this joint ICT/IDOT study is to update the StreamStats database to include urban as well as rural area characteristics, which will enable IDOT to build better, safer bridges across the state.

The project will provide an updated hydrologic method for estimating peak flood flows in urbanized settings around the entire state. The method and other information generated by the Illinois stream gage network will be posted to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) website Illinois StreamStats. The web page currently provides point-and-click flood flows for rural (i.e., undeveloped) watersheds at no cost to the site user. In addition, StreamStats includes an extensive array of basin characteristics and historical gage data that apply to a number of water resource–related concerns. The site has become a valuable tool for IDOT and its project partners. The addition of an urban component to Illinois StreamStats will establish statewide coverage at all stream and highway crossings.

“We are excited to have this web tool for both rural and urban sites. StreamStats has become our primary hydrologic method for sizing bridge and culvert waterways across the State of Illinois,” says O’Connor of this project.

He adds, “The researchers at the USGS Illinois Water Science Center in Urbana are uniquely positioned and qualified for this project, given both their staffing experience with hydrology and water resources projects and their management and familiarity with the stream gaging network in Illinois. BBS Hydraulics has partnered with USGS on several research projects—they deliver reliable, useful results in a very competent manner. Considering Illinois StreamStats is supported and maintained by the USGS national office going forward, IDOT is receiving a great bargain on a critical design resource.”

O’Connor’s role in the Planning Section of the Bureau of Bridges and Structures focuses on generating design recommendations for bridge and culvert projects. Toward that end, O’Connor’s work touches almost every element of the plan development phase of structures across waterways. That work includes field inspections, hydraulic report review and approval, instructing IDOT staff and consultants, keeping current with new methods and technologies, working with nine District Hydraulic Engineers, maintaining the Illinois Department of Transportation Drainage Manual, and contributing time and expertise to ICT’s research program.

He also serves as the IDOT representative to the AASHTO Technical Committee on Hydraulics and Hydrology, a national group of state and FHWA hydraulic engineers. In addition, Matt has served as TRP co-chair on project R27-019, “Pier and Contraction Scour Prediction in Cohesive Soils at Selected Bridges in Illinois” and on the TRP of many other projects related to bridges, water crossings, and drainage law.

In total, Matt has spent 32 years at IDOT, primarily with BBS Hydraulics, working to make sure that Illinois has safe, durable, and affordable bridges and structures for its residents.

Matt has a B.S. in civil engineering from the University of Iowa and a B.S. in physics from Illinois State University. He is a licensed Professional Engineer in Illinois.