Bridge and Tunnel Engineer, Thomas R. Kuesel 1926-2010

Thomas R. Kuesel, 1926-2010

Thomas R. Kuesel, 1926-2010Thomas R. Kuesel, a former Darien resident, died February 17. He was 83.

Mr. Kuesel was born July 30, 1926, to Harry N. and Marie Butt Kuesel. He graduated from Yale University in 1946 with highest honors in civil engineering at age 19, and received a master’s degree in civil engineering from Yale a year later. He was a member of Tau Beta Pi, the national engineering honor society. In 1947, Mr. Kuesel joined Parsons, Brinckerhoff, Quade & Douglas. He started as a junior bridge engineer and became chairman of the board in 1984. He retired in 1990 and stayed on as chairman emeritus and consulting engineer.

Mr. Kuesel was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1977. He is an honorary member of the American Underground Construction Association, and he received the Golden Beaver Award in Engineering in 1989 from The Beavers, the West Coast heavy construction honorary association. He received the Ernest E. Howard Award in 1988 for structural engineering from the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Mr. Kuesel was a charter member of the United States National Committee on Tunneling Technology from 1972-74. He was chairman of the Geotechnical Board of the National Research Council from 1988-89, and chairman of the National Research Council Marine Board Committee on Ship-Bridge Collisions from 1982-83.

His bridge projects included the Newport Bridge at Newport, R.I., a two-mile crossing over Narragansett Bay that includes the longest suspension bridge in New England with a central span of 1,600 feet. Mr. Kuesel also participated in the design of the original York River bridge in Yorktown, Va., which remains the longest twin swing span highway bridge in the world. In the 1990s, he advised reconstructing the bridge from the original two lanes to four lanes.

He oversaw the design and construction of the Ford Island Bridge across Pearl Harbor in Hawaii in 1991, a floating bridge with a retractable movable span that can open to provide passage for aircraft carriers.

From 1985-93, Mr. Kuesel worked with the World Bank on a special “panel of experts” convened to direct the development, design and construction of the Jamuna River Bridge in Bangladesh. He also worked with the World Bank on the Rama IX Bridge in Bangkok.

From 1963-68, he directed the design of 20 miles of subways, 25 miles of aerial structures, two rock tunnels and the three-mile Trans Bay Tube tunnel between San Francisco and Oakland, Calif., for Parsons Brinckerhoff-Tudor-Bechtel, the general engineering consultants for design and construction of the Bay Area Rapid Transit Project. In the course of his work, Mr. Kuesel developed the design basis for the resistance of underground structures to earthquakes.

His subway tunnel projects included: the nine-mile Rogers Pass Tunnel in the Canadian Rockies (the longest railroad tunnel in North America); the West Rock Tunnel on the Wilbur Cross Parkway in New Haven; the Lehigh Tunnel on the Pennsylvania Turnpike; the Glenwood Canyon Tunnel in Colorado; the Trans-Koolau Tunnel in Honolulu, Hawaii, and the Great Belt Tunnel in Denmark. Mr. Kuesel also built the eight-lane Fort McHenry Tunnel beneath Baltimore Harbor; the Second Hampton Roads and the Second Elizabeth River Tunnels at Norfolk, Va., and the Bosporos Tunnel at Istanbul, linking Europe and Asia.

One of his most notable tunnel projects, family members said, was the NORAD Combat Operations Center beneath Cheyenne Mountain near Colorado Springs, which was designed to resist the effects of a nuclear bomb in 1963.

From 1985 to 2004, Mr. Kuesel was senior adviser on the development, design and construction of Boston’s Central Artery/Tunnel project, popularly known as “The Big Dig.”

He was a co-editor of the “Tunnel Engineering Handbook,” a standard reference for design and construction used worldwide, and published more than 60 technical articles on tunnels, structures and contracting practices.

Mr. Kuesel was a long-time member of Wee Burn Country Club and a former board member of the Charlottesville and University Symphony Orchestra.

He is survived by his wife of 51 years, Lucia “Ellie” Fisher Kuesel; two children, Robert Livingston Kuesel and William Baldwin Kuesel, and five grandchildren.

A private service in Mr. Kuesel’s memory was held for his family.

Memorial contributions may be sent to the Charlottesville and University Symphony Orchestra, P.O. Box 4206, Charlottesville, VA 22905.

From, serving the readers of New Canaan, Connecticut.