Ohio Department of Transportation Design Lead
As a design engineer, Joe Smithson knows the importance of collaboration. Working with his construction counterparts to ensure highways can be built as designed and economically maintained is a critical part of his job.
“We’re always asking for feedback from the construction team and contractors,” Smithson says
Smithson’s collaboration skills will be put to the test in his role as the design lead for the Ohio portion of the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor (BSBC) Project, one of the nation’s largest infrastructure projects.
“This is the project of lifetime,” Smithson says.
A multi-decade career in highway engineering prepared the Blanchester, Ohio, native for his key role on the $3.6 billion project. After nearly eight years as a geotechnical engineer with a Cincinnati consulting firm, Smithson joined the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) in 2005 as the district geotechnical engineer in the District 8 office in Lebanon. In 2017, he was named district design engineer and became a member of the Bistate Management Team for the BSBC Project in early 2023.
Smithson developed his interest in the geotechnical aspects of civil engineering as an undergraduate student at the University of Cincinnati, serving several co-op internships at a geotechnical firm. Smithson went on to earn his master’s degree at UC and has focused on the engineering behavior of earth materials ever since.
Innovative thinking is a key requirement in Smithson’s job.
“No two highways are alike,” Smithson explains. “Even the simplest of projects requires outside-the-box thinking.”
As part of the team that will evaluate proposals to alter the BSBC’s configuration during the upcoming innovation period, Smithson will ensure that changes will be made only when they help achieve the project’s goals and objectives, reduce costs, minimize environmental impact, or shorten the timeline for project completion.
A project of the scale of the BSBC would normally take four to five years to design under normal conditions. Smithson and his team have 18 months, although the 2012 BSBC design concept gives his team a starting point from which to work.
In his free time, Smithson is an avid fan of hard rock and hair metal. In fact, you may find Smithson in the pit at local music festivals, such as Louder than Life. Consistent with an engineer’s commitment to safety, he’ll be the one wearing ear plugs.