Rebekah: Mark, tell me about your background related to rail and the projects you’ve worked on for construction and track inspection?
Mark: I was the lead contractor quality control inspector for underground, at grade, and elevated guideway rail installation for the Sound Transit N180 University of Washington to Northgate segment, including floating slabs within the tunnel portion. I monitored and verified conformance to contract specifications during the construction of plinths and ensured that rail was set to proper grade, elevation, and offset. I ensured testing conformance for concrete and reinforcing along with welding of rail. Currently, I am a quality verification inspector for Sound Transit on the Northgate to Lynnwood L300 portion of rail. I oversee contract specification conformance for all ground-up operations of construction, including but not limited to column drilling and column cap installation, retaining and abutment walls, girder install and reinforcements, elevated guideway track slab install, and all appurtenances such as utility and pipe install.
Rebekah: Tell us more about what track inspection requires and the top 3 things you look for when reviewing a Contractor’s work?
Mark: It is important to see the installation of the track as the end product and work backward. Everything you are working towards is for a safe and reliable system to transport the public. The rail must be at the proper elevation, offset and camber as designed. The top three things that I look for are
Is the work being performed safely, are proper safety measures in place to ensure workers are not injured while on-site and are safety guidelines being followed? Is the work being performed using the latest updated plans, and are there approved RFI’s that modify that plan? Furthermore, is the Contractor’s quality control team performing their inspection and testing as required? Is the work being performed going to result in the required quality of product that leads to the rail being set at the proper elevation, offset and camber without rework or modification to the approved contract? Meaning, the Contractor has the right to perform the work using their own means and methods, but I must be aware when those conflict with the end product.
Rebekah: What is your advice for working with the Contractor when a known discrepancy occurs?
Mark: Having a great line of communication is important in building a good working relationship with the Contractor and their teams. Educating them on what item is not in conformance while not directing work is key. Being informed and monitoring the work during the process and relaying non-confirming products as they are observed will prevent rework and inefficiency.
Rebekah: Lastly, what would you recommend to keep the team solution-focused when the site conditions are changing and how the team can support the Contractor?
Mark: I adhere to the motto, “You can’t push a rope in a direction. You have to pull it.” This means that I like to encourage the Contractor that the end goal is a safe and reliable product for the traveling public and acknowledge that they are the driving force making that happen. They are the experts. I promote that they have a high level of satisfaction building something long-lasting. I remind them that they are the experts and skilled in their respected craft, and I simply assist alongside to ensure they follow along the intended path. When people in the field feel pride of ownership and a sense of responsibility toward the end result, you get a better end result.