BRIDGE DESIGN: Civil engineer honored by White House

John Hillman among those named Transportation Champions of Change for their innovative transportation solutions

Bridges News ASCE May 13, 2013
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Imagine holding four U.S. patents for a landmark and unique bridge technology, more than a dozen foreign or pending patents and winning every major design and construction award available in the nation. Now imagine these achievements being accomplished by one individual: civil engineer John Hillman.


In a White House ceremony last week, Hillman and 10 other notable individuals were recognized as Transportation Champions of Change for their exemplary work and leadership in developing and implementing transportation technology solutions to enhance performance, reduce congestion, improve safety and facilitate communication across the transportation industry at the local, state and national levels.


A structural engineer with more than 27 years of experience, Hillman’s more noteworthy achievements include managing the construction of a 1,263-ft incrementally launched bridge in Puerto Rico and the design and management of the award-winning 35th Street pedestrian bridge over Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. He also has been the engineer of record for almost every type of bridge structure imaginable, including a cable-stay, an arch, a truss and a suspension bridge, as well as numerous conventional structures.


“John’s relentless drive to push his innovation from a concept to accepted practice is the perfect example of what it takes to excel today,” said American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) President Greg DiLoreto, P.E. “And he certainly isn’t resting on his laurels. He continues to work tirelessly to foster a culture of creativity and innovation throughout the industry. He is without a doubt a citizen who is building an America to last.”


Despite an impressive array of world-class bridge designs, Hillman’s crowning achievement is the invention of the Hybrid-Composite Beam (HCB), a new type of structural beam developed for use in bridges and other structures. This unique technology is a tied arch of concrete and steel contained in a composite shell that optimizes the structural performance of each material in the composition. What results is an economical structural beam for railroads, highways and marine structures that offers a service life of more than 100 years.


“I became a civil engineer because I love building things,” said Hillman. “I gravitated towards bridges because literally and figuratively I get to help people stay connected. I never dreamed that I would get this type of recognition just for doing what I enjoy. I am both honored and humbled to be included in the distinguished company of the other White House Champions of Change.”


The HCB provides for an economical application of advanced composites in infrastructure bridge technology, resulting in bridges that are stronger, safer, lighter, faster to install and much more sustainable than conventional bridge technologies. To date, 24 HCB bridges have been constructed in seven different states, with many more in various stages of planning, design and construction.


“My goal with the invention and development of the HCB, is to provide a revolutionary bridge technology that not only remedies the state of our decaying bridges, but also provides a solution to this problem that will reduce the burden of infrastructure rehabilitation costs for future generations,” said Hillman.


“We join ASCE in applauding John’s selection by the Obama administration as a Transportation Champion of Change. It is an honor well deserved,” said Bill Toohey, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA). “John is distinguished not only by his innovative product development, but also by his zeal as an advocate for progressive change in our industry.


“As just one example, as a primary architect and leader of ARTBA’s annual TransOvation Workshop, John has inspired and challenged hundreds of young executives in the transportation infrastructure design, construction and management industry to question things as they are and to think and work creatively in the pursuit of providing our customer—the American public—with a better transportation product,” added Toohey.


“By the very definition of our profession, it is our legacy to create a better civilization. I hope that my journey, fueled by a passion for innovation and creativity, will inspire future generations of civil engineers to reinvent the built environment,” said Hillman.


For more information about the Transportation Champions of Change, click on

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