Working on the Ipswich Motorway upgrade and specialising in civil road construction, Senior Project Engineer, Joe Damen, is leading the Boundary Road Connection construction team. We caught up with Joe to find out a little bit more about his career and projects.
Why did you become an engineer?
As a kid, I loved building stuff with Lego and playing with dump trucks in the sandpit. Throughout school, maths, science, and problem solving were my interests and strengths, English was neither a strength nor an interest. I always had a keen interest in buildings and bridges; therefore, the obvious pathway was to study to be a Civil Engineer at University.
What do you love about our industry?
The best thing about construction is that at the end of each week, month, year, and finally completion of the project, you can see your work come to fruition. It is great to see the benefit that the end-user gets out of the project. What is even better is driving on the road every day that you had a part in building.
In the construction of brownfield projects, every day is different – one day there may be earthworks, the next a concrete pour, or asphalt. You are not stuck at a desk all day; it is very rewarding!
What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on the Boundary Road Connection. It is part of the Ipswich Motorway Upgrade; Rocklea to Darra and is a service road linking Boundary Road at Rocklea through the Oxley Creek flood plain to Boundary/Blunder Road Intersection at Oxley.
It will benefit the local community by reducing congestion at the Oxley Rd Roundabout over the Ipswich Motorway, Oxley McDonalds, and Oxley Bunnings.
What has been your greatest professional achievement to date?
I believe every project I have been a part of has been a great achievement. Each one has different challenges, dollar values, and prestige.
In my career, I have worked on flat long roads in the middle of nowhere, steep, narrow roads in the hinterland, and major arterial highways and I have learnt plenty from each project and value each one as being important to my career to date.
What’s the best project you have worked on?
I have not decided on a favourite yet. It’s a decision between my first project, Port of Brisbane Motorway – Gateway Motorway to Pritchard Street (2011-2013), or my current project, Ipswich Motorway Rocklea to Darra (2017 to Present). It’s a hard choice.
I was given a fantastic opportunity while the industry was booming in 2011 to work on a $200M BMD Seymour Whyte JV straight out of uni. The project was part greenfield and part brownfield to provide a better link for industry between the Gateway Motorway and Port of Brisbane, taking the majority of traffic off Lytton Road. The project had challenges including soft soils, acid sulphate soils, marine plants, major bridge structures, retaining walls, intersection upgrades, and traffic switches. I learnt so much on my first project as a Graduate Engineer and got a good taste of construction.
I am currently working on the Ipswich Motorway Upgrade; Rocklea to Darra. For the last two years, I have been managing significant construction areas on the project. These areas have challenges including; a narrow work area within a road corridor catering for 70,000 vehicles per day, numerous traffic switches, interfaces between crews constructing retaining walls, large RCBC structures, and civil works. The work has included significant upgrades to the adjacent service roads including management of service relocations, construction of shared user footpaths and exclusively separated cycleway. I have recently started overseeing the Boundary Road connection which also has challenges including; services relocations, major RCBC construction, and two intersection upgrades. As we head towards a strong finish to the project, the Ipswich Motorway may well become my favourite.
What’s the most useful thing you’ve learned throughout your career?
Field experience is priceless. You can spend all the time at university or training, but there is so much to learn about construction from those in the field and being in the field. There are people out on-site that have been in the construction industry longer than I have been alive.
If I am not sure on a build strategy, they are usually my go-to because they have seen it, done it and can pass on their expertise and advice.
What would your last meal be?
A steak from the Meringandan Hotel.
What is the last movie you watched or series you binged?
I saw “Knives Out” at the movies recently. Wasn’t expecting much but it was a brilliant murder mystery comedy.
Who’s the greatest engineer of all time and why?
John Roebling – Lead Engineer for the Brooklyn Bridge. Brooklyn Bridge is so impressive considering it was constructed in the 1880s.
What excites you about the future of infrastructure?
The urban sprawl is growing in South East QLD, and I think the industry has exciting times ahead with many underground road/ rail tunnels required, high rise, and no doubt arterial road upgrades. Hopefully, South East Queensland wins the 2032 Olympics as there may be the opportunity once in a lifetime Olympic infrastructure.
If you could have worked on any major project from history, what would it have been?
Locally I would pick the Story Bridge as it is a part of Brisbane’s skyline.
Globally I think it is hard to beat the Golden Gate Bridge. Well worth a visit if travelling to the USA.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
Outside of work I play cricket in the warehouse competition every Saturday afternoon and glued to the TV when the Australians are playing test cricket (I’m a bit of a tragic). I also go cycling on weekends and ride to an from work when the weather is kind. When I have the time to get to the beach, I am pretty keen on bodyboarding and am slowly picking up surfing.