Jacobs Associates announced that Bhaskar Thapa, PhD, PE, died on June 19. Thapa, a lead associate with Jacobs Associates, would have celebrated his 50th birthday in September. His life’s most significant engineering achievement — the Caldecott Fourth Bore — is on schedule to open later this year.
Thapa was one of the lead designers and design representatives for the Caldecott Fourth Bore. A native of Nepal, Bhaskar Thapa received a PhD in geotechnical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, and MS and BS degrees in civil engineering from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Thapa, who had been on staff with Jacobs Associates for more than a decade, was an expert in the New Austrian Tunneling Method (NATM), which was the selected method of excavation for the Caldecott Fourth Bore.
Thapa played a critical role on the project during his eight-year involvement — from design through excavation, assessing and mapping the complex and abruptly changing ground conditions along the tunnel’s alignment. His efforts contributed to the project’s excellent safety record, the flawless precision of the breakthrough in late 2011, and the successful completion of tunnel excavation and final lining construction in 2012.
“Bhaskar recently enjoyed seeing the fruits of his labors when the tunneling and final lining were completed for this challenging project,” said Michael T. McRae, Principal with Jacobs Associates. “He was incredibly proud of this achievement and we often spoke about the pride he would feel when driving his two boys and wife through the tunnel.”
“We faced many challenges in designing and constructing a tunnel through the East Bay hills,” said Fourth Bore Project Manager Cristina Ferraz, who has worked on the project for the past decade. “These challenges included highly variable ground conditions, proximity of the tunnel to several major fault lines, and the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health’s (CalOSHA) classification of the tunnel as a ‘gassy.’ Bhaskar’s deep understanding of the geotechnical aspects of the project and his commitment to the project enabled us to resolve these challenges.”
“As the Senior Fourth Bore Tunnel Engineer, I oversaw the NATM team and had the opportunity to work very closely with Bhaskar throughout the excavation process,” said Ivan Ramirez, who is currently a Senior Construction Engineer with the Contra Costa Transportation Authority. “We assessed ground conditions and structural support at daily meetings with the contractor. Bhaskar had managed to earn everyone’s respect and everyone on all sides of the table always listened when he spoke. He was both passionate about the tunnel, and an even-handed diplomat. We will all miss him very much.”
A resident of Contra Costa County, Thapa is survived by his family, including his wife and their two sons. He also leaves behind many friends and colleagues, who remembered him for his many accomplishments and kindheartedness at a memorial service on June 24, 2013.
When it opens to traffic in late 2013, the Fourth Bore will relieve traffic congestion in the off-peak direction along State Route 24 between Alameda and Contra Costa counties by permanently dedicating two bores to traffic in each direction. The $402 million Caldecott Fourth Bore Project is one of the largest recipients of Recovery Act funding in the nation — a testament to its importance to Bay Area transportation. The project is also receiving significant local funding through Measure J, a half-cent sales tax measure passed by Contra Costa voters in 2004, the Corridor Mobility Improvement Account, Regional Measure 2, and other state and regional funds.
Jacobs Associates has established the Bhaskar Thapa Family Memorial Trust, for the benefit of Bhaskar’s wife and his two young sons. Contributions in Bhaskar’s memory can be sent by a check made out to The Bhaskar Thapa Family Memorial Trust to any Wells Fargo branch, or to Jacobs Associates, 49 Stevenson St., 3rd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105; or call (415) 249-8221.