RETC Takes New Orleans by Storm

dreamstime_xl_35883262 Tunnelers and underground construction contractors, suppliers, designers and owners from around the world came together at the 2015 Rapid Excavation Tunneling Conference (RETC) in New Orleans.

The biennial event drew 1,255 attendees who visited 157 exhibitors spread out over 17,800 sq ft of net exhibit space. Attendees and exhibitors networked at a variety of events, attended any of 113 peer-to-peer technical presentations, and in many cases participated in various committee and governance meetings as volunteer leaders in those groups.

“We were very pleased with both the number of exhibits and the attendance, given that the event was just two weeks after WTC in Dubrovnik, Croatia. We received extremely positive feedback from those folks who attended both events. The lessons learned from the back-to-back events will help us when we present WTC2016 in April in San Francisco,” said SME Executive Director David L. Kanagy.

As managers of RETC and North American Tunneling (NAT) Conference (held in off years from RETC), SME had a good sense of the needs of the tunneling community for this event. Because the conference had grown considerably since securing the hotel for this event, the exhibits and technical sessions were spread over multiple floors. Mike Rispin of Normet stated “I was a little worried about the two floors, but the traffic at our booth was excellent and we had quality conversations with many good people.”
In addition to the technical presentations and exhibition hall, RETC features a host of other activities including short courses and social functions. Short courses this year included “Shaft Construction and Design,” “Underground Blasting Technology and Risk Management,” and “Grouting in Underground Construction.”

Among the social functions were the annual opening luncheon, featuring speaker Angela DeSoto Duncan, and the RETC dinner, featuring speaker Lt. General Russel L. Honore. Honore arrived in New Orleans in the immediate aftermath of Katrina to help lead relief efforts. DeSoto Duncan is a Corps of Engineers veteran who has led hurricane protection efforts in the area following Katrina.

At the annual UCA breakfast, Chairman Bill Edgerton of McMillen Jacobs Associates passed the reins to Art Silber of Hatch Mott MacDonald. The next RETC will be held June 4-7, 2017, in San Diego, which hosted the 2001 conference.
In 2016, UCA of SME hosts the World Tunnel Congress in San Francisco, April 22-28. It will be the first time the World Tunnel Congress, sponsored by the International Tunnelling Association in conjunction with the host country, has been in the United States since 1996, when Washington, D.C., played host.

The World Tunnel Congress will bring together the attendees from RETC and NAT, as well as international tunnelers from Europe, Asia, Latin America and beyond. An estimated 2,500 attendees are expected with more than 350 exhibit booths. WTC will be a one-time enhancement to the regularly scheduled NAT Conference, with the NAT conference returning in 2018 in Washington, D.C.

With the constant growth of urban populations worldwide (more than 60 million inhabitants per year), the need for tunneling and underground constructions is booming, as the following figures show. In Europe indeed, the length for operational transportation tunnels currently exceeds 15,000 km, and the global perspectives for the tunneling industry are considerable, with a volume of 2,100 km of tunnels built in the upcoming years. In South-Eastern Europe (SEE) notably, the development of infrastructures is of outmost importance for reviving economic and industrial sectors.

To help meet some of the need for education, as well as putting key tunnel industry leaders in touch with the region’s executives, the International Tunneling Association hosted its 41st annual World Tunnel Congress (WTC) in Dubrovnik, Croatia, May 22-28.
WTC kicked off with more than 1,500 attendees representing more than 70 countries. The technical program featured just under 400 lectures, and the sold out exhibition space boasted 140 booths.

WTC brings together public officials, designers, builders, subcontractors, engineering service firms, professors and students. Participants will also have the opportunity to exchange technical information, present new products and services and debate on the challenges of underground construction.

The congress theme was “Promoting Tunneling in the SEE Region” and illustrated the importance of tunneling in counteracting problems due to traffic congestion, flooding, transportation, and the preservation of the environment, as well as keeping surface areas available for other projects such as leisure activities.

The opening ceremony featured welcome addresses by Davorin Kolic, president of the Croatian Association for Tunnels and Underground Structures, Soren Dign Eskesen (Denmark), ITA president, and Prof. Pieter Lunardi, who delivered the annual Muir Wood Lecture.

Other hallmarks of the WTC include working group meetings, the general assembly of member nations and training courses that take place throughout the event. The annual banquet concluded the main program on Wednesday, May, 27.

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