Latest News

Good Samaritan Bill Reaches Governor’s Desk

Date: May 14, 2021

Florida PEs and other design professionals who voluntarily provide services during a declared emergency are close to gaining professional liability protection. A bill (S.B. 1060) that has passed the Senate and the House and awaits Governor DeSantis’s signature specifies that an engineer, architect, or structures specialist is not liable for personal injury, wrongful death, property damages, or economic loss resulting from acts or omissions related to certain engineering or architectural services rendered on a volunteer basis during a state of emergency. The limitation of liability, however, does not apply to an act or omission constituting gross negligence or willful misconduct.

Members Andrew Schrader, P.E., and Jonathan Milton, P.E., were quoted about their roles in urban search and rescue in an article in the Capitolist.


Fast-Tracked Highway Upgrades Program Cut

Date: May 14, 2021

A bill that is expected to be signed by Governor DeSantis cancels the 2019 Multi-Use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance program in the face of stark economic conditions caused by the pandemic. The $20 billion endeavor would have involved making upgrades to existing roads and constructing toll roads, comprising 300 miles of roadway. Construction bonds would have financed the projects and been paid off by tolls collected.

Lawmakers say Florida traffic volume has fallen by 9% in the past year and that paying for the total project costs with tolls was not realistic, reports ENR. Instead, the new legislation will finance some of the planned upgrades and the expansion of Florida’s Turnpike westward. A feasibility study on the remaining work will be done in 2022.

Legislators Consider Liability Protections for PE Volunteers

Date: April 20, 2021

Legislation introduced in the Florida Senate provides civil liability protections to professional engineers and other design professionals who provide services during a declared emergency. The bill (S.B. 1060) specifies that an engineer, architect, or structures specialist is not liable for personal injury, wrongful death, property damages, or economic loss resulting from acts or omissions related to certain engineering or architectural services rendered on a volunteer basis during a state of emergency. The limitation of liability, however, does not apply to an act or omission constituting gross negligence or willful misconduct.


Pedestrian Safety Bill Would Require New Crosswalk Equipment

Date: April 20, 2021

A state Senate bill honoring a young pedestrian who was struck and killed when crossing a street was introduced in Florida in an effort to improve pedestrian safety. If passed, the Sophia Nelson Pedestrian Safety Act would replace the yellow flashing lights at midblock crosswalks with red lights. It would also require a traffic engineering study to be done by a professional engineer who recommends installing a midblock crosswalk before a new one could be installed.

The bill was introduced by Senator Keith Perry, who cited a Smart Growth America study that found Florida is the most dangerous state for pedestrians. Supporters of the proposed legislation believe the flashing yellow lights, which are supposed to indicate vehicles should stop, create confusion and a false sense of security for pedestrians.

Related:
Pedestrian fatalities are increasing, and professional traffic engineers are taking on this public safety emergency.

Pedestrian Deaths Continue to Plague Sunshine State

Date: March 18, 2021

Florida continues to top the list of places in the US where a pedestrian is most likely to be struck and killed by a driver, reports the Miami Herald. The article covers the findings of a new report that places nine of the 15 most hazardous US cities for pedestrians in Florida. Orlando ranked as least safe.

In a 2020 PE magazine article, NSPE member Jeff Smithline, P.E., said traffic engineers can have a major positive impact on pedestrian safety, and it starts by asking a simple question: Have I done all I can within all the project constraints to make this roadway safer? “It’s about infusing safety into the roadway project design—whether it’s lower speeds or better visibility and taking that beyond what the standards require. It’s what we try to do as [professional] engineers,” said the national director of traffic engineering at Sam Schwartz.

In the article “How Many Deaths Does It Take to Question ‘Standard Practice’?” Bill Schultheiss, P.E., argued that transportation design is suffering from “an apparent disregard for ethics.”


Two Companies to Build Vertiport Infrastructure in Florida

Date: March 18, 2021

Infrastructure firms AECOM and Ferrovial have signed on to build a network of vertiports strategically connecting Florida cities. Vertiports facilitate the sustainable travel offered by electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft. The low-noise emitting aircraft will be able to land, recharge, and take off at the vertiports, which will also feature comfortable customer terminals with touchless technology.

As communities begin discussing urban air mobility and vertiports, questions about their regulation remain, reports Inside Unmanned Systems.

Hackers Target City’s Water Supply

Date: February 11, 2021

A possibility that cybersecurity experts had feared for years has happened in the town of Oldsmar where hackers broke into a water treatment plant’s system and put residents in danger, the New York Times reports. The perpetrators changed the levels of lye in the water, which could have sickened many. However, the crime was detected in time to prevent disaster. The level of sodium hydroxide was changed from 100 parts per million to 11,100 parts per million, a level dangerous for human consumption.

Senator Marco Rubio said in a tweet that the action should be treated as a matter of national security. Cyberattacks on critical infrastructure have become more common in recent years, including nations like Russia, Iran, and Israel, as well as the U.S., attacking each other’s systems.


Governor’s Budget Continues Unprecedented Environmental Funding

Date: February 11, 2021

Governor DeSantis’s Florida Leads budget includes continued funding of $625 million for Everglades restoration and water quality protections and increased investment of $180 million for addressing resiliency of coastal communities.

The Florida Leads budget addresses the challenges of sea-level rise, intensified storm events, and localized flooding by establishing the Resilient Florida program. The program will provide $1 billion over four years for state and local government entities to address these issues.


Senator Urges Fossil-Fuel Workers to Embrace Plans for Clean Energy

Date: February 11, 2021

Bills introduced by State Senators Lori Berman and Anna Eskamani this month instruct the Florida Office of Energy to develop a statewide plan for converting fully to clean energy by 2040 and achieving net zero carbon pollution emissions by 2050, according to the Florida Phoenix. Advocates say state residents could save significant amounts of money by being more energy efficient and creating their own solar power.

Eskamani urged workers in Florida’s fossil-fuel industries to embrace the effort. The plan will create jobs in those industries and help the state economy while protecting the climate, she said.


Highlighted Florida Job Opportunities

Date: February 11, 2021

Project Engineer Project Management Division
Manatee County Public Works

Structural PE Engineer Manager: Restoration
Delta Engineering & Inspection, Inc.

Senior Civil Engineer
Wood

Senior Coastal Engineer
Noble Consultants, Inc (GEC, Inc)

See many other Florida engineering job opportunities on the NSPE Job Board.

Utility Rule Criticized as Customers Struggle to Pay Bills

Date: January 27, 2021

A draft rule from the Florida Public Service Commission, which regulates investor-owned utility companies in the state, was condemned by public-interest and environmental organizations for not addressing energy efficiency, which would reduce pollution and costs for consumers. More than 110,000 Floridian households had their power disconnected due to their inability to pay their bills during the pandemic through October, according to the Florida Phoenix.


Gas South Completes Acquisition of State’s Largest Natural Gas Marketer

Date: January 27, 2021

Atlanta natural gas provider Gas South completed the acquisition of Florida-based Infinite Energy, the company announced in December. Infinite Energy is the largest natural gas marketer in Florida and the acquisition will add approximately 125,000 new Gas South customers and double the company’s annual revenue to an estimated $1 billion, reports the Atlanta Business Chronicle.


DEP Receives EPA Approval for Oversight of Federal Wetlands Program

Date: January 27, 2021

Florida is the first state in more than 25 years to apply for and receive approval to implement a Clean Water Act Section 404 program, joining Michigan and New Jersey as the only states in the country with such authority. The EPA has transferred permitting authority under CWA Section 404 from the US Army Corps of Engineers to the state for a broad range of water resources. This allows Florida to more effectively and efficiently evaluate and issue permits under the CWA to support the health of Florida’s waters, residents, and economy.

DEP Chief Science Officer Dr. Tom Frazer said, “The State 404 program will ensure the prioritization of critical environmental infrastructure projects and guarantee that local environmental experts with a vested interest in and intimate knowledge of Florida’s natural resources are at the helm.”

Everglades Restoration Project Hits 20-Year Mark

Date: December 16, 2020

At the 20-year mark of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Program, the megaproject continues to face scrutiny for being behind schedule and overbudget. As Craig Pittman, a native Floridian with 30 years at the Tampa Bay Times, wrote, "Lots of big stuff is underway, including building three huge reservoirs south, east, and west of Lake Okeechobee." He added, "But the estimated price tag is now up to around $16 billion, more than double the original, and the new completion date is in the 2060s, which is 30 years after it was supposed to be finished. In other words, by the time it’s done, CERP will be ready to apply for an AARP membership." Read Pittman's complete commentary in the Florida Phoenix.

Senator Marco Rubio sees progress, adding, "The tasks ahead are substantial, but the goal is too important to stop fighting. Make no mistake: After decades of delay, Everglades restoration is starting to yield real results."

Meanwhile, in late November, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and federal and local partners reasserted their commitment to dedicating resources to restoring the Everglades through water quality improvement projects. The department defined the Everglades and the ecosystems it supports as international treasures. The total funding for Everglades restoration exceeds half a billion dollars per year. Work to be done includes filling canals and removing levees to restore natural flow, correcting seepage problems, and rehydrating the southeastern coastal marshes, according to the National Park Service.


Lawmakers Hope to Address Climate Change in New Ways

Date: December 16, 2020

House Speaker Chris Sprowls and Senate President Wilton Simpson are advocating for shifts in the ways the state works to combat the effects of climate change, reports Law.com. The lawmakers want to see mitigation projects planned farther in advance and the embracing of tactics like beach renourishment, septic tank conversion, and flood mitigation.


Sand Shortages Found on Florida Coastlines

Date: November 18, 2020

An Army Corps of Engineers-commissioned report found that sand shortages on beaches will be a problem in Florida over the next 50 years. Southern Florida and the state’s Gulf Coast were identified as areas deeply affected by sand erosion, which is caused by climate change, hurricanes, and tropical storms, according to the report by Florida-based firm Taylor Engineering. The Army Corps often moves sand to areas of shortfall in beach renourishment projects. However, “borrow areas” of sand are becoming scarcer, the report found.


Everglades Restoration Efforts Gain Funding

Date: November 18, 2020

Increased government funding will boost Everglades restoration efforts in coming years, due in large part to increased political interest in the effort. In September, the South Florida Water Management District approved a $1.2-billion budget, according to ENR. This is an increase of $236 million from the previous year. Governor DeSantis also earmarked more than $625 million in his 2020 budget for restoration and pledged similar spending over the next three years.


Orlando Pulling Plug on Coal-Fired Generation

Date: October 28, 2020

The Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC) said it plans to eliminate the group’s use of coal for power generation no later than 2027, including converting two coal-fired units at its Stanton Energy Center to run on natural gas, according to a Power magazine article.

The Florida utility’s management on October 14 made the recommendation as part of its Electric Integrated Resource Plan process. Management on Wednesday said it supports a strategic plan for net-zero emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) by 2050, as well as interim targets of a 50% emissions reduction by 2030, and a 75% cut by 2040.

OUC said it plans to make solar power its main source of new generation, and also will invest in “energy storage and other clean technologies to ensure reliability and resiliency are maintained,” according to a news release.

Read more.


Gainesville Named as Top STEM City

Date: October 28, 2020

Gainesville, Florida was recognized as a 2020 Top STEM City for being a community showcasing exceptional dedication to science, technology, engineering, and math education and careers.

The data science team at Insurify (an insurance quotes comparison site) analyzed both proprietary and publicly-accessible data to determine the top STEM city in each state. The team identified cities with the highest proportion of residents in STEM-based careers and compiled data from Niche on the colleges and graduate schools with the best programs in STEM, as well as the best cities for women in tech.

Read more.


USDOT: Connected Vehicle Pilot More Complex Than Expected

Date: October 28, 2020

Recent analysis of a connected vehicle pilot test in Tampa, Florida, conducted by the US Department of Transportation’s Intelligent Transportations Systems Joint Program Office finds that the complexities of field testing and technology integration were “significantly underestimated,” according to an ASSHTO Journal article.

The ITS JPO conducted a review of the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority or THEA Connected Vehicle Pilot that encompassed 47 roadside units (RSUs) deployed along THEA’s Reversible Express Lane and in Tampa’s Central Business District. At its peak, THEA deployed over 1,000 onboard units or OBUs in personal vehicles, buses, and streetcars.

In a blog post, the office noted that most of the vendors involved in the project demonstrated basic vehicle-to-vehicle applications such as Forward Collision Warning, Emergency Electronic Brake Light, and Intersection Movement Assist, with others demonstrating vehicle-to-infrastructure applications that were specific to their product roadmap.

Read more.


NSPE Career Center

Date: October 28, 2020

NSPE’s Job Board is your one-stop resource for professional engineering employment. Whether you are on the hunt for your next career move or looking for today’s top engineering leaders and talent, you will find it here.

NSPE provides the tools PEs need to keep current in the profession and advance their careers.

Featured Jobs
Senior Electrical Engineer
Tampa, FL

Principal Engineer – Dam Safety Program Manager
West Palm Beach, FL

Find more job openings or reach the right employees on the NSPE Job Board.

Florida Society Member Named FEYA Finalist

February 28, 2020

Each year, NSPE’s Federal Engineer of the Year Award honors engineers employed at US agencies. This year, LCDR Christopher McDowell, P.E., a member from Panama City, FL was announced as top 10 finalist. The top 10 finalists exemplify the best and brightest federal engineering talent.

LCDR Christopher McDowell, P.E.

Panama City, FL
LCDR Christopher McDowell, P.E.
U.S. Department of the Navy
Naval Facilities Engineering Command (Southeast)

McDowell serves as public works officer for Naval Support Activity Panama City (Florida). In that capacity, he recently guided 90 personnel in the quality execution of $35 million in new construction and $41 million of maintenance activities that support $600 million of infrastructure. Following Hurricane Michael’s devastation in Panama City and surrounding Bay County in October 2018, McDowell developed a plan within two days that allowed essential personnel to remain on base, while securing temporary utilities and life support. Then within a three-week recovery period, he supervised NAVFAC engineers, Seabees, contractors, and local utilities in restoring base accessibility and repairing essential utilities — an unprecedented achievement. Additionally, he served as production officer for NAVFAC Mid-Atlantic where his efforts directly enabled the $100 billion Columbia-class submarine program to be delivered on schedule.


Florida Legislature Considers PE Role in Amusement Ride Safety

The Florida House has amusement ride safety on its agenda with a potential PE role in the permitting process. A bill (H.B. 1275) seeks to require permit applications for temporary amusement rides to include an affidavit executed by a professional engineer or qualified  person stating the ride has been inspected and meets state requirements.

NSPE supports the introduction of this legislation, and we need you to contact your legislators to end this exemption.

A day or evening out at a carnival or state fair shouldn’t put anyone at risk of death. Yet, recent fatalities and injuries caused by deteriorated or malfunctioning amusement rides have sounded the alarm—states need to seriously consider a PE role with ride safety inspections.

In 2017, the opening day of the Ohio State Fair turned tragic when the “Fireball” ride broke apart midoperation. Eighteen-year-old Marine recruit Tyler Jarrell lost his life and seven others were injured in the incident, blamed on excessive corrosion.

In November 2019, “Tyler’s Law” (H.B. 189) was signed into law following two years of advocacy by the Ohio Society of Professional Engineers. The law makes a number of changes for amusement ride safety, such as strengthening inspection standards, and places a professional engineer on the Ohio Advisory Council on Amusement Ride Safety.

In 2017, the Kansas Amusement Ride Act was amended to include licensed professional engineers as “qualified inspectors” in addition to establishing registration and inspections requirements, and other rules and standards for the operation of amusement rides. This action was prompted by the death of a 10-year-old on a water slide at a Kansas City waterpark in 2016. The Kansas Society of Professional Engineers supported changes to the law.

Access PE’s July/August 2018 feature article on amusement ride safety and PE involvement, “Hidden Dangers?”


Florida Firms Say Goodbye to Certificates of Authorization

As Florida aims to reduce regulatory burdens for occupations, Florida AEC firms are no longer required to apply for a certificate of authorization.

As of October 1, firms will be required to register their businesses with the Florida Board of Professional Engineers and be qualified by having a professional engineer licensed in the state on their staff. The board, however, is prohibited from charging a fee for qualifying a business organization.

Prior to this change in law, engineering firms had to renew their certificate of authorization every two years and pay a $93.75 fee. Engineering firms applying for a certificate of authorization for the first time had to pay a $125 initial application fee and a $100 initial fee. There was also a $5 unlicensed activity fee.

Firms that are current and active holders of a certificate will be transferred to a new registry.

If a firm’s qualified licensee leaves the firm, the board must be notified within 24 hours. If the licensee was the only qualifying licensee with the firm, the business must stop offering engineering services in the state. If the firm wants to continue offering services, another qualified engineer must be brought into the firm within 60 days.

The registry will also apply to out-of-state firms that want to provide engineering services on a temporary basis.

Learn more about certificates of authorization and other topics associated with managing firm licensure in the white paper “Licensing for Profitability, Agility, & Growth: Meeting the Challenges of Small and Mid-Sized Engineering Firms.”


Hernandez Joins HNTB

Hernandez

Albert Hernandez, P.E., has joined HNTB Corp. as aviation project director and vice president. Based in the firm’s Miami office, Hernandez’s duties include leading HNTB’s service to aviation clients in South Florida, managing large-scale projects, and serving as a client liaison. He was previously assistant director for the Miami-Dade Department of Transportation and Public Works for 14 years. He holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Miami and a master’s in business administration from Florida International University.


Florida Approves Early Examination and Increases Licensure Mobility

In June, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed legislation that will allow for early taking of the PE exam and improve licensure mobility.

The legislation (S.B. 616/H.B. 827) revises the prerequisites for an individual to take the PE exam and establishes other standards of practice and responsibility rules. Licensure candidates will be allowed to take the PE exam prior to gaining four years of engineering experience. The candidate will not, however, be eligible to earn a PE license before gaining the required experience.

In 2005, Nevada became the first state to allow the early taking of the PE exam. The following states have followed suit: Arizona, California, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana,  New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming.

The legislation eases licensing mobility by allowing an individual with an out-of-state PE license who has not taken the FE exam to be able to practice in Florida if they have been licensed for 10 years (reduced from 15 years) and have 15 years of continuous engineering experience (down from 20). An individual who has not taken the PE exam but is licensed in another state can qualify for licensure in Florida if he or she has maintained the license for 20 years (reduced from 25) and have 25 years of experience (reduced from 30).

A pathway to licensure for individuals who graduated from approved engineering technology programs prior to July 1979 is also provided by the legislation. The individual must take the standard examinations and have at least six years of engineering experience that indicates competence to be in responsible charge of engineering.

For business licensing, engineers will no longer have to obtain a certificate of authorization for their engineering firm, and out-of-state firms will be allowed to obtain temporary registration.

The legislation also addresses the responsibilities of a PE who serves as a “successor engineer” on a project. It defines “successor engineer” as a licensed engineer who is using or relying upon the work, findings, or recommendations of the engineer who previously sealed pertinent documents. If this individual wants to reuse documents previously sealed by another licensed engineer, he or she will assume full professional and legal responsibility for the work by signing and sealing the documents. The documents will be treated as if they were the successor’s original work, and the predecessor will be released from any professional responsibility or civil liability.


NTSB Reports and NSPE's Actions

  • Recently, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) sent letters to the governors of 31 states named in its final report on the Merrimack Valley gas pipeline explosions, including Florida. The letter requests an end to the engineering license exemption for gas pipeline operators in these states, and asks for governors to provide an update to the NTSB with in 90 days.

    When the NTSB began its investigation of the Merrimack Valley gas pipeline explosions, investigative staff reached out to NSPE seeking information about licensing exemptions. Through a series of conversations and emails, NSPE shared report data, information on the licensing process and requirements, and its Position Statement on licensing exemptions. Consequently, NSPE was successful in getting the NTSB to adopt a policy of addressing and eliminating engineering license exemptions within the gas pipeline industry.

    NSPE’s national staff continues to be in conversation with NTSB staff, and will continue to share updates as they happen. We are happy to support state efforts at eliminating this exemption.

    Read the full report from NTSB.

  • The NTSB has issued the final report on the pedestrian bridge failure at Florida International University. Read the full report. You can also join the conversation currently discussing the report on NSPE Communities.

NTSB Report and Recommendations

Pipeline explosionA BURNED-OUT MASSACHUSETTS HOME AFTER THE GAS EXPLOSIONS
CREDIT: NTSB

NTSB has released an abstract of its forthcoming final report on the fatal Merrimack Valley pipeline explosion from September of last year. Final revisions are being made to the report, but in the report’s synopsis/executive summary, NTSB states that “requiring a licensed professional engineer to stamp plans would illustrate that the plans had been approved by an accredited professional with the requisite skills, knowledge, and experience to provide a comprehensive review.” Acknowledging the importance of the role of the PE in preventing an event like this from occurring, NTSB recommends the elimination of the licensing exemption on natural gas pipeline projects in the 31 states that have the exemption in place, including the state of Florida.

Read the synopsis of the report.