Imperial to Metric to Imperial, 1997 style
I’ve been cleaning up 28 years worth of work files and have stumbled across a couple of my favorite misadventures in both print and email form. Here’s one of my favorites.
In December of 1997 Deschutes County, in conjunction with the Oregon DOT, had let a big contract for an overcrossing project of Tumalo Road at Highway 97 between Bend and Redmond. The project included building 2 bridges, one over Highway 97 and one over the Central Oregon Irrigation District’s Pilot Butte Canal.
At that time ODOT was waffling back and forth about having all projects in metric. The feds had a vague decree about metric conversion by the year 20?? and ODOT was leading the way. In 1995 at the beginning of our initial project scoping and preliminary design ODOT said is was to be metric project. Soon thereafter they changed their mind and said imperial units would be OK. We surveyed the project in Imperial units and then our engineers designed the new alignment. The highway bridge was designed by the ODOT bridge section using our field data and the canal bridge was an in-house design by our engineers.
We determined the required R/W takings, negotiated with landowners (nearing condemnation proceedings with one) and produced construction plans. The plans went to ODOT for final review in the fall of 1997 and they said “whoa, whoa, whoa… back up the truck, these plans now have to be metric”. Having a small engineering staff who had moved on to other projects it was decided to send the imperial plans to an engineering contractor to have them converted to metric. They did a fine job, the metric plan sets were sent out with the bid documents and Wildish Construction of Eugene Oregon got the contract.
The bid was awarded in early December. On the 11th our receptionist sent this email to our engineer:
Now I’m no Jeane Dixon, but this was my prophecy all along and I wish I’d made big money bets on how soon the contractors would request Imperial information to work off of. It wasn’t too long after this that ODOT and the feds divorced themselves from the metric system. For the time being.
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