Annual Geotechnical Engineering Conference

71st Annual Geotechnical Engineering Conference

Registration is live: 

This is the 71st offering of the University of Minnesota Geotechnical Engineering Conference. The Planning Committee, whose members represent the contracting industry, government agencies, the University, and consulting engineers, has developed a program offering technical information and discussion on current topics for the geotechnical engineering community. Topics at the conference will cover subsurface variability effects on liquefaction, detecting pile lengths, ethical practice in transportation corridor projects, shear wave technology for quantifying stiffness, foundation design and construction for a highway bridge, project delivery considerations, and recent case histories. The conference provides a forum to interact with peers, meet specialty contractors, and hear researchers and practitioners discuss theory and application of geomechanics. Civil engineers, architects, planners, contractors, and geologists with an interest in geotechnical engineering will benefit by attending this conference.

The University of Minnesota shall provide equal access to and opportunity in its programs, facilities, and employment without regard to race, color, creed, religion, national origin, gender, age, marital status, disability, public assistance status, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

Conference Details


Friday, February 24, 2023

St. Paul Student Center (New Location) at 2017 Buford Avenue (Google Map Link)

Sponsored by:

Department of Civil, Environmental, Geo- Engineering, University of Minnesota

Minnesota Geotechnical Society - A Geo-Institute Chapter of ASCE


Thursday, February  23, 2023


  1:00 PM - 5:00 PM

Numerical Analysis of Static Liquefaction on Tailing Storage Facility


Course Objective

Participants will learn how to analyze static liquefaction for a tailing storage facility (TSF). Topics to be covered include the constitutive models with focus on NorSand, material parameter calibration through laboratory data and in-situ CPT data, mesh generation for TSF, numerical procedures on TSF construction, phreatic surface calculation, and static liquefaction potential analysis. This course will be taught using a combination of Itasca’s newest version (v9) of FLAC3D and FLAC2D numerical software. Complementary one-month licenses of FLAC2D v9 will be provided to each participant. The course will be taught by Dr. Zhao Cheng, who is the product manager of FLAC3D and Itasca’s constitutive models with 20+ years of experience on numerical modeling in geotechnics.


Course Location


Due to the impending weather, the short course will be held virtually.


Course Instructor


Dr. Zhao Cheng

Itasca Consulting Group, Inc., Minneapolis, MN

 Course Registration


With conference registration, the fee for the short course is $140. Without conference registration, the fee is $180. The fee includes parking in the Gorter Avenue Ramp, tuition, handouts, and refreshments. Participants earn 4.0 professional development hours (PDH) for the course. Registration must be received by January 28, 2023 and the course is limited to 48 people.  The University reserves the right to cancel either or both of the short courses, in which case a full refund would be made.

  Pre-Conference Joint Meeting

  6:00 PM - 7:30 PM

  Student Center, Saint Paul Campus


The Minnesota Geotechnical Society (MGS) hosts a meeting of the local ASCE section the night before the conference. Due to the impending weather, the meeting will be held virtually. The Kersten Lecturer for the conference, Professor Ross Boulanger, will be the featured speaker. The meeting begins at 6 P.M. Visit the MGS web site ( for further details and registration information. Participants will earn 1.0 PDH. 

Friday, February 24, 2023

7:30 AM

Registration and Continental Breakfast

Northstar Ballroom


8:15 AM – 8:25 AM

Introduction and Welcome

The Theater


Brian Sanchez, PE

Project Manager, Menard USA


Dean Andrew G. Alleyne, PhD

College of Science and Engineering

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities


8:25 AM – 9:20 AM

Kersten Lecture

Subsurface Variability Effects on Liquefaction-Induced Deformation during Earthquakes


Ross W. Boulanger, PhD, PE, NAE

Distinguished Professor and Director, Center for Geotechnical Modeling

University of California, Davis, CA


The effects of subsurface variability on liquefaction phenomena during earthquakes are discussed using recent case history and scenario system studies that have utilized nonlinear dynamic analyses with different subsurface modeling approaches. The effects of stratigraphic heterogeneity, lithological heterogeneity, and inherent soil variability are discussed. The results of these studies demonstrate the capabilities and limitations of current subsurface and NDA modeling procedures for evaluating liquefaction-induced ground deformation patterns and their impacts on infrastructure.


9:20 AM – 10:00 AM

Detecting Pile Lengths of High Mast Light Towers


Bojan B. Guzina, PhD

Shimizu Professor, Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities


A field method, including a data analysis algorithm, for determining in-place pile lengths was developed. A unique feature of the method work is the use of computational modeling to explore the effects of soil type and ground conditions on the sensitivity of the method. The length of each pile supporting a HMTL was identified through a systematic sensing approach that includes (i) collection and classification of the pertinent foundation designs and soil conditions; (ii) three-dimensional (3D) simulation of dynamic soil-foundation interaction; (iii) parametric studies of the 3D pile vibration problem; (iv) field testing, and (v) machine-learning data interpretation informed via numerical simulations.


10:00 AM – 10:30 AM

Break, Northstar Ballroom


10:30 AM – 11:10 AM

The Geoengineer’s Role in Transportation Corridor Projects


Amy B. Cerato, PhD, PE

Rapp Foundation Presidential Professor, School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science

University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK


In February, 2022, the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority announced a 15 year, $5B dollar “Access Oklahomoa” plan that included widening four existing turnpikes and building three new alignments through Norman, Oklahoma. The project would destroy 600 homes, a watershed, and hundreds of acres of wetlands, along with other major concerns. What role do Geotechnical Engineers play in the politics of road building? How do we provide service and keep our businesses successful while not selling out our ethics? How do we educate the next generation of engineers to understand that we cannot keep designing like it is 1950?


11:10 AM – 11:50 AM

Shear Wave Technology for Quantifying Local Stiffness and Improvement with Geogrid


Erol Tutumluer, PhD

Abel Bliss Professor in Engineering

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL


Geogrids perform mechanical stabilization in unpaved and paved road aggregate foundation layers. The main mechanism is the lateral restraint, often associated with geogrid-aggregate interlocking, to provide a significant increase in local stiffness. This paper reports on bender element (BE) shear wave technology successfully applied to constructed aggregate layers for quantifying local stiffness.  In two different full-scale pavement test sections, BE field sensors have successfully collected shear wave signals before and after pavement construction and during trafficking. Through BE field sensor measurements, pavement base layer responses to wheel loadings with vehicle wander were be estimated. Stiffness enhancement profile in the vicinity of the geogrid was clearly observed and quantified. Further, modulus changes in the base course with traffic load were monitored for a modulus-based safety assessment of the pavement structure.


11:55 AM – 1:05 PM

Lunch, Northstar Ballroom


1:10 PM – 1:50 PM

Foundation Design and Construction for the Highway 53 Bridge in Virginia, MN


David S. Graham, PE

Senior Engineer

Dan Brown and Associates, PC, Chattanooga, TN


The Thomas Rukavina Memorial Bridge carrying US Highway 53 over the Rouchleau Mine pit presented unique design and construction challenges. At 60 m (200 ft) high, it is the tallest bridge in Minnesota. Intermediate pier foundations are fully cased, 0.76-m (30-inch) diameter bored piles installed using down-the-hole hammer equipment. The iron ore bedrock and mine waste fill materials at the site necessitated this somewhat atypical foundation system. Full-scale pile load testing using the Statnamic rapid loading method was conducted under a separate, pre-design contract. A tieback anchored abutment is used to provide longitudinal superstructure bracing, thereby reducing longitudinal demands on the piers.


1:50 PM – 2:30 PM

Project Delivery and Geotechnical Engineering


Nancy Nuttbrock, PE

Chief Operations Officer

Brierley Associates, Houston, TX


The talk will center on the role of a geotechnical engineer in different project delivery situations, including as (1) employee of a public agency/owner, (2) consultant, (3) subconsultant to a prime engineer, and other scenarios. The discussion will include variations to each of these scenarios depending upon delivery method, inherent levels and types of risk associated with each scenario, and other facets that influence an engineer’s role in a project.


2:30 PM – 3:00 PM

Break, Northstar Ballroom


3:00 PM – 3:25 PM

Case Histories

Concurrent Session 1A, The Theater


Storm Storage Facility Geotechnical Monitoring


Joel Swenson, PE

Senior Geotechnical Engineer

Barr Engineering Co., Minneapolis, MN


A 14 acre-foot (17,000 cubic meter) underground stormwater-storage facility (SSF) was designed to reduce flooding and create system resiliency along a major interstate artery in Minneapolis. Six diaphragm wall chambers, each about 12.8 m (42 ft) in diameter and 25.9 m (85 ft) deep, are being constructed several feet off the I-35W Interstate shoulder with the groundwater approximately 1 m below the pavement surface. The SSF is located within a small footprint and near active freeway traffic, local residential neighborhoods, bridges, and existing utilities. Acknowledging the potential third-party risks, a geotechnical monitoring system was designed, implemented, and maintained throughout construction. Data analysis and lessons learned from soil nail wall performance data, contractual criteria associated with dewatering data and I-35W impacts are presented.


Concurrent Session 1B, Cherrywood Room


Geotechnical Aspects of MnROAD 2022 Reconstruction


Raul Velasquez, PhD, PE

Geomechanics Research Engineer

Minnesota Department of Transportation, Saint Paul, MN


MnROAD completed its fourth major mainline reconstruction in the summer of 2022. This cycle of research focuses on sustainability and resilience, alternative materials, and intelligent construction technologies for rigid and flexible pavements. This paper summarizes geotechnical efforts in support of mainline reconstruction and strategic research led by the National Road Research Alliance (NRRA). Geotechnical support for pavement foundation construction and performance monitoring included installation of moisture sensors in complex recycled geomaterials, spot testing for quality assurance using standard equipment, and recently developed electrical density gauges, intelligent compaction (IC) mapping for assessment of foundation uniformity, and installation of shape arrays (SAA) for frost heave monitoring.


3:30 PM – 3:55 PM

Case Histories

Concurrent Session 2A, The Theater


Des Moines Levee Seepage Mitigation Design and Construction


Michael Hochscheidt, PE

Senior Geotechnical Engineer

Barr Engineering Co., Minneapolis, MN


The City of Des Moines is in the process upgrading their existing levee system. Construction of the existing levee was completed in 1972 and consists of a mixture of granular and cohesive embankment fill overlaying a mixture of urban fill, glacial soils, and shale bedrock. Modeling showed that under flood conditions, seepage under the levee produced exit gradients greater than permitted by US Army Corps of Engineer requirements. Multiple seepage mitigation designs were considered, including sheet pile cutoffs and seepage berms. The final design for the seepage mitigation system consisted of a seepage collection trench, a riverside clay blanket, and a landside buttress.


Concurrent Session 2B, Cherrywood Room


Performance Enhancements Using Geogrid in Flexible Pavements


Jim Howley, PE

Senior Regional Manager

Tensar International Corporation, Sun Prairie, WI


The new MnPAVE ME software includes a module that will enable the use of geogrids in pavement design. MNDOT has used geogrids in the State Aid System for county and municipal highway projects for more than ten years with a granular equivalency (GE) of 2 assigned to a geogrid. This meant that geogrid could replace one inch of HMA base or two inches of Class 5 aggregate base. This paper will discuss the implementation of the geogrid module into the MnPAVE ME software including the various elements.


4:00 PM – 4:25 PM

Case Histories

Concurrent Session 3A, The Theater


Comparing Downdrag Design: Eisenhower Bridge of Valor


Derrick Dasenbrock, PE, D.GE

Civil Engineer

Federal Highway Administration, Minneapolis, MN


The new Eisenhower Bridge of Valor replaces the 57-year-old bridge over the Mississippi River in Red Wing, Minnesota. Old bridge inspection records indicated up to 1.2 m (4 ft) of settlement at the north end of the old bridge through its service life. During design of the new bridge, MnDOT focused on understanding and addressing the persistent settlement issue, as it was suspected to have caused failure of the original bridge’s pile foundation and could also affect the new bridge. The site’s geology, along with documented settlement issues, made this suitable for examining pile downdrag loading. As of 2022, the bridge is complete, and more than three years of data have been collected to capture the pile (strain) responses, including removal of surcharge and in-service conditions. The paper discusses the monitoring results and compares three design methods.


Concurrent Session 3B


Mechanically Stabilized Earth Retaining Walls: a Construction and Quality Control Point Of View


Andrew Mott

Project Manager

The Reinforced Earth, Aurora, IL


Mechanically stabilized earth (MSE) retaining walls using precast concrete panels have been used on several roadway and bridge projects during the last few decades. Typically MSE walls meet design requirements at a lower cost compared to other retaining wall systems. However, the performance of MSE walls during their service life requires careful attention to construction techniques along with a well-managed quality control (QC) program. The paper discusses insights gained by observing the construction techniques of several wall installations and summarizes key items that owners and engineers should watch for during construction.


4:25 PM        Adjournment

Planning Committee

Chris Behling, US Army Corps of Engineers

Joe Labuz, University of Minnesota

Joe Bentler, American Engineering Testing

Rich Lamb, MnDOT

Ryan Berg, Ryan R. Berg & Associates

Brent Larsen, Short Elliot Hendrickson, Inc.

Aaron Budge, MN State University, Mankato

Dan Mahrt, Terracon

Ivan Contreras, Barr Engineering

Steve Olson, HDR Engineering, Inc.

Liang Chern Chow, Haley & Aldrich

Ryan Petersen, Itasca Consulting Group, Inc.

Chris DeDene, City of Minneapolis

Greg Reuter, American Engineering Testing

Bryan Field, Braun Intertec

Dave Saftner, UMN, Duluth

Steve Gale, Gale-Tec Engineering

Brian Sanchez, Atlas Foundation

Mike Haggerty, Barr Engineering

Joel Swenson, Barr Engineering

Megan Hoppe, American Engineering Testing

Brent Theroux, Barr Engineering

Nathan Iverson, Veit & Company

Joe Westphal, Braun Intertec


Conference Modality and Masking


The conference is planned to be in-person. Face masks are not required in any University space unless officially designated by the University as a “masks required” space. The University expects all community members to respect those who choose to wear a mask, as well as those who choose not to wear one.


If conditions change and the University does not allow in-person gatherings, the Conference will be held remotely via Zoom Webinar and all registrants will be notified by email message. Login details will be sent one week before the Conference. If a Zoom Webinar is held, registrants for the in-person conference will be provided a promotion code for $100 off the 2024 conference.

Conference Location/Accommodations


The conference will be held at the Student Center, 2017 Buford Avenue, on the Saint Paul Campus of the University of Minnesota. A detailed map is available at Disability accommodations will be provided upon request. Contact information for local hotels may be found here



Parking is included in the conference fee and available in the Gortner Avenue Ramp, 1395 Gortner Avenue.


Registration Fee


The early registration fee for the conference is $230; after January 30, 2023, it is $260. The fee includes tuition, parking, proceedings, continental breakfast, lunch, and refreshments. A refund, less a $20 cancellation fee, will be made if cancellation is received by February 9, 2023. Student registration is $20 (no proceedings), and a limited number of $100 registrations are available for retired engineers. Reduced registration requests should be sent to by January 30, 2023 to receive a promo code. The University reserves the right to cancel the conference, in which case a full refund will be made.

Short Course fee is $180 for only the course. Registration of both the short course and conference are offered for a combined $370 ($140 short course, $230 conference). 


Professional Development Hours


Participants can earn a total of 12.0 professional development hours (PDH). 7.0 professional development hours (PDH) for the full-day conference attendance, 4.0 PDH for the Short Course attendance and 1.0 PDH for the conference banquet. 


Contact for Further Information


Write to for more information. The conference web site is located at 

Conference Brochure & Proceedings