Annual Geotechnical Engineering Conference

72nd Annual Geotechnical Engineering Conference

Registration is live: 

This is the 72nd 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. 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 23, 2024

St. Paul Student Center 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  22, 2024


  3:00 PM - 5:00 PM

Conflict Avoidance. Cognitive Bias and Decision Making.


Course Summary

The course fulfills the two-hour ethics requirement and involves two, one-hour presentations. The first is on conflict avoidance; it uses the story of an engineer who made some poor decisions and tried to hide them. The second presentation is about cognitive bias and decision making; it focuses on how our brains make poor choices sometimes and how that can lead to ethical lapses. Terracon is sponsoring this short course.


Course Location


The short course will be held in the Cherrywood Room on the 2nd floor of the St. Paul Student Center, 2017 Buford Avenue, on the St. Paul Campus of the University of Minnesota.


Course Instructors


Aaron Mann

Principal, General Counsel, Risk Management

Terracon Consultants Inc., Olathe, KS

Michael Yost

Senior Vice President, Chief Legal Officer

Terracon Consultants Inc., Olathe, KS

Course Registration


With conference registration, the fee for the short course is $60. Without conference registration, the fee is $100. The fee includes parking in the Gorter Avenue Ramp. Participants earn 2.0 ethics professional development hours (PDH) for the course. Registration must be received by February 7, 2024 and the course is limited to 60 people.  The University reserves the right to cancel the short course, 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 dinner meeting of the local ASCE section the night before the conference. The meeting will be held at the Student Center, 2017 Buford Avenue, on the St. Paul Campus of the University of Minnesota, in the North Star Ballroom. The happy hour sponsor is Michels. The Kersten Lecturer for the conference, Dr. Edward Kavazanjian, will be the featured speaker, presenting "Fugitive Dust Generation from Iron Ore Tailings Treated Using EICP Subject to Freeze-Thaw Cycles." Participants will earn 1.0 PDH.

Friday, February 23, 2024

7:30 AM

Registration and Continental Breakfast

Northstar Ballroom


8:15 AM – 8:25 AM

Introduction and Welcome

The Theater


Joseph Westphal, PE

Senior Engineer

Braun Intertec

Distinguished University Representative

College of Science and Engineering

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities


8:25 AM – 9:20 AM

Kersten Lecture

Biomediated Geotechnics for Hazard Mitigation, Environmental Protection, and Infrastructure Construction


Edward Kavazanjian, Jr., PhD, PE, DGE, Dist.M.ASCE, NAE

Regents Professor and Ira A. Fulton Professor of Geotechnical Engineering

Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ


Biomediated geotechnics is an emerging geotechnical discipline that employs subsurface biogeochemical processes for natural hazard mitigation, environmental protection, and infrastructure construction. Based upon the premise that nature has developed many resilient and sustainable biogeochemical processes, bio-mediated design seeks to mobilize these processes for geotechnical purposes. Geotechnical biomediated processes include mineral precipitation, biogas generation, and transformation of organic chemicals. Potential applications include mitigation of fugitive dust and earthquake-induced soil liquefaction, support for foundations, and soil remediation.


9:20 AM – 10:00 AM

The Role of Analytic Solutions in Groundwater Modeling


Otto D. L. Strack, PhD

Professor, Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, MN


Analytic solutions have always played an important role in groundwater flow but declined in importance since the rise in power and popularity of numerical modeling. It has become apparent, however, that analytic solutions still play an important role in groundwater modeling. This role varies from simple solutions that can give important insights, to highly sophisticated and complex solutions that can involve hundreds of thousands of interacting analytic elements.

10:00 AM – 10:30 AM

Break, Northstar Ballroom


10:30 AM – 11:10 AM

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for Surface and Subsurface Characterization Following Natural Disasters


Dimitrios Zekkos, PhD, PE

Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

University of California, Berkeley, CA


Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) are becoming an indispensable tool in the geotechnical industry for the characterization of infrastructure and the geoenvironment following natural disasters. Despite the growth of UAV technologies in engineering practice, applications remain relatively simple and involve primarily the collection of optical imagery, and possibly the creation of three-dimensional models. Example case histories of more advanced UAV applications that can provide previously impossible insights for the characterization of the surface and subsurface conditions are presented. This includes the characterization of a large number of landslides, monitoring of the evolution of instability processes through repeated deployments, fusion of multi-sensor data for the forensic evaluation of the Edenville Dam failure in Michigan, as well as the use of UAVs for the subsurface characterization using seismic geophysics.


11:10 AM – 11:50 AM

Deep Foundations for Transportation Projects


Elizabeth M. Smith, PE, GE

Vice President, Senior Principal, National Transportation Program Manager

Terracon Consultants, Austin, TX


The I35 NEX project in San Antonio, Texas is a $1.6 billion design-build transportation project for parallel three-lane viaducts over the existing freeway. The presentation is a case-history of the challenges of designing and constructing large-diameter drilled shaft foundations to support the viaduct. Karst features complicated the design and construction of the monoshafts. The presentation will describe the site conditions and process for evaluating and designing the foundations, and measures taken to provide a reliable foundation system. The presentation concludes with suggestions for geotechnical engineers to consider on future design projects.


11:55 AM – 1:05 PM

Lunch, Northstar Ballroom


1:10 PM – 1:50 PM

Foundation Performance of the Millennium Tower


Jeremy Butkovich, PE, GE

Senior Associate

Shannon & Wilson, Seattle, WA


The Millennium Tower is a 58-story reinforced concrete building that was constructed in San Francisco, California between 2005 and 2009. The Tower is founded on an embedded pile-supported mat with pile tips bearing in dense marine deposits that overlie an over-consolidated marine clay layer known locally as Old Bay Clay. This clay layer experienced stress increases from Tower self-weight and from multiple episodes of dewatering between 2006 and 2018 at the Tower site and neighboring sites, including one that was sustained for six years. Settlement and tilt of the Tower led to litigation that was settled in 2020, contingent on a retrofit being constructed. This presentation will describe the Tower case history, including the geotechnical site conditions and results of a monitoring program that tracked foundation settlements, Tower tilt, groundwater levels at the Tower site, and ground inclinations over time.


1:50 PM – 2:30 PM

Examining Transportation Asset Risk Reduction from a Geotechnical Perspective


Derrick Dasenbrock, PE, DGE

Geotechnical Engineer

Federal Highway Administration, Minneapolis, MN


Some mechanisms of geotechnical failure and ground degradation are unique to cold regions and permafrost zones, areas where climate change impacts are now observable and problematic. The influence of rapid climate change on infrastructure projects and corridor resilience was apparent in a recent multi-agency field review. Roadways subject to landslides, rockfall, water and debris flows, and settlement due to permafrost degradation and loss were observed and discussed in the context of risk reduction. Strategies used by multiple agencies in Alaska can inform practices in other regional settings with their own distinct climate and extreme event challenges and project characteristics.


2:30 PM – 3:00 PM

Break, Northstar Ballroom


3:00 PM – 3:25 PM

Case Histories

Concurrent Session 1A, The Theater


Column Supported Embankment of a Warehouse


Alex Potter-Weight

Regional Sales Manager

Menard USA, Chicago, IL


To construct a new 1.2 million square foot warehouse in northern Illinois, a major e-commerce distributor faced significant challenges regarding the existing grades and soil profile. The in-situ soil conditions featured highly compressible peat and organic clay with moisture contents over 300% in several locations. This organic layer posed a substantial settlement and bearing failure risk under the weight of approximately 30 feet of planned net fill. A solution was developed to limit the warehouse settlement to required thresholds without a substantial waiting period. First, wick drains were installed in the most compressible zones to accelerate settlement during construction. Next, rigid inclusions were displacement-drilled across the entire low side of the site. In combination with a load transfer platform layer above the columns, this system formed a column supported embankment (CSE) at the base of the fill. This paper presents a detailed description of the CSE design, a summary of the construction sequence, and results of the settlement program that verified the performance prior to building construction.


Concurrent Session 1B, Cherrywood Room


Minneapolis Central City Parallel Tunnel Design and Construction


Craig Eckdahl, PE

Project Engineer

CNA Consulting Engineers, Minneapolis, MN


The Central City Parallel Tunnel is a 4,200-foot-long tunnel located 80 feet underground conveying stormwater from downtown Minneapolis to the Mississippi River. This paper presents the details of the design and construction of the tunnels and shaft for the Central City Parallel Tunnel. The design of the tunnel required the consideration of geologic conditions involving the Saint Peter Sandstone and Platteville limestone. The ground conditions resulted in having sections of flat back box tunnels with spans up to 30 feet and unique cathedral-shaped sandstone tunnels up to 10 feet wide. Construction of the Parallel Tunnel is ongoing with the excavation of the tunnels completed and placement of the concrete tunnel ongoing.


3:30 PM – 3:55 PM

Case Histories

Concurrent Session 2A, The Theater


Value of Monitoring a Potential Excavation Support Failure


M. Melih Demirkan, PhD, PE


Rite Geosystems Inc., Pittsburgh, PA


During tunnel construction, support of excavation (SOE) failure during shaft or station construction due to improper design, unforeseen ground behavior, or non-compliance to the design and specifications could be catastrophic. This risk can be minimized using instrumentation and monitoring. This paper discusses a case study on monitoring of a metro rail tunnel project and describes the instrumentation and monitoring scheme and evaluation of monitoring data. The underground station construction is comprised of secant piles, diaphragm walls, and sheet piles through a depth greater than 100 ft. The instrumentation program showed unexpected levels of SOE deformations as the construction progressed. Once data from multiple instruments were examined at the same project zone, the supplemental data sets corroborated the deformation. The data were treated as a forewarning of a looming failure by the project stakeholders. Corrective actions were implemented and a catastrophic failure was averted.


Concurrent Session 2B, Cherrywood Room


Variability in H-Pile Soil Resistance to Driving for River Structures in Fargo, ND


James A. Schneider, PhD, PE

Geotechnical and Geology Section

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul, MN


This paper explores correlations between blow count, hammer stroke, and capacity during driving estimated from PDA measurements to evaluate the variability in driving resistance across two sites in Fargo, ND: the Diversion Inlet Structure and the Wild Rice River Structure. Approximately 2000 piles have been driven across the sites, penetrating 2024through various thicknesses of Lake Agassiz clays, with a final embedment in glacial till. The piles encountered a variety of conditions, including shallow refusal as well as relatively deep penetration into the till. Correlations are based on theoretical relationships that include rated hammer energy, efficiency, elastic compression of the pile, and dynamic soil-pile interaction effects. Capacity is estimated for every foot of driving, not just at the end of driving. This allows for insight into the response of both the lake clays and glacial till. Approximately 3% of piles were tested using PDA, allowing for use of relatively large training and testing datasets.


4:00 PM – 4:25 PM

Case Histories

Concurrent Session 3A, The Theater


Assessing Purpose and Performance of Instrumentation at Twin Ports Interchange


Brent Theroux, PE

Senior Geotechnical Engineer

Barr Engineering Co, St. Paul, MN


Using the Twin Ports Interchange (TPI) project as a backdrop, the paper will examine how various types of instrumentation served to monitor geotechnical and structural aspects of ground improvement performance. Highway embankments at TPI were constructed with column supported embankment systems to address expected large settlements. This ground improvement system consisted of 8000+ concrete columns and steel H-piles to support new pavement, fill embankments, retaining walls, drainage infrastructure, overhead signs, and light towers. A comprehensive geotechnical monitoring program was conducted to observe the system’s performance as it was constructed and compared to design assumptions. The program used horizontal and vertical shape arrays, sister-bar strain gages, vibrating wire piezometers, earth pressure cells, and settlement plates to collect measurements of settlement, axial strain, groundwater pore pressure, lateral soil displacements, and vertical earth pressures. In addition to the geotechnical monitoring, a structural monitoring program was implemented to observe movement of adjacent bridge substructures (both existing and newly-constructed) resulting from installation of concrete columns. The paper will provide commentary and conclusions with respect to how effective both instrumentation programs fulfilled their intended goals.


Concurrent Session 3B


An Update on Dynamic Cone Penetrometer Penetration Results and Relative Density Relationships


Mark R Muszynski, PhD, PE

Professor, Department of Civil Engineering

Gonzaga University, Spokane, WA


The dynamic cone penetrometer (DCP) is a portable instrument capable of providing an indication of the compactness of soils, e.g. correlating penetration resistance to relative density and/or relative compaction of coarse-grained soils, mainly for poorly graded sands. Recent work establishes new correlations on well-graded sands. The study includes a report on the new full-scale field tests on prepared subgrade/ground conditions to help provide a range of relative density conditions of the sands tested. As one might expect, with gradation being an important factor in penetration results, the difference between the two soil types was measurable. For the medium dense to very dense range, the penetration resistance values at a variety of depths were 70% - 150% greater for the well-graded sands over and above the poorly graded sands.


4:30 PM – 4:55 PM

Case Histories

Concurrent Session 4A, The Theater


Numerical Calibration of Soil Reinforcement Using the Homogenization Principle for Soil Reinforced with Soil Mixing


Roberto Chacón

Head of Engineering

Soletanche Bachy, Perú


Soil mixing techniques, among their many applications, serve to enhance soil load-bearing capacity, reduce settlements, and mitigate liquefaction effects. This work aims to establish numerical correlations between analytical formulations and axisymmetric and 3D numerical models to estimate soil improvement. Additionally, these calibrations will be presented in relation to three static load tests, where both numerical models and soil creep are evaluated. The findings include the results of a soil improvement project at an existing hospital, employing the soil mixing technique for structural underpinning.

4:55 PM        Adjournment

Planning Committee

Chris Behling, US Army Corps of Engineers

Joe Bentler, American Engineering Testing

Ryan Berg, Ryan R. Berg & Associates

Anya Brose, Itasca Consulting Group

Aaron Budge, MN State University, Mankato

Ivan Contreras, Barr Engineering

Liang Chern Chow, Haley & Aldrich

Chris DeDene, City of Minneapolis

Bryan Field, KLJ Engineering

Steve Gale, Gale-Tec Engineering

Mike Haggerty, Barr Engineering

Megan Hoppe, American Engineering Testing

Nathan Iverson, Veit & Company

Joe Labuz, University of Minnesota (UMN)

Rich Lamb, MnDOT

Brett Larsen, Short Elliott Hendrickson

Dan Mahrt, Terracon

Steve Olson, Kiewit

Greg Reuter, American Engineering Testing

Dave Saftner, UMN, Duluth

Brian Sanchez, Menard USA

Joel Swenson, Barr Engineering

Brent Theroux, Barr Engineering

Joe Westphal, Braun Intertec


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 February 7, 2024, it is $260. The fee includes tuition, parking, proceedings, continental breakfast, lunch, and refreshments. A refund, less a $10 cancellation fee, will be made if cancellation is received by February 7, 2024. 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 31, 2024 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 $100 for only the course. Registration of both the short course and conference are offered for a combined $290 ($60 short course, $230 conference). 


Professional Development Hours


Participants can earn a total of 10.0 professional development hours (PDH). 7.0 professional development hours (PDH) for the full-day conference attendance, 2.0 Ethics PDH for the Short Course attendance and 1.0 PDH for the conference banquet. 


Contact for Further Information


Write to for more information.

Conference Brochure & Proceedings