An Ames-based HDR project was recently recognized by the American Council of Engineering Companies of Iowa in its 2017 Engineering Excellence Awards competition. The project, The Iowa DOT Crude and Biofuel Study, received an Engineering Excellence Award.


The study is a first-of-its-kind study commissioned by Iowa (DOT) provides solutions for safer transportation for bulk crude oil and biofuels (mainly ethanol) through Iowa. The study will assist Iowa’s state, local and tribal governments determine risks and vulnerabilities; prevention methods and programs; and preparedness, response, and recovery capabilities for crude oil and biofuels railroad transportation incidents in Iowa. HDR, Iowa DOT and HDR’s subconsultant Witt O’Brien collaborated on the study.


The study included interviews and meetings with stakeholders to assess geographic, administrative and operational areas for risks, vulnerabilities, programs and capabilities.


This study objectively measured the sensitivity to bulk crude oil and ethanol rail incidents by conducting a county-by-county risk and vulnerability assessment which included public safety and environmental risk factors; and potential impacts from those incidents. These quantities were then used to derive an aggregate value for risk and sensitivity should a bulk crude oil or ethanol rail transportation incident occur.


Counties were rated from low to high according to their sensitivity to incidents. The results were used to identify challenges and form recommendations to reduce risk and vulnerability through policy change, planning, training and education, communication, and other actions.


The study’s goal was to protect the environment and public, but also establish lines of communication between all stakeholder groups.