Engineer Katie Lewis Breathes New Life into Hometown Landscape through Steel Infrastructure Projects

Image credit: Benesch

For project engineer Katie Lewis at Alfred Benesch & Company, being a part of the Southeast Municipal Park Complex project in Franklin, Tenn., was an opportunity to give back to her hometown--and her work will be a fixture in the community.

Lewis and her team’s contribution to the project was to construct an access road and steel bridge that drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians will use every day to access the park, which is wedged between the interstate and the fast-flowing Harpeth River.

AISC recently gave Lewis and her colleague Nitaya Chayangkura an Award of Distinction for not only her outstanding work on the Southeast Park project but also for serving as a role model for others entering the engineering field.

Lewis, a Franklin native, was eager to learn more about steel design, having worked almost exclusively with concrete in the past.

“We touched on steel in school, but I hadn’t really used it in a practical application, so I was excited to learn something new,” she said.

She also found the scale of the project thrilling. At over 500 ft in length, it was one of the longest bridges she’d ever designed.

“It was cool getting to ‘nerd out’ a little bit!” Lewis said. “I knew it was going to be a really large structure, and I had just gotten my professional engineer’s license.”

Lewis worked closely with the city of Franklin to develop an aesthetic for the bridge that would draw influence from the area’s natural landscape and complement other completed projects throughout town. Their vision came to life in every element of the bridge’s design, from the lighting installation to the stone-like effect on the railing.

“As a multi-use path, it needed to blend in and stand out at the same time,” she said.

As a young woman who has worked on civil and structural projects in Tennessee for seven years, Lewis knows firsthand the long path ahead of the engineering industry toward improving gender diversity. The University of Tennessee at Knoxville alumna hopes to see more female representation in the next generation of engineers.

“There’s not a lot of us right now,” she said, “but we’re making our way up, showing girls and women that it’s not some big, scary industry to be a part of--that it’s not a boys’ club anymore.”