acuus photo NY

On January 23, 2019 ACUUS met in the HNTB offices at the Empire State Building for its North America Management Meeting.  In attendance were; Sanja Zlatanic – HNTB, ACUUS Board, Priscilla Nelson – ACUUS Board, Dr. Amy Huanqing Li – Manager of Services to Members, Shivani Patel- ACCUS North America Young Member Group, Dorothy McKie ACUUS North America administrative assistant, and potential members (Dominic Reda and Alfredo Valdivia of Gall Zeidler, and Gloria Lau of HNTB). The management meeting hosted by Ms. Zlatanic covered ACUUS activities with UN-HABITAT, World Urban Campaign and the forum at World Cities Day in Shanghai (October 31st, 2019).  Dr. Amy Huanqing Li presented a detailed Secretariat report of ACUUS activities, targeting priorities in the USA, marketing strategies and immediate goals (link to the presentation below). A major emphasis was placed on setting up Youth Group Americas with Shivani Patel as Chair.  This group will support the World Cities Day youth forum activities and collaborate with UCA Youth Committee for this major event to be held in Shanghai on 1st - 3rd November where ACUUS would be represented with its forum.


The Underground Construction Association of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (UCA of SMEtop awards



 The Underground Construction Association of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (UCA of SME) is pleased to announce the recipients of its top awards. The presentations will be made during the Awards Dinner on Tuesday, June 26, 2018, during the North American Tunneling Conference (NAT) in Washington, D.C.

Priscella Nelson

One of the top awards is for Dr. Priscilla Nelson, member of the Board of Directors of ACUUS. The UCA of SME's Outstanding Educator Award: Dr. Priscilla Nelson. This award is being presented to Dr. Nelson for her contributions in the field of tunneling and her dedication to the education of a new generation of engineers specialized in underground construction and tunneling in the U.S. In addition, UCA of SME recognizes her initiatives as a role model and inspiration for young female students pursuing advanced degrees in the field of tunneling. The award is presented to professors and teachers who have had an exceptional career in academia and education in the area of underground design and construction.


2014 October 24

Sanja Zlatanic headlines Women in Transit speaker series at SEPTA

(news quoted from:


As the featured speaker at the Women in Transit speaker series sponsored by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority, HNTB Chief Tunneling Engineer Sanja Zlatanic presented a two-part presentation – “Crowded cities think BIG UNDERGROUND for their infrastructure solutions.”

The first part of the presentation focused on underground infrastructure and some of the recent tunnel projects she has been involved in since moving to the United States.

The second part of Zlatanic’s presentation was comprised of a Q&A and interactive session, which focused on challenges she faced as a women in a male-dominant environment. Zlatanic shared how she overcame challenges and discussed the role and impact of a mentor as well as lessons learned and advice for the younger female generation in the work force.

“This event was a win-win for our client because Sanja was able to speak about an area of technical expertise that coincides with SEPTA’s business goals, and her presence aligned well with the organization’s advocacy for women in leadership,” Gramian said. “At the same time, she had a very compelling story to tell about her career success in a challenging environment – coming to a country with a different language, balancing her professional and personal responsibilities at home, establishing herself as a technical expert and positioning herself in a leadership role on mission-critical projects.”



2014 October


2014 Women In Transportation: Sanja Zlatanic, PE

(news quoted from:

Zlatanic is currently managing a project in Instanbul for HNTB Corp.

Born and educated in former Yugoslavia, Sanja Zlatanic graduated in 1988 from Belgrade’s School of Civil Engineering in the top 3% of her class. She earned a degree in structural engineering with a focus on concrete structures. Without delay, she joined Energoprojekt, one of the country’s biggest engineering companies. There, Zlatanic was exposed to a handful of large-scale international projects, including a special project assignment in Iraq.

However, at the start of the civil war in Yugoslavia in 1991, Zlatanic decided to move to the U.S., where she found a job as a structural engineer at Parsons Brinckerhoff, working mainly on the design of complex underground structures and tunnels for transit use.

During her time with Parsons Brinckerhoff, Zlatanic led the design management and technical oversight of East Side Access and the No. 7 Subway Line Extension. Both are notable transit mega-projects of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority. She also served as chief engineer from 2006 to 2010 for Access to the Region’s Core, a commuter rail project to increase passenger service capacity on New Jersey transit between Secaucus Junction, N.J. and Manhattan.

“I’ve been lucky over the past 20-plus years to be a part of major public endeavors happening in New York City,” Zlatanic says. “It became logical for me to dedicate my career to underground structures, as I have been fascinated with these mega-projects. With large projects came large responsibilities.”

Zlatanic stayed with Parsons Brinckerhoff until 2011, when an opportunity arose to grow the tunnel practice for HNTB Corp. arose.

In her role as chief tunnel engineer at HNTB, Zlatanic helps identify projects, develops strategy and selects staff. She says she feels personally responsible for quality execution and takes pride in project performance.

“When the client is pleased with the solution we present and we see them reaching out to express their gratitude on the quality of the work, that’s the moment you realize that you have done your duty,” she says. “For an engineer and public servant, this appreciation means everything and is the most rewarding.”

Since starting with HNTB, Zlatanic led the underground engineering group for the Crenshaw LAX project, which will be a part of the Los Angeles County Metro Rail System. It will include a new 8.5-mile light rail line through southwest Los Angeles connecting the Crenshaw District and Leimert Park to Inglewood and the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Heavy construction began in the spring of 2014, and initial revenue service is projected to begin by 2019.

Currenlty, Zlatanic is managing a project in Istanbul, where HNTB serves as an independent design verifier.

“We are honored to undertake this important role on the iconic project containing the sixth largest underwater tunnel in the world, which will connect Europe and Asia in Istanbul below the Bosphorus Strait,” Zlatanic says. “The project is P3 and the contractor, our client, is a prominent Turkish-Korean joint venture.”

Outside of work, Zlatanic is the secretary general for the Associated Research Centers for the Urban Underground Space (ACUUS). ACUUS is an international organization that encourages partnerships within the urban underground structures field and promotes sustainable use of underground space in order to preserve urban surfaces for better uses.

“With more people moving into cities, these overbuilt and overcrowded urban habitats shouldn’t be jam-packed with surface transit lines,” Zlatanic says. “Communities shouldn’t be divided by large surface cuts or highways. Placing the transit underground frees the surface for increased greenery, parks and recreational uses, which promotes better quality of life and brings people together.”

On Sept.16, 2014, ACUUS signed a memorandum of understanding with the United Nations’ UN-Habitat in New York City, which Zlatanic attended.

“The UN-Habitat finds it very instrumental to tap into our experience to help countries develop sustainable, planned use of the underground,” Zlatanic says.

 2014 JUNE 04

HNTB Corporation Deepens Practice to Serve Growing Tunnel and Underground Construction Market

Key tunneling experts hired to help meet growth-oriented market needs; $70 billion in tunnel construction projects expected in North America in the next five years

(article quoted from: )

Much of the world is moving underground for utilities, transportation infrastructure, water and wastewater, storm protection, power and other systems. To meet current and projected demand, HNTB Corporation has expanded its tunneling practice, increasing its roster of industry veterans significantly in the past year, totaling over 100 professionals throughout the firm.

According to an IBISWorld report, the bridge and tunnel construction industry expanded even in the aftermath of the recession. Tunnel construction, in particular, is expected to continue increasing as city planners view subsurface structures as more efficient ways to use space, according to Nasri Munfah, PE, senior vice president and HNTB chair tunnel services. Industry estimates anticipate $70 billion in tunnel construction projects in North America in the next five years.

“In the United States, North America and Europe, increasing traffic congestion, dwindling right-of-way in urban areas, aging infrastructures are driving demand,” he said. “In other parts of the world, demand for tunnels is due to high population growth, resulting in rapidly expanding urban centers and transportation and infrastructure needs.”

An underground solution for urban growth 
In the United States alone, more than 45 tunnel projects – from subways to sewers – are in design, according to a forecast from the Underground Construction Association of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration. Many of those projects underscore tunneling’s ability to provide sustainable solutions to urban areas.

“Tunnels are important elements of our nation’s aging infrastructure,” Munfah said. “They are the preferred sustainable solutions to transportation dilemmas, providing critical multimodal linkage and access routes.”

Taking advantage of underground space allows cities to accomplish progressively denser development while maintaining a less dense surface environment. Once operational, tunnels offer a second set of benefits that above-ground infrastructure cannot, such as superior environmental control and reduced power consumption. But, according to Munfah, those benefits are in addition to the asset’s longevity.

“Tunnels and underground facilities have a service life in the hundreds of years,” Munfah said. “They are economically superior on a life-cycle cost basis.”

Tunnel construction is the answer to some funding questions 
Tunnels and underground construction are becoming more viable solutions than in previous decades, due in part to today’s environment of shrinking federal transportation dollars and increased emphasis on funding options.

“Highway tunnels are conducive to tolling, which improves an owner’s ability for project financing and providing public-private partnership opportunities,” said Jim Ely, senior vice president and HNTB chair toll services.

Tunnel industry veterans join HNTB 
Munfah predicts the need for tunnels will only grow and says HNTB is well-positioned to address demand. The firm has added six industry veterans to its leadership ranks in the past year: 

  • Mark Ramsey joined the firm as tunnel practice leader in the west and associate vice president. With over two decades of experience, he is a member of the Underground Construction Association of SME and the Transportation Research Board Tunnel and Underground Construction Standing Committee. He also served as the chairman of the 2010 North American Tunneling Conference. Ramsey is based in Santa Ana, California.
  • Raymond Sandiford, PE, F.ASCE, joined the firm as associate vice president and national geotechnical and foundation practice leader within the tunneling and underground engineering group. Prior to joining HNTB, Sandiford was geotechnical and underground chief engineer for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, where he directed major geotechnical and underground construction projects for more than three decades. During that time, he was responsible for post-9/11 restoration projects, including direction of all underground design for the reconstruction of the World Trade Center subsurface work. Sandiford is based in New York City.
  • Ruben Manuelyan, PE, joined HNTB as technical design manager for underground structures and brings over 40 years of experience in immersed tubes and cut-and-cover structures. Currently, he is helping to advance the Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail Transit System in Los Angeles by performing a technical review of the project’s cut-and-cover stations and guideways documents. Manuelyan is based in New York City.
  • Thomas Richardson, PE, joined the firm as tunnel construction manager. Richardson has more than 30 years of experience in program management, design and construction management of geotechnical, tunneling and underground engineering projects, transit systems, water and sewage systems. He also is an experienced geotechnical engineer and an environmental engineer. Richardson is based in Arlington, Virginia.
  • Heiner Sander joined the firm as vice president and tunnel practice leader in the east. Sander has more than 30 years of experience in project management, and design and construction management of tunneling and underground engineering projects. Sander’s experience includes the English Channel Tunnel between Britain and France, the State Route 710 Gap Closure Tunnel in Los Angeles, and the Tom Lantos Tunnels at Devil’s Slide near San Francisco. Sander is based in Arlington, Virginia.
  • Arman Farajollahi, PE, joined HNTB as principal tunnel engineer and serves as senior technical specialist on the firm’s complex tunneling projects. He has more than 22 years’ experience in analysis and design of tunnels and underground excavations in both soft ground and hard rock for transportation, wet infrastructure and hydropower projects. He has provided engineering support services during the design and construction of more than 30 infrastructure projects located in the United States, Asia, Australia, Middle East and Africa. Farajollahi is based in New York City.

“The collective expertise of these leaders – in addition to our existing team of experienced staff – help meet the tunneling and underground needs of HNTB’s national and international infrastructure clients,” Munfah said.

In addition to new hires, HNTB chief tunneling engineer, Sanja Zlatanic, PE, recently was named secretary general of Associated research Centers for Urban Underground Space, an international, non-governmental organization dedicated to partnerships among experts who design, analyze and decide upon the use of cities’ underground spaces. Her term runs through 2018.

Earlier this spring, Zlatanic also moderated a networking session during a UN-Habitat conference in Medellin, Colombia, which drew international attention. The presentation, titled “Equity and Equality Opportunities: Cities Think Underground,” shared insights on issues that rapidly expanding cities face while implementing mega infrastructure and transportation projects.

Tackling the world’s most visible tunneling projects 
Staff additions not only position HNTB well for future projects, they add to the depth and breadth of expertise the firm brings to its current tunneling projects.

The firm’s current tunnel and underground construction projects include: Sound Transit’s University Link in Seattle; Washington State Department of Transportation’s Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement tunnel in Seattle; Baltimore B&P tunnel; Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project; Elizabeth River Midtown Tunnel in Norfolk, Virginia; Presidio Parkway tunnels in San Francisco; multiple New York City Transit and Amtrak tunnel projects as the result of Superstorm Sandy; and the Istanbul Strait Road Crossing Tunnel project in Turkey.

The Tom Lantos Tunnels at Devil’s Slide – which opened in 2013 and was designed by HNTB Corporation – already have been honored with 15 industry awards, and more are anticipated.