September 2013


Frank William Pita’s Work/Life History

For the last 5 years, Frank Pita has been a principal and senior project manager with Jacobs Associates in Seattle, Washington.  He holds professional civil and/or geotechnical engineering licenses in the states of Alaska, New York, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Washington, and Oregon. He is a licensed hydrogeologist in Washington. He is a fellow of ASCE and in 2009 became a diplomate in the Academy of Geo-Professionals. Mr. Pita holds two MS degrees, one in Civil Engineering from Oregon State University and another in Geology from the University of Tulsa, Oklahoma. He earned his BA in Geology from the State University of New York.

Since joining Jacobs Associates, he has managed many diverse projects in many parts of the west while always trying to bring in and mentor the firm’s staff in both technical and managerial issues. He has also participated in upper company management retreats and has suggested some new management approaches, which have been adopted.  Prior to joining Jacobs Associates, he was the president of a small Seattle-based specialty geotechnical and tunnel design firm with his business partner Gerry Millar.  Both Gerry and Frank, along with several staff members came to Jacobs Associates when the two companies merged five years ago. Both firms did geotechnical design for heavy civil projects such as shored excavations and underground opening support. 

The merger has been positive for all because the two organizations have similar management cultures and, even though the heavy civil and tunnel design / construction management work and needs were similar at the two firms, Pita and Millar’s clients were new to Jacobs Associates.  Staff could work back and forth, and it allowed the combined firm to grow significantly during the last five years. Pita and Millar brought the engineering for the freight railroads in the US and a following of local Northwest contractors and engineering firms to the mix.  The railroads, in particular, have many earthwork issues in mountainous terrain and many tunnels to upgrade or modify.  The Jacobs Associates team now has active contracts with all four of the US freight railroads. 

Prior to forming his own firm with Mr. Millar; Mr. Pita was a vice president at the Seattle-based geotechnical firm of Shannon & Wilson.  There he learned much about technical geotechnical engineering and management issues.  He had the privilege of working with Bill Shannon on a couple of projects prior to his retirement, which was a good learning experience.

Mr. Pita’s first engineering opportunity was with the multidisciplinary firm of CH2M/Hill.  While a graduate student at Oregon State University, he began work as a summer employee.  Prior to graduating, the firm offered him a job in Seattle, which officially started his engineering career. He moved to the Puget Sound Region and has never left. 

Those initial 10 years of work in a civil/geotechnical engineering group of CH2M/Hill were some of Mr. Pita’s most valuable learning years.  He worked on large projects and interfaced with structural, sanitary, and electrical engineers, all of whom had different issues related to the project and who all thought their issues were the most important.  Frank Pita reflects on this experience. “This taught me some very good lessons about all the different aspects of engineering and what drives the final design configuration.  It showed me that my particular area of expertise may be important to me but it might only be very minor in the greater scheme of things.  This humbles you and makes you a better engineer overall and a much better project manager later in your career.”

Now, after 38 years of experience as a geotechnical/civil/hydrogeological engineer, Mr. Pita has become an expert in understanding and managing complex geologic and heavy civil engineering projects. From Seattle, he has engineered and/or managed the design of these types of projects all over the western States. To all of them, he brings his expertise in soil mechanics and hydrogeology, and the options for heavy civil shoring and foundation support.  In recent years, many of these projects have been for the railroad industry.

In addition to railroad projects, Mr. Pita has a group of local construction company clients for whom he designs dewatering plans for submittals and the related shoring if needed.  As a result, in the Northwest, he typically performs one construction dewatering design or shoring per month.  Mr. Pita’s knowledge of the subsurface conditions from both a soil mechanics and hydrogeological standpoint and understanding how these condition  affect the project site are why he is able to perform this type of work.  Mr. Pita believes that the mix of geologic knowledge combined with understanding risk in designing for varying subsurface conditions allows him to contribute to this unique area of consulting.

Mr. Pita is an active member of several national engineering organizations, where he has participated both locally as an officer and on national committees working on engineering business issues. He chaired the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Geotechnical Committee in Seattle for its first two active years in the late 1970s; he then became an officer in the local Seattle ASCE section and eventually became the president; and he participated on a national committee of ASCE. Mr. Pita has also been an active member of the American Society of Foundation Engineers (ASFE), chairing and participating on several business oriented committees over the years. He was also on the group’s board of directors. 

He has published over 24 technical papers on civil and geotechnical engineering topics, his most recent being “The Great Salt Lake Causeway—Its Recent History and Current Maintenance Program,” with Carol Ravano and Paul Dannelly. This was published in the AREMA 2008 Proceedings. For the past 15 years, Mr. Pita has been an active member of American Railroad Engineers and Maintenance Association (AREMA).

On a personal level, Mr. Pita has been married for 43 years to the girl he met in college, and they have two sons in their mid-thirties.  All of the family lives in the Northwest.  One son is a civil engineer, and the other has a business degree but has become a project manager/estimator for a marine contractor.