Eugene Figg, Jr., loves bridges. His company, the Figg Engineering Group, of Tallahassee, Florida, is the only national engineering firm in America that does nothing but bridges. He loves to talk about the bridges he’s built, how they’re faring, how the people who own them feel about them now.
He’s proud of the ones that came in early and under budget (like the Natchez Trace Parkway Arches, budgeted for $15 million, brought in for $11 million). He’s equally proud of the ones that won major design awards. The National Endowment for the Arts began giving Presidential Design Awards in 1984. A total of 41 awards have been given, only five for bridges, and Figg got three of those: Lin Cove Viaduct in North Carolina (1984), Sunshine Sky Bridge in Florida (1988) and the Natchez Trace Parkway Arches in Tennessee (1995). Figg’s pride in his bridges doesn’t come off like vanity; it’s more like a parent talking to anyone who’ll listen about a child who is doing well in the world.
He was in Buffalo last week for a conference of the Association for Bridge Construction and Design, where he spoke about bridge permitting and community involvement issues, and about the community design charettes for which he has become famous. He also managed to talk with a good number of people involved in the Peace Bridge expansion: Buffalo Development Commissioner Joseph Ryan, Common Council President James Pitts, the Buffalo News editorial board, the Public Bridge Review Panel’s Technical Review Subcommittee, and about 75 people at D’Youville College, a meeting incorporated into one of the New Millennium Group’s informational sessions.