Bridge designing helps grow firm
DUNCANSVILLE — P. Joseph Lehman Inc. Consulting Engineers is having another good year.
The Duncansville business, which was inducted into the Blair County Chamber of Commerce Business Hall of Fame in 2018, is celebrating 50 years in business in 2019.
“We are very humbled and fortunate to make it that long, a lot of firms have difficulties with transition from one generation to the next. We would not be where we are if not for our employees who got us to where we are today,” said President P. Joseph Lehman Jr.
The hall of fame recognition was important to the business, which was founded by Lehman’s father P. Joseph Lehman Sr. in 1969.
Lehman’s father, who had worked as a liaison engineer for PennDOT before starting the company, focused on helping small communities.
“The main reason he started the business was there was an opportunity to help communities in the area. My mom (Annette) and dad came from Spangler and Patton and saw problems in those areas. He helped them improve through transportation and infrastructure developments,” Lehman said. “He wanted to find problems and how he could help. That took off quickly — meeting the needs of communities and alerting them to the grants and funding that were available. That was his forte and it took off quickly.”
The business has grown over the years and is well known for its road and bridge design and rehabilitation projects, which comprise about 50 percent of the company’s business.
Lehman Engineers is known for its work for the Bedford County Covered Bridge Society.
“We helped them over the last 25 years. We rehabilitated and restored a lot of their covered bridges. That has helped us branch out further,” Lehman said.
That exposure led to work on the Academia Covered Bridge in Juniata County, the largest covered bridge in Pennsylvania.
“That was a real feather in our cap,” Lehman said.
In 2005, P. Joseph Lehman Sr. turned over the reins of the business to his son and a group of partners, which today include Bob Bryant, transportation services director; Marty Malone, client services director; Husam Obeid, bridge design director; Chuck Meyers, project manager/lead highway engineer; Aaron Craig, bridge inspection/field services director; and Scott Klingenberg, environmental services director.
“My son, Joe, is doing a great job running the firm. He has a great rapport with both employees and clients, and has assembled an outstanding team of dedicated employees and partners,” P. Joseph Lehman Sr. said. “Over the past 40 years, Joe has kept the firm up-to-date with the latest innovations as they relate to civil engineering. He is doing a better job of running the firm than I did. I am very proud of their success.”
The firm is proud of its many projects, but the most prominent include the Seventh Street Bridge Project in Altoona and the U.S. Route 22 Frankstown Road Intersection Project.
“That was one of the most dangerous intersections in the state prior to our reconstruction efforts,” Lehman Jr. said.
The firm recently received the Total Quality Institute Partnership Award and Community Connection Award from the Pennsylvania Associated Contractors for the Waddle Road Interchange Improvements Project near State College.
Lehman teamed with Glenn O. Hawbaker Inc. of State College on that project.
“I am proud of the Waddle Road project. It was an innovative way to deliver the project. We had to work with a lot of stakeholders on that project,” Malone said.
Lehman Engineers has done a significant amount of work over the years for both PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.
The firm is presently doing design work for the reconstruction of the turnpike’s Pittsburgh Interchange, a project that includes six bridges.
The firm also works on smaller projects.
“Not all of our projects are massive. We focus on the local communities. In Duncansville, we are talking with the borough about finding options for their 14th Street bridge project,” Malone said. “Lots of our clients don’t have huge budgets for expensive infrastructure. We work with them to manage their dollars. We work with contractors to come up with cost effective solutions.”
Malone plays a key role, said Betsy Lehman, Joe Jr.’s wife and special projects director.
“Marty’s experience on obtaining funding is unparalleled. He is well known for working with clients to solve their problems through grantsmanship. He has unparalleled experience — that is what he brings to our clients,” Betsy Lehman said.
Over the years, Lehman Engineers expanded to offer transportation engineering, environmental consulting, survey and structural design.
In recent years, there has been an increase in build-design projects such as Waddle Road, where an engineer works with a contractor.
“We talk to clients about the P3 delivery method — public private partnerships where contractors, design and financing organizations come together. It is innovative, we are talking to partners, there is a lot of potential for this, all working together on a project,” Malone said.
The firm, which has offices in Duncansville and Bedford, opened a new office in Charleston, W.Va. in late 2018.
“(W. Va.) has a very robust transportation program, and a huge need for bridge rehabilitation and replacement. They floated $6 million worth of bonds to get this done. They need a lot of bridge replacements. The potential is very large, there are not a lot of engineers in parts of the state that specialize in what we specialize in,” Malone said.
Lehman Jr. credits the firm’s 40 employees for its success.
“Our employees, their dedication and their work ethic, they are the ones who made us what we are today. We are a labor intensive organization. We don’t build bridges, we design them. The quality of our engineers and their support staff sets us apart,” said Lehman Jr., who is excited about the future of the business.
“The lack of investment in infrastructure over the past decades provides a real opportunity for us. It will take decades to meet the needs, that is why we are here to meet those needs,” Lehman Jr. said.
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.