Expert tunneling engineer and consultant on major projects dies at 83

Harvey W. Parker, a nationally renowned tunneling expert and president of a Seattle-area engineering firm bearing his name, has died. He was 83.


From Washington state to Washington, D.C., Parker will be best remembered by clients and owners of high-profile, high-risk tunneling achievements for his honest advice and help with complex decisions.

Parker, Ph.D., P.E., D.GE, F.ASCE, made significant civil engineering contributions for more than 55 years. He was chief engineer of a U.S. Navy destroyer, a pioneer in the development of steel fiber shotcrete, and a planner and designer of projects like the Mount Baker Ridge Tunnel in Seattle – still the largest soil tunnel in the world. He was also the guiding hand behind subway systems across the United States, including New York, Boston, Chicago and the nation’s capital. He was there at both the beginning and the end of the Los Angeles Metro project, seeing it through early successes and navigating successfully, with fellow expert panel advisors, lifting of a ban on heavy rail tunneling under the city. Today the Purple Line extension of the system is being excavated under Wilshire Boulevard toward Beverly Hills and Century City.

Recently, Parker applied his expertise to Seattle’s SR99 Alaskan Way elevated viaduct highway replacement tunnel. He also spent a decade working on enlarging railway tunnels in the western part of the U.S. to carry freight trains with containers stacked two-high, and on military projects such as underground caverns and facilities for management of nuclear waste.

Parker was president of International Tunneling and Underground Space Association from 2004 to 2007. His involvement there through the years also made him a father to the international industry as more countries joined the association and explored the role of the underground in their development and vital provision of water supply, wastewater management, urban and national transportation, and energy production. This included work with the United Nations to promote environmental and social sustainability into the future. In 2019, for his career and contributions to the industry, he was awarded the ITA Lifetime Achievement Award.

Parker was also chairman of several U.S. organizations and the author of many influential published works in geology and tunneling. He earned his earliest degree from the Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University), his master’s from Harvard University, and his Ph.D. in civil engineering with a minor in geology from the University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign in 1976.

Traveling with his wife, Karen, was one of his favorite things; the two went to the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia and made lifelong friends everywhere they stayed.

What will surely be missed by friends, coworkers and colleagues are his infectious sense of purpose, energy for innovation and mentorship.


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