Downtime: David Knowles, VP and Area Manager, CH2M Hill

Photo: Kaplan

David Knowles discusses his favorite books, movies and the future of U.S. infrastructure.

Share this article!

What I’m reading
Just finished The Singer’s Gun by Emily St. John Mandel. Heard an interview with her on Live Wire and picked up this mystery novel. She is a really good writer.

What I’m watching
Star Wars, of course.

Waze, an app that uses real-time data from its users on the road to map the quickest routes to a selected destination. I don’t spend a lot of time in my car. But I am fascinated by this and other data-sharing technologies that rely on user experience.

Geek out
My favorite gadget is almost any fly-fishing reel. They are all basically the same, but most are beautiful, finely tuned mechanical devices that are fun to admire and use.

The hearth
Christmas is full of traditions for our family. My wife and I have three boys, all in their 20s now. They count on some things not changing. Christmas is one of them. We also find ways to spend concentrated, uninterrupted time together; often at Black Butte in Central Oregon, occasionally on a trip together to Mexico or Europe.

No place like…
Portland, because we have the benefits of a large city while maintaining many of the characteristics of a smaller community. The food and music scenes are amazing and diverse; we have a great transit system, a world-class airport and a strong economy. But it is still small-town in many ways. Neighborhood identity is strong. The region’s public schools are good, and most kids attend a school in their neighborhood. Local government officials are very accessible. We have incredible natural resources and outdoor activities.

David Knowles indoor climbingWhen I’m not working…
I’m fly-fishing in Central Oregon in the summer and the Sandy River in the winter. Also, indoor and outdoor rock climbing — I love the physical and mental challenge.

Business role model
My colleagues at CH2M. I work with the smartest and most innovative engineers, planners and technologists in the world. I am inspired and motivated every day to help them be successful.

What motivates you to come to work every day?
Solving complex problems for our clients and contributing to the communities where we work and live. Nothing is more gratifying professionally.

Advice for young people entering the industry
Be curious, be bold and listen intently. Connect with someone who can mentor you. This is a very important part of what we do at CH2M to help ensure a successful experience for our new, young employees.

Infrastructure status report
No question: The way we fund infrastructure now is broken. But there is good news for Oregon and the country from innovations that are happening right here at home. With transportation infrastructure, for example, we may see the gas tax replaced with a charge on vehicle miles traveled. We will also simplify and create unified fare collection for multiple modes of transportation ranging from trains to streetcars to buses.

The most mind-boggling infrastructure project you’ve seen
It is impossible to pick just one. The most transformative projects are those small-scale, micro infrastructure innovations that are helping to bring clean water and sanitation to rural areas in developing countries. In the Northwest, the new Tilikum Crossing Bridge is beautiful and remarkable because it is the first bridge in America to carry the combination of buses, light rail, streetcar, pedestrians and bicyclists.