The career of Michael F. Britt ’83 ’90MS is not unlike the bridges his firm designs around the world: solid foundation; well constructed; and long lasting.
Over a span of 38 years, the Drexel University civil engineer rose from co-op newbie at bridge engineering firm Modjeski and Masters, Inc. (M&M) in Mechanicsburg, PA., to its president and chief marketing officer earlier this year .
He has been with the 125-year-old company that has done major projects such as the design of the I-74 Bridge that crosses the Mississippi and the rehabilitation of the George Washington Bridge, the world’s busiest; with exception for a few years where he worked with the Federal Highway Administration.
“I was getting more and more responsibility and more and more pay,” says the 56-year-old Mechanicsburg native who still lives there. “They treated me fairly. I felt I should be loyal.”
Britt worked all four of his co-ops for the bridge designer. They captured how he had felt growing up when he helped his father build a carport. “It was kind of exciting to build,” he says.
For the first co-op, “I didn’t know anything about engineering,” he says. But his supervisors trained him, and by his fourth he “traveled nationally inspecting bridges.” The job took him to upstate New York and along the Mississippi.
“When I started doing bridge work for Modjeski and Masters, they worked on these really well-known and famous, large, iconic bridges,” he says. “There was a sense of pride working for this firm that did all these very dramatic bridge projects.”
His Drexel education complemented the hands-on experiences, laying the foundation for his leadership roles, Britt says.
“It was a very challenging school,” he says. “You had to show perseverance all the time you were there. You had to work in teams. You had to do public speaking. You got the whole picture.”
In a recent interview in the American Society of Civil Engineers’ magazine, Britt says his Drexel education taught him to analyze a situation and develop a solution “that is really good for the masses and not just one specific application.”
After he graduated, he became a design engineer for M&M, working on fixed and movable bridges. In 1989, he joined the Federal Highway Administration, first working in Harrisburg and then Baltimore as an assistant regional engineer.
Britt also spent a year in Japan, helping to build two record holders: the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the world, and the Tatara Bridge, among the longest cable-stayed bridges. During this time, he earned his master’s in civil engineering.
By 1996, he was back at M&M as director of business development. Contracts included the final design services for the I-74 Bridge, which replaced the oft-congested Iowa-Illinois Memorial Bridge—one also designed by this firm in 1933. The new bridge has dual basket-handle arches that span 800 feet and allow six lanes of traffic each way, including bicycle and pedestrian paths.
As principal in charge, Britt also oversaw the inspection and rehabilitation of the Ambassador Bridge that connects Detroit, Michigan to Windsor, Canada, and serves as a major crossing for trade.
In 2012, he became senior vice president, streamlining and modernizing marketing and business development initiatives. When the head of the company, Dr. Barney Martin, planned to retire, Britt was pegged to take over.
“It’s a big responsibility to keep the company going, to keep the legacy alive and adapt to the changing climate of bridge engineering,” he allows of the 180-employee firm that does over $40 million in business.
Martin, who is serving as chief executive office until his retirement next year , praised Britt for his leadership and drive.
“Mike is a perfect fit for this role,” he said in a statement. “Mike understands the industry, as well as its constantly evolving facets. He has the foresight to bring innovation to the way we do things here and is open to new ideas that will take us where we want to go in the future.”
By Lini S. Kadaba