Behind the Scenes, Bornheimer-Kelley Works to Engineer Safer Communities

by | Feb 23, 2017 | News, Transportation

Transportation engineer Cheryl Bornheimer in her boxing gloves

Cheryl Bornheimer’s commitment to safety can be seen in her work on roadway design standards and her defensive skills in the ‘squared circle’ at Title Boxing Club.

An interest in science and math led Cheryl Bornheimer-Kelley to join a high school program exploring engineering as a career; however, she says it was pure luck that led her to be the graduate assistant on Howard Lubliner’s transportation safety research project. Both led her to McClure Engineering Company (MEC), where she’s applying her research and expertise to help improve transportation and safety for communities.

Bornheimer-Kelley joined the company as a project engineer in the infrastructure services department where she has worked on a variety of projects, including county road standards, traffic studies, and a new road alignment.

“I really enjoy the diversity of the projects I have been able to work on here,” said Bornheimer-Kelley. “I have learned a great deal about traffic engineering, and I’ve applied that to projects for municipalities and developers. I have also been able to refocus on my safety research and apply it to practical projects for our clients.”

Recently, Bornheimer-Kelley co-managed a project to update Johnson County’s road standards and co-authored the subsequent white paper.

The design standards incorporated Bornheimer-Kelley’s and Lubliner’s research to analyze the cost-benefit ratio of roadway improvements, improve safety and reduce maintenance costs for the County. Lubliner, who led the road standards project and co-authored the paper, originally met Bornheimer-Kelley while he was working on his Ph.D. at the University of Kansas (KU).

“Howard was starting his dissertation when I was starting my master’s degree,” said Bornheimer-Kelley, who earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering at KU. “As a graduate assistant, you get assigned to the projects the department has, so it was luck that Howard and I were paired together. I did research work for him, and my master’s thesis came out of that research. I really enjoyed it.”

Bornheimer-Kelley added with a smile that she and Lubliner work well together because he does most of the speaking engagements and presentations of the research, which allows her to quietly be “the typical engineer.”

Bornheimer-Kelley’s involvement in research, safety and engineering extends beyond MEC. She serves on three national research panels as well as the Transportation Research Board’s (TRB) highway safety performance committee. Locally, she helps with the publicity of the Engineers Club of Kansas City, which works to inspire students to become engineers.

“Like many of my peers, I was drawn to the problem-solving aspect of engineering,” said Bornheimer-Kelley. “As a civil engineer, I work on the things we use every day, like buildings, roads and bridges. It’s neat to understand and then make an impact on how it all works.”

Bornheimer-Kelley plans to sit for her professional traffic operations engineer certification (PTOE) to further her credentials in traffic engineering.

Outside of her engineering career, Bornheimer-Kelley enjoys boxing, fishing, crafting, and sporting events. She’s also passionate about travel, and spent a semester studying abroad, which included visiting more than 12 cities and eight countries.

“We had a structural engineering course, and the professor talked about how in Rome, while they didn’t have all the tools we have today, they understood and applied the principles of engineering,” said Bornheimer-Kelley. “Then, I was able to go to Rome and see these structures that are still there thousands of years later, and that’s pretty incredible. That’s civil engineering, and it’s the bedrock for the quality of life we enjoy today.”

SKW projhect engineer Cheryl Bornheimer with KU gear and basketball

Project Engineer Cheryl Bornheimer is a University of Kansas alumna with her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering, as well as a KU basketball fan.