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John Papponetti: 2014 Kate Gleason Young Engineer of the Year

You might say John Papponetti first worked on a bridge in the seventh grade, when he entered a balsa wood bridge construction competition.

“I just basically built the strongest balsa wood truss bridge in the class,” he said. “I won the competition.”

Over the years, Papponetti has retained that interest in bridges. As vice president and bridge project manager for LaBella Associates DPC, he specializes in bridge rehabilitation and construction.

Papponetti always has liked working with his hands. While growing up in Albion, Orleans County, he often helped maintain his grandmother’s apartment houses.

“I was always spending my weekends with my dad remodeling them or fixing them,” he said.

Papponetti went on to study civil engineering technology at Rochester Institute of Technology. Though civil engineering covers the design of roads, buildings, dams and other structures, he was drawn to designing and building bridges.

Upon graduating in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree, Papponetti joined Bergmann Associates P.C. as a structural engineer. On his first project for the firm, he helped design the Colonel Patrick O’Rorke Memorial Bridge, which spans the Genesee River in Charlotte. Though he also managed some of the firm’s other projects, Papponetti took particular pleasure in assessing the condition of some of Rochester’s bridges and making recommendations for their maintenance.

Since joining LaBella in 2004, Papponetti has focused more upon bridge rehabilitation, maintenance and construction. He now oversees 14 projects for the firm.

“Bridge preservation is definitely one of my specialties,” he said.

While some of Papponetti’s projects are as far away as Tioga County in the Southern Tier, others are closer to home. If all goes as hoped, crews could begin a $2.8 million project to rehabilitate Driving Park Bridge this year.

Colleagues have praised Papponetti for his skills and for his dedication to his field.

“He is an exceptionally talented engineer who provides commitment and energy to our profession,” said LaBella Associates vice president Brian Miller, director of the firm’s transportation division.

After years of work in preventive bridge maintenance and research on the subject, Papponetti has come to be seen as an expert in his field. He is on the subcommittee on structure maintenance of the Transportation Research Board, a division of the National Research Council, and is a member of several other professional organizations. In May, he is slated to take over as president of the Association for Bridge Construction and Design.

Though a husband, father and full-time worker, Papponetti still finds time to pursue another of his interests: firefighting. He has volunteered for fire departments around the area as an officer, firefighter or emergency medical services worker and is president of the Penfield Volunteer Fire Co. The Albion Fire Department named him EMS Officer of the Year in 1999 and Fire Fighter of the Year in 2001.

Mike Costanza is a Rochester-area freelance writer.

4/10/15 (c) 2015 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email [email protected]

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