I spoke with Jay in Sacramento on May 2rd. He is a structural engineer who was in Sacramento for a bridge engineering convention. Our 76 minute chat [27 MB mp3] was about his personal opinions on this industry, which has a lot of parallels to the water business.
We talked about big projects, regulations, other people's money, environmental issues, high speed rail (FAIL!), public transit vs cars, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, toll roads, privatization of roads, bureaucratic incentives, etc.
We also discussed a heavy debate in transportation -- the relative cost and benefit of outside consultants vs in-house engineering staff. Two things stand out. First, consultants can be cheaper when the total workload requires less than full time staff. Second, a mix of in-house/consultant engineers can result in lower costs compared to an all-consultant or all-in-house formulation where competition between in/out is non-existent. Read these pdfs for more: in defense of contractors, the case for outsourcing, and it's not obvious that one way is better...
Bottom Line: Jay is a thoughtful and interesting guy. Listen!