The phone call was from Chicago, and Theodore Zoli, vice president and bridge technical director in the New York City office of HNTB Corp., was working on a project. When he took the call, he wondered what might be wrong. Daniel J. Socolow, director of the fellows program at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, broke the news to him: He was one of 24 recipients chosen to receive $500,000 over the next five years, no strings (or bridge cables) attached, for his work on bridge design and security reinforcement.“I almost fell off my chair,” recalls Zoli, 43.
In addition to helping design iconic structures like Boston’s cable-stayed Zakim Bridge, part of the city’s Central Artery/Tunnel project, Zoli has developed a lightweight, blast-resistant composite material that so far has been applied on six bridges, with two more applications currently under way. Citing security concerns and client confidentiality agreements, he will not disclose the nature of the material, the clients or the locations of the bridges. However, research on the first project began in October 2001.