Basar Arioğlu was restless. Attending Bosphorus University in Turkey in 1985, he was studying with the same friends he’d had in high school. He wanted a change. So, he asked his father, Ersin, who founded the firm Yapi Merkezi, to let him apply for schools in the United States.
“He said I could go—if I was able to get into the best schools,” recalls Arioğlu.
Arioğlu had one lead—a friend at MIT. But he had a problem: His university professors hardly knew him, and his grades were not outstanding because he had not been motivated. “I made a project for myself,” says Arioğlu. He met and petitioned several of his professors and pled his case. Entering MIT in 1986, he earned his B.S. and M.S. in civil engineering but faced yet another hurdle. Speaking about his first term as a teaching assistant, he says, “I didn’t get very good reviews. So, for the second term, I was determined to be the best T.A. ever.”
That same tenacity and ability to convince people to work with him is what pulled together, despite the global recession, a complex build-operate-maintain concessionaire deal, allowing the $1.25-billion Istanbul Strait Road Tube Crossing to commence construction. Designed and being built by a global consortium of teams, the 14.6-kilometer road link between Turkey’s Asian and European sides includes a 2.4-km-long, 13.2-meter-dia tunnel as deep as 106.4 m below sea level.
Seok-Jae Seo, senior vice president with SK Engineering & Construction, the South Korean partner in the concessionaire agreement, credits Arioğlu with keeping the project alive, coming up with the financing structure and debt-assumption agreement between the Turkish government, the sponsors and the lenders. “He has created thousands of job opportunities inside and outside of Turkey through the project,” says Seo.
Ceren Alac, deputy technical manager for the construction team and one of the many female engineers Arioğlu has encouraged, adds, “He believed in the project more than anyone.”