Just a few minutes from The University of Arizona, where Dustin Murphy was studying civil engineering, Sundt Construction was transforming a connection between one of Tucson’s most iconic streets and its downtown core. Dustin joined that project as an intern during his senior year, supporting the project team as they replaced Arizona’s oldest urban grade-separated roadway-railroad intersection. The project was one of the first construction manager-at-risk projects for the City of Tucson’s Transportation Department and went on to win multiple awards.
Dustin went on to a full-time career with Sundt Construction, successfully guiding landmark projects, supporting Sundt’s expansion into new areas, and building relationships with local communities. Today, Dustin is a Senior Project Manager in the Northwest for Sundt’s Transportation Group. His deep experience and commitment to community-focused outcomes have contributed to making Sundt a trusted partner in Oregon and Washington. We sat down with him as he reflected on his 16-year journey at Sundt, why he loves Portland, Oregon, and how young engineers can find success in the construction industry.
How did you come to Sundt?
“I’m originally from Tucson, Ariz. Sixteen years ago, in my last year of pursuing a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering at The University of Arizona, I started an internship with Sundt. My first project was the 4th Avenue Underpass in Tucson, which connects downtown Tucson and Historic Fourth Avenue. We replaced this urban grade-separated roadway-railroad intersection built in 1916 with a 250-foot-long reinforced concrete underpass. When I was in college, I thought I was going to be a structural engineer, but during my internship, I realized construction is way more fun. Here, I’m able to use my engineering knowledge; I’m thinking critically and solving problems. I was offered a full-time job after my internship, and I haven’t looked back since.”
Tell me about your journey at Sundt and the projects you have worked on?
“After my first project in Tucson, I worked on a few other projects in Arizona before I moved to San Antonio to help set our office up there. In San Antonio, I worked as an estimator, but then an opportunity came up to join a project in Portland. I said yes without a second thought because being from Arizona, the idea of a cooler, greener place seemed perfect.”
“It turned out to be the right decision because my wife and I love being outdoors and the fact that we can hike during the warm dry summers and ski during the cold winters is perfect. Portland is also special because I got to work on the Sellwood Bridge project. We reconstructed the 2,000-foot-long Sellwood Bridge over the Willamette River through an innovative shoofly approach. We also shortened the schedule by a year and reduced the project’s cost by more than $5 million which is a great achievement for our team.”
What are you working on now?
“After spending about five years in Utah in both operations and preconstruction, I’m now back in Portland for the I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project. I was a part of this project’s pursuit because of my experience and relationship with the local community, and I am excited for construction to start. This project will reduce congestion and improve safety, alleviating the traffic issues that occur on a stretch of I-5 between the I-84 and I-405. We will add ramp-to-ramp auxiliary lanes allowing drivers to enter and exit the highway without having to merge through the lanes. Full shoulders will create space for disabled vehicles to move out of the way of traffic and allow emergency vehicles to pass. A cover will be added where bridges cross over the I-5 to provide space for roads and sidewalks, as well as an area for separated bike lanes and community spaces. I’m looking forward to being a part of the team that builds this project and being able to walk over the highway cover with my family, knowing I contributed to another iconic project for Portland and Sundt.”
How do you like Portland and what does the future look like for Sundt in the Northwest?
“My wife and I fell in love with the Northwest the moment we moved here. I want to retire here, which makes me even more passionate to deliver top-notch projects that will help this community flourish and prosper.”
“Portland is growing rapidly, which means there is a lot of anticipated work. It is one of the most beautiful and scenic states and has a great community. Our alternative delivery expertise, innovations in construction, and commitment to partnering with local and diverse business enterprises have made us a trusted partner. In the future, I’d like us to build on that trust and establish Sundt as the most skilled builder in the Northwest.”
What would be your advice to young construction engineers?
“First, teamwork makes the dreamwork. Teamwork is the most essential quality in anyone working in the construction industry. No matter how big or small the project is, good collaboration ensures the optimal use of resources and helps with meeting project deadlines. Young engineers must have strong communication, problem-solving, and listening skills to be great team players and flourish in the industry.”
“Second, don’t shy away from the field. It is important to know the details of the contract documents and how the work gets built. Spend as much time as you can in the field, especially at the beginning of your career. Don’t be afraid to swing a hammer or jump on a piece of equipment to help.”
“Finally, plan the work and work the plan. Everything from your project work schedules down to your own daily tasks needs planning. It is important to stay organized, set priorities, and focus on what really matters.”