In memoriam: Celebrating the life of Alfred “Pete” Petrofsky


By Allison Halvorson

McMillen Jacobs Associates has announced that Alfred “Pete” Petrofsky, former CFO and Chairman, passed away recently at the age of 92.

Hailing from Connecticut, Pete received his B.S. in Civil Engineering from MIT in 1950. He started his tunneling career at Morrison-Knudsen (M-K), where his first projects included Boston’s City Tunnel Extension (water) and the Boston Main Drains Tunnel (sewer). While at M-K, he also worked on California Central Valley’s San Luis Dam Project, which included an earthfill dam and four power tunnels driven under difficult conditions that included shale, sandstone, and conglomerate.

Pete joined McMillen Jacobs Associates (Jacobs Associates at the time) in 1966, serving as chief financial officer and then chairman of the board from 1986 to 1995. He received the ASCE Thomas Fitch Rowland Prize in 1983 and the Golden Beaver Award for Engineering in 1998. Responsible for some of McMillen Jacobs’ most significant projects, he was recognized and respected worldwide as a tunnel, chamber, and shaft design consultant. He was the chief construction engineer for the technically complex Melbourne Underground Rail Loop Authority (MURLA) project. With three underground stations and four tunnels, it completely encircles Melbourne’s central business district.

Starting in the late 1980s and continuing through the 1990s, Pete led the McMillen Jacobs’ efforts on two large projects for the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA): Boston’s Inter-Island tunnel project and the Metrowest Water Supply tunnel. The Inter-Island tunnel project involved more than 25,000 feet (7,620 meters) of sewer tunnels, and Metrowest consisted of 18 miles (29 kilometers) of tunnel passing through six towns.

One of Pete’s additional achievements was helping what is now the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission advance the state of practice by bringing the first earth pressure balance (EPB) tunnel boring machine to the United States, changing forever the way soft ground tunnels are built in North America. By the time he retired in 2002, Pete had amassed an extensive legacy in the tunneling industry with over 50 tunneling assignments in ten countries.

McMillen Jacobs Associates is an employee-owned environmental, engineering, and construction company providing technical services to the heavy civil, underground, and water resources markets. Headquartered in San Francisco, the multidisciplinary firm has offices across the United States and in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.