M. Faysal Thameen, a retired structural engineer who headed the city's role in the 1980s construction of the Fort McHenry Tunnel, died of cancer April 9 at his home in Millbury, Mass. The former Parkville resident was 75.
"He was a quiet force in the Interstate Division," said former Maryland Transportation Secretary William K. Hellmann, who was recently appointed to the state's Transportation Authority board. "He was soft-spoken, knew his business and was the key coordinator with the designers of the Fort McHenry Tunnel, which was then the largest single contract in the history of the Interstate Highway System."
Born in Tripoli in Lebanon, he was the son of a politician who was also a religious figure. His mother was a homemaker. He came to the U.S. and earned a civil engineering degree at the University of Denver. As a student, he worked at a Walgreen's lunch counter to help pay his expenses. There he met his future wife, the former Eva Green.
"He saw her sitting there and gave her extra cheese on her grilled cheese sandwich," said his son, Omar Thameen of Media, Pa. "He also gave her a more generous milkshake, then asked to walk her home one day."
The couple married in Lebanon in 1963 and later moved to New Jersey, where he worked on bridge engineering. In 1973, he joined Baltimore's Department of Public Works and rose within it to become deputy chief of the Interstate Division in 1980 and chief of the Interstate Division in 1992. In 1994, he was named city transportation coordinator. He later the joined the Maryland Transit Authority and retired in 2000.
In 1980, Mr. Thameen, then city engineer in charge of the Fort McHenry Tunnel's design, worked with consultants to complete a major link in the Interstate 95 highway system. In news stories, he explained the underwater tubes curved in two directions — once to clear the perimeter of Fort McHenry and again, downward, to clear the shipping channel.
"Next to the Baltimore subway, the tunnel is the most expensive construction project in Maryland history and the largest single-bid job in the history of the federal interstate system," said a 1980 Evening Sun article.
The tunnel opened in late 1985, under its budget and ahead of schedule. Mr. Thameen then took on another assignment, a $200 million repair of the Jones Falls Expressway, which involved the rehabilitation of 59 bridges while the road served an average of 95,000 vehicles a day.
During his 27-year career in Baltimore, he also headed major repairs to the Hanover Street Bridge and the Howard Street Transit Mall and building new access roads to Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
"My father was a tough negotiator on contracts," his son said. "He was fair."
He also oversaw the reconstruction of Boston Street along the waterfront in Canton in the mid-1990s and a similar reworking of Key Highway in Federal Hill.
He received numerous honors, including an Integrity and Service Award from the citizens of Roland Park and Presidential Design Achievement Award for the Fort McHenry Tunnel.
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"No matter what his schedule was, he came to my soccer, basketball and baseball games," said his son, Omar. "In his free time, he might go fishing at Loch Raven."
In 2007 he moved to Millbury, Mass., where his wife had an old family home that they repaired.
He was a member of the Worcester Islamic Center.
In retirement, Mr. Thameen enjoyed cooking and baking bread. He also scrutinized newspapers and advertising circulars for coupons to reduce the price of his grocery shopping. He assisted his neighbors on their home construction projects and was a volunteer at the Millbury Senior Center.
Services were private.
In addition to his wife of 50 years and his son, survivors include a granddaughter.