As an Indiana transportation engineer for almost two decades, I learned that when it comes to highways, the traveling public cares about three things: the quality of their ride, their personal safety, and how swiftly they can get from point A to point B.
Government officials charged with highways also care about those three things, but they also care about budget. It is their job to make improvements within budget and on schedule. And it is my job to help them do it. I love that part of my job.
My favorite challenge may not be the most romantic part of a highway design engineer’s job – it’s more like detective work. Because you can’t build it if you can’t pay for it, I must seek out clues – data – to help reach good conclusions. Through a process called asset management, I gather and analyze roadway inventory data to help highway officials take a practical approach to decision-making.
For example, in Indiana I served as city engineer for a town of about 20,000 residents. The city’s annual budget to maintain 100 miles of local streets had stagnated at $150,000. That was woefully inadequate, resulting in some roads becoming impassable. By leveraging federal and state grants, we grew the budget to $2.5 million annually. We also depoliticized decision-making and, using solid data from our detective work, we instead took a more fair and strategic approach to improving city streets.
Now at Qk4, I am an area team leader for the Bridging Kentucky program, which is developing and bidding 1,000 state bridges over the next three years. Bridge types range in complexity from 20-foot span wood deck county bridges to large bridges that span railroads. It is my job for to make sure KYTC’s project accomplishes its charter within budget. It’s a role perfectly suited to my skills and experience, and I find it very fulfilling.