National Engineers Week: Meeting a Central District engineer working on a Loop 101 improvement project

National Engineers Week: Meeting a Central District engineer working on a Loop 101 improvement project

By Doug Nintzel / ADOT Communications
February 20, 2024
A woman in an orange reflective safety vest stands in a construction area with heavy equipment behind her.

During National Engineers Week, Feb. 18-24, we’re asking engineers on some of ADOT’s projects to share with us stories about their work and careers. Today, meet Sara Howard from the Loop 101 Princess Drive to Shea Boulevard Improvement Project in Scottsdale. Howard is a Senior Resident Engineer in heavy civil construction and transportation.

What sparked your interest in engineering?

It really dates back to when I was a kid. I was interested in how things are built. Basically how you take parts and put something together. I took part in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) events in elementary and middle school, which furthered my interest. At ASU, I wound up pursuing and earning a degree in Construction Management.

What steps have you taken as your career at ADOT has advanced?

I started at ADOT in 2011 as a Transportation Engineering Specialist with the Contracts and Specifications Group, which involved reviewing and compiling contract documents. That work also involved reviewing project bidding and constructability processes. I then became the Alternative Delivery Transportation Engineering Specialist in ADOT’s Construction Group, which focused on less traditional ways for the agency to advance projects. That includes the Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) delivery method. That process involves ADOT hiring a construction manager, or private company, to oversee the project from design to construction close-out and deliver it with a guaranteed maximum price. One of my accomplishments was developing guidance for ADOT’s alternative delivery contracting, including CMAR. I’m sure that sounds complicated, but advancing flexibility within ADOT’s project processes has been important in helping the agency manage limited transportation funding. A key step in my career happened in 2017 when I obtained my Professional Engineer license. I’ve been a resident engineer in development as well as construction, working on a variety of projects. I advanced to become a Senior Resident Engineer in 2021, administering several projects and serving on several statewide committees and groups.

What responsibilities does a Senior Resident Engineer have at ADOT?

There’s a lot to do. Supervise, manage and mentor personnel in my unit. Administer construction projects for compliance with state, federal and local ordinances and ensure conformity with contract documents. There’s the management of project budgets and schedules and interaction with local stakeholders, including cities and utility companies. I have also mentored and trained new and current resident engineers in our Central Construction District.

The Loop 101 Improvement Project in north Scottsdale started in early January. What are your specific responsibilities now?

I do it all (laughs). Just kidding. We’re adding single lanes in each direction of Loop 101 between Shea Boulevard and Princess Drive/Pima Road. I work with our contractor to ensure contract compliance. There’s a lot that goes into coordinating our work with stakeholders, including the city of Scottsdale, especially with improvements that will be made at the Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard interchange. We need to plan ahead on major milestones, stay up to date in interpreting plans and specifications and offer support for my staff in the field. Communication is such an important factor in delivering a successful project over the next two years.

What does working for ADOT mean to you and what advice would you have for young people considering a career in transportation engineering?

It’s rewarding to work on construction projects from cradle to grave while knowing our ADOT team is committed to making Arizona’s transportation system better, safer and more efficient through the use of innovative concepts. My advice for young people is to look for a mentor to provide advice and guidance. Yes, you need to be ready to work. But in this business, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions and speak up when it comes to creativity and innovation.

For more information about ADOT’s Loop 101 Improvement Project between Shea Boulevard and Princess Drive/Pima Road, please visit  


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