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National Engineers Week: Meeting an engineer from a family of engineers

National Engineers Week: Meeting an engineer from a family of engineers

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National Engineers Week: Meeting an engineer from a family of engineers

National Engineers Week: Meeting an engineer from a family of engineers

By Garin Groff / ADOT Communications
February 22, 2024
A man in an orange reflective gear stands in a construction area.

During National Engineers Week, we’re asking engineers on some of ADOT’s projects to talk about their work and careers. Let us introduce you to Resident Engineer Chris Page, who directly oversees our Interstate 10 widening project in the northwest Tucson area.

What sparked your interest in engineering?

I grew up in a family of engineers. My father and brother are both mechanical engineers. So my interest took off from watching what they were doing when I was young. I originally started off in college with a plan to major in aerospace or mechanical engineering. But as I have always been more of an outdoors person and have a hard time being in one place all day, I decided to change to civil engineering in hopes of being able to do more field work. While I was in college, the widening of I-10 through downtown Tucson was going on, and I had the "pleasure" of driving through it every day to and from college. But as I watched the work taking place, I developed an interest in civil engineering and specifically construction. Little did I know that I would end up working for ADOT several years later and eventually managing similar projects.

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

When I was in college, I was looking for an internship related to engineering so that I could gain more real world experience. I ended up taking on an internship in traffic engineering at a local government. I had no specific interest in traffic engineering, but at that time I really didn't know what I wanted to do with my specific career path. After graduation I spent a short time working for a contractor, then a full-time position opened up in traffic engineering again with the local government agency. After spending a few years there, I had the opportunity to apply for a position at ADOT in traffic engineering. I knew that ADOT had more opportunities to advance and also learn different aspects of transportation engineering. After about a year, I got my Professional Engineer license, and a resident engineer position opened up. I ended up really enjoying construction management, as it really encompasses all aspects of civil engineering. From there the rest is history as they say.

What responsibilities does a Senior Resident Engineer have at ADOT?

There are so many hats a resident engineer wears. One side of the coin is management of employees, including hiring, training, culture management, etc. The other side of the coin is the construction management aspect. Essentially, the resident engineer is responsible for ensuring the safety of the public through our construction projects, ensuring that the contractors are compensated fairly for the work while also being accountable to taxpayers, and ensuring the project is built to a high standard of quality. We also spend quite a bit of time reviewing plans for upcoming projects, and incorporating any lessons learned on past projects to make things more efficient and cost effective in the future. We also participate in advocating for changes to the contracts and specifications to alleviate any issues that we have encountered in the past.

The I-10 Ina to Ruthrauff project in the Tucson area has been under construction for almost a year. What are your specific responsibilities now?

The northwest side of Tucson where this project is located is constantly expanding and growing in population. This makes for a very precarious location to try to widen a freeway and replace/build nine bridges. So I spend a good amount of time ensuring that the traffic control is properly set up and adequate, and that emergency responders are always aware of the continuously changing conditions. Traffic control through a complex area such as this is not "set it and forget it," but rather is always evolving. On a similar note, I work with the contractor to ensure that the project is kept as close to the original schedule as possible. The sooner we can get the freeway to max capacity, the better for the traveling public.

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

My advice for someone considering a career in transportation engineering, or any field really, is to find something you can be passionate about. Most careers have the same ingredients: meetings, emails, negotiations, conflict management, etc.  But if you can find a field you are passionate about, you will not grow tired of mixing those ingredients on a daily basis to solve problems. For me, I am passionate about public safety and public service. Right now I am working on a project with over 100,000 vehicles per day traveling through. That is a lot of people that we impact positively or negatively.  If I can go home at the end of the day knowing that I helped to get them home safely to their families (and hopefully a little quicker than before), then I have done my job well.

National Engineers Week: Meeting an engineer with the I-10 Bridges over the Gila River Project

National Engineers Week: Meeting an engineer with the I-10 Bridges over the Gila River Project

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National Engineers Week: Meeting an engineer with the I-10 Bridges over the Gila River Project

National Engineers Week: Meeting an engineer with the I-10 Bridges over the Gila River Project

By Luis Carlos Lopez / ADOT Communications
February 21, 2024
A man sits in a chair in front a desk with computer monitors in an office.

Where we are going, we need safe roads.

Here at ADOT, we love to celebrate National Engineers Week. It serves as a gentle reminder to highlight and recognize the importance that engineers play in building Arizona's roads and keeping everyone safe. 

It is in that spirit that we highlight one of our very own talented civil engineers, Robby Richards III.

Richards, who has been with ADOT for a decade, began his career as transportation intern in 2013. Now, he is the Resident Engineer for ADOT’s Santan Field office. He oversees a number of projects, including the I-10 Bridges over the Gila River Project, which is expected to kick off this spring. 

Reflecting on his career as an engineer, Richards noted that success is defined simply by effort.

“You get out what you put into this,” he says, sitting in his office in Chandler. “The great thing about this job and working at ADOT is that we get to problem solve and work together as a team. The things we do impact the transportation facilities that people use every day, such as bridges, roads and highways.”

Richards says he fell in love with construction at a young age. He attended Arizona State University for Construction Engineering. While enrolled at ASU, he earned a bachelor's and a master's degree and was part of ADOT’s Engineers in Training program from 2017-2019.

"Robby has come up through the ADOT system. That continuity has given him great professional insight to all the ins-and-outs of this industry,” said Dan Richmond, an ADOT Materials Coordinator.

“He is also a pragmatic leader who leads with empathy, curiosity and compassion,” Richmond added.

As he reflected on Engineer’s Week, Richards emphasized that aspiring engineers should find an exciting place to work that offers growth opportunities and access to mentorship.

“Engineering is a tight-knit community. You find people who are passionate about doing good work,” Richards said. “For those who want to be engineers, find people who want to teach you and mentor you. Now, I get a chance to help those who are coming up behind me. I make it my goal to make ADOT a place where young minds get excited about coming to work everyday.” 

National Engineers Week: Meeting a civil engineer in northern Arizona

National Engineers Week: Meeting a civil engineer in northern Arizona

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National Engineers Week: Meeting a civil engineer in northern Arizona

National Engineers Week: Meeting a civil engineer in northern Arizona

By Kelsey Mo / ADOT Communications
February 19, 2024
A man stands in a construction area where highway bridgework is occurring.

When you drive past an active highway construction zone, you may see many men and women wearing brightly-colored reflective vests, operating heavy equipment or putting up signage to direct traffic and keep motorists safe. 

But, there are people working behind the scenes to ensure that those projects run smoothly. Cordell Yazzie, a senior resident engineer at ADOT, is one of those people.

During National Engineers Week, we’re asking engineers on some of ADOT’s projects to talk about their work and careers. Let us introduce you to Yazzie, who works out of our Northcentral District in northern Arizona.

Why did you become an engineer and the type of engineer you are? 

A photo of a man.

I am a civil engineer. I grew up interested in construction work because my maternal grandpa and father worked construction ever since I could remember. I graduated in 2009 from NAU with a Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and later graduated from UA with a Masters of Science in civil engineering and engineering mechanics.

When did you join ADOT and what has been your track since then?

I joined ADOT in January 2019. I started off as a resident engineer for the North Central District and was promoted to senior resident engineer in November 2022. I’m currently working on the I-15 Virgin Bridge No. 1 replacement project in conjunction with several smaller projects. 

What do you do as an engineer and what projects have you worked on at ADOT? 

My first major project was working as the resident engineer on the Bellemont Bridges Deck Replacement. ADOT and the Federal Highway Administration wanted to replace the bridge decks for two separate bridges over Interstate 40 at Exit 185, approximately 13 miles west of Flagstaff. 

My role was a blend of administrative work and oversight responsibilities. I monitored the work progress, reviewed contractor payments, documented changes and ensured compliance with state and federal regulations. I also oversaw construction activity and ensured quality control and assurance went well by communicating constantly with the project team.

Perhaps most importantly, I looked over the contract documents — which are the plans, the specifications — and made sure I understood it and interpreted it as best as I could with the contractor and the assigned field staff. The entire project team had to stay on schedule and complete the two bridge decks within time and within or under budget.

That project really made me learn about ADOT’s processes and procedures when change does occur. I had always learned to construct what was called on the plans and to not change them unless they were reviewed thoroughly and agreed upon. But the contractor proposed a value engineering deck construction technique that basically slid each bridge deck into place as opposed to constructing a bridge deck in several elements. The construction technique reduced costs and construction time, which was a benefit to the traveling public. 

I also worked on the I-40 Fourth Street Bridge Project in 2020. With that project, and others I’ve worked on, I had to problem solve and work with all who were associated with the project, such as nearby stakeholders, to execute what the designer wanted. For example, sometimes a project plan may provide traffic control plans in general, so the nuts and bolts of figuring out how, when and where to place the traffic control devices in coordination with the correct project phasing is essential to keeping the traveling public and construction personnel safe. 

What does working at ADOT mean to you? 

Working for ADOT is great because I get to help keep the traveling public safe. I like completing roadway construction projects which assist in continuing, preserving or rehabilitating roadways and roadway features. I get to be a part of work activities that help people and essential products travel safely to their destinations throughout the country. Also, I work with many different engineering disciplines with very diverse backgrounds where continuous learning happens at all stages — from project development to construction. I love that I collaborate between project stakeholders and contractors because I constantly learn from each individual I come in contact with. 

What advice do you have for young people considering a career in transportation engineering? 

Go to school and be present daily. Listen, pay attention, understand, and believe that you can do it and most of all keep trying. Set firm goals in the engineering discipline direction you want to pursue and build on that. It’s taken me roughly 18 years to get to where I’m at, and I still use the same principles.

From the Director: Celebrating National Engineers Week

From the Director: Celebrating National Engineers Week

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From the Director: Celebrating National Engineers Week

From the Director: Celebrating National Engineers Week

By Jennifer Toth / ADOT Director
February 18, 2024
A woman stands at a podium at an outdoors press conference. Mountains are in the background.

During National Engineers Week, I’m celebrating all of my fellow engineers and the contributions they have made! As I reflect back on my career as an engineer, it’s hard to believe that I’ve worked in the transportation industry for more than 25 years.

I grew up in an environment where it was natural for me to have an interest in science. My mother was a science and math teacher; my father was a petroleum geologist. When I look back, I was never discouraged from pursuing my interests in science. It just took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do.

I like to solve problems and build solutions. That’s why I landed in the field of civil engineering, especially in transportation. 

It’s been such a rewarding career, where I have traveled to places like Mississippi to help with Hurricane Katrina relief efforts or to Austin, Texas, to work on a project when I was employed in the private sector. My career at ADOT has been varied, starting as an engineer-in-training to now serving as the ADOT director. I’ve had so many opportunities to solve problems and build solutions. That’s why I love being an engineer!

If you have family members or friends whose children are interested in science, computers and math, I invite you to have them visit our ADOTKids webpage. Children will learn about the kinds of engineers we have at ADOT. Plus, there are activities and games to spark their curiosity in all things transportation. You never know, the next ADOT director might be your child, niece or nephew.

Whether you work in the public or private sector, this special week recognizes the contributions you make to your communities…solving problems and building solutions. Thank you for all you do to improve the world around you. 

Highway shoulders aren’t the place to play in the snow

Highway shoulders aren’t the place to play in the snow

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Highway shoulders aren’t the place to play in the snow

Highway shoulders aren’t the place to play in the snow

By Kelsey Mo / ADOT Communications
February 8, 2024
People playing in the snow along a highway shoulder

It’s winter and you’re itching for a day trip. You see that the forecast calls for snow in the high country, and you get excited for a day of playing in the snow.

You’ve stuffed your trunk, checked your car, packed an emergency travel kit, planned your route and you’re ready to head out. But there’s one other thing you need to know. 

Don’t park on highway shoulders to play in the snow. Instead, go to designated winter recreation areas.

We know. The snow is pretty and enticing. And who doesn’t want to unleash their inner child and start sledding or making snow angels as soon as they see snow?

But highway shoulder areas are not a playground. Not only is parking on highway shoulders dangerous, it can also obstruct first responders trying to get to the scene of a crash or other incident. 

If you're traveling toward Flagstaff, the city has a map for snow play areas in and around the city with additional information about services you can use to access the winter recreation areas. The Arizona Office of Tourism also has information that highlights a few spots for winter sports. 

As you can see, there are several locations across the high country to get your fill of snow, but a highway shoulder is not one of them. 

And remember, if you’re planning on traveling when winter conditions are present, keep these tips in mind:

  • Be prepared to spend an extended amount of time on roadways.
  • Pack an emergency travel kit that includes a fully charged cellphone, non-perishable snacks, drinking water, warm blankets and extra clothes, a flashlight, and kitty litter (for tire traction.)
  • Download the AZ511 app (free on Android and Apple) to access the state highway camera system and view real-time traffic conditions. 
  • Stay four car-lengths behind a snowplow and never attempt to pass the plow. 

Find more winter driving tips at azdot.gov/KnowSnow.

Good news for those drawn to Apache Trail

Good news for those drawn to Apache Trail

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Good news for those drawn to Apache Trail

Good news for those drawn to Apache Trail

By Steve Elliott / ADOT Communications
January 22, 2024
Road closed sign and gate on State Route 88

 

Mile marker sign along closed portion of State Route 88At the risk of dating myself, my earliest memory of State Route 88 (Apache Trail) is sightseeing from the back seat of my parents’ 1965 Plymouth station wagon. Dad had thoughtfully elevated my brother and me with piles of newspapers so we’d have a better view (not recommended today, along with sheet metal toys), and everyone but Dad was a tad nervous driving next to the drop-offs between Roosevelt Lake and Tortilla Flat. 

But what I remember most is the winding gravel road, the magnificent view from the Superstitions to Four Peaks and the sense that I was experiencing an isolated and unspoiled part of Arizona.

I thought about that trip when a 2019 storm ravaged Apache Trail between Tortilla Flat and Roosevelt Lake, and as ADOT worked to restore access to everything but a severely damaged section between the Fish Creek Hill Overlook and Reavis Ranch Trailhead, mileposts 222-227. It came to mind again when ADOT shared the exciting news that a $4 million project will restore limited access to the portion of SR 88 that remains closed. 

The interim plan is designed to get these 5 miles to a condition that can accommodate vehicles with high clearance or four-wheel drive, as well as utility terrain vehicles. ADOT continues to seek federal funding for a $33.7 million plan to reopen this stretch to all vehicles by making the roadway more resilient to severe weather.

I had a chance to visit the closed section on foot recently. The scenery is as breathtaking as ever, though the roadway needs a lot of love. It was good to hear not long after that certain vehicles will once again be able to travel the full length of SR 88 while ADOT pursues ways to restore full access for all.

 

Podcast: Catch up on 2024 projects with ADOT’s State Engineer

Podcast: Catch up on 2024 projects with ADOT’s State Engineer

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Podcast: Catch up on 2024 projects with ADOT’s State Engineer

Podcast: Catch up on 2024 projects with ADOT’s State Engineer

By Steve Elliott / ADOT Communications
January 18, 2024
Construction occurs on a highway.

Quite a few news outlets featured our recent news releases on ADOT projects starting or continuing this year in northern, southern and central Arizona. Public information officers provided interviews on improvements ranging from a free-flowing connection between Interstate 40 and US 93 in Kingman to Loop 101 widening in Scottsdale to roundabouts that will improve traffic for people living in or traveling through Florence. 

Now our monthly podcast, On the Road With ADOT, connects you with the person overseeing all of these projects: Greg Byres, our State Engineer and Deputy Director for Transportation. I encourage you to spend a few minutes listening to him chatting with our host, Doug Nintzel, about what promises to be an exciting year for projects all around Arizona. 

You can subscribe to monthly episodes of On the Road with ADOT through Apple Podcasts and Spotify. You also can find episodes at azdot.gov/Podcast and featured in ADOT Blog posts. I’ve embedded the latest episode below so you can see why we’re so excited about this way of giving you an inside view of projects and more.

Arizona marks Crash Responder Safety Week

Arizona marks Crash Responder Safety Week

I-17 101 traffic interchange

Arizona marks Crash Responder Safety Week

Arizona marks Crash Responder Safety Week

November 15, 2023

Traffic safety stakeholders call on the public to “Protect Those Who Protect You”

Every day on Arizona’s highways and roads, the men and women who respond to vehicle crashes with the purpose of helping and assisting motorists put themselves in harm’s way.

This week, during National Crash Responder Safety Week, the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS), Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS), Maricopa Department of Transportation (MCDOT), Phoenix Fire Department, Arizona Professional Towing and Recovery Association (APTRA) and traffic safety stakeholders across Arizona and the nation are calling on the traveling public to “Protect Those Who Protect You.”

“When responders arrive at the scene of a crash and exit their vehicles to provide aid to people involved in the crash, they’re putting themselves at risk to ensure the safety of others, including other motorists,” ADOT Director Jennifer Toth said. “They deserve our respect and all of us can show that by giving them space to do their work, like moving over, slowing down and paying attention when driving near responders working in or near travel lanes.”

Not only will engaging in these actions give responders a safer place to work, they’ll keep motorists driving through the crash scene safer, too.

“While the safety of motorists is the top priority for the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the well-being of our responding DPS Troopers along the highways is also a prime concern for all of us here at the agency,” AZDPS Director Jeffrey Glover said. “When a driver is distracted, impaired or inattentive, it puts everyone at risk.”

From 2020-2022 in Arizona, at least five responders were struck and killed by vehicles. Additionally, hundreds of other collisions have resulted in injuries to DOT workers, law enforcement, firefighters, emergency medical services personnel, tow truck operators and others that respond to crashes.

In an effort to increase safety for responders, motorists will see traffic safety messages on overhead message boards that remind drivers of Arizona’s “Move Over” law.

Move Over” requires motorists to move over one lane – or slow down if it’s not safe to change lanes – when approaching any vehicle with flashing lights pulled to the side of a road or highway. This includes passenger vehicles flashing hazard lights.

“One of the most significant hazards that our incident responders face is being hit by other vehicles passing by a crash. Whether motorists are driving on the freeway or a local road, it is critical to everyone’s safety that they observe the Move Over law,” said Jesse Gutierrez, MCDOT Director and County Engineer. “Together, we can keep motorists and our responders safe.”

Moving over one lane can save a life. On average, one tow truck operator is killed every six days in the U.S., according to national crash data.

In 2022 in Arizona, there were 119,991 vehicle collisions and crash responders placed themselves at risk of being struck-by or injured or killed while rendering assistance. The Arizona Department of Health Services is responsible for certifying Arizona’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) providers and knows it’s up to the community to ensure their safety while they’re on the job. ADHS Director Jennie Cunico wants to remind drivers they play an important part.

“As an Arizona motorist, you can ’protect those who protect you’ by changing lanes or slowing down when you see flashing lights up ahead,” Cunico said. “Driving while distracted, impaired, and under other conditions that impact responsible driving risks the safety of everyone on the road including our highway incident responders.”

Drivers can also protect responders by practicing “quick clearance,” which is a law in Arizona. “Quick clearance” calls for a driver involved in a minor crash without injuries to remove their vehicle from the roadway if it is operable and can be moved safely. “Quick Clearance” improves safety for these groups of people (Spoiler: it’s everyone):

  • Drivers and passengers involved in the non-injury collision can inspect their vehicles and exchange insurance information from the shoulder of a highway instead of dangerous travel lanes as cars whizz past.
  • Professionals responding to the incident, like law enforcement and tow truck operators, can do their jobs from the safety of the shoulder, instead of travel lanes.
  • With travel lanes open, the chance for a secondary collision involving other motorists is reduced. 

Remember, if you are involved in a crash, the first action to take is to make sure you and the occupants in your vehicle are OK. Then, if your vehicle is operable, move to the emergency shoulder, median or exit the highway and call 911. Stay out of travel lanes, be alert and watch approaching traffic. Never leave the scene of a crash.

ADHS also recommends Arizona’s 21,000 Emergency Medical Care Technicians (EMCTs) complete a free 4-hour Traffic Incident Management (TIM) course or registering for the November 16 Virtual TIM class that teaches first responders how to reduce their risks of being struck-by and injured or killed while assisting at highway incidents.

 

ADOT spins haunted tale about scary Halloween traffic

ADOT spins haunted tale about scary Halloween traffic

I-17 101 traffic interchange

ADOT spins haunted tale about scary Halloween traffic

ADOT spins haunted tale about scary Halloween traffic

October 30, 2023

The ‘trick’ is allowing extra time and an early start home for ‘treats’

PHOENIX – One of the scariest things when Halloween falls on a weekday is the ghoulish drive home when so many commuters are frightened about missing out on fun along Elm Street, Mockingbird Lane or wherever they rest their bones. Drivers make wicked afternoon plans to head to our freeways at just about the same creepy time.

The Arizona Department of Transportation doesn’t want you to go batty over the Halloween drive home. We know it can feel like a slow walk through the graveyard, especially during the witching hours of 4 to 6 p.m. Bwa ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Your mummy knows best and agrees that, while your heart may be pounding, these recommendations are sharp as Freddy Krueger’s fingernails:

  • If possible, try to get an earlier start home in the afternoon to avoid the scream inducing traffic. We call that extra drive time the “It” factor.
  • Be patient and recognize there’s no magic spell that can turn the traffic frog into a prince: The trick is knowing it’s likely to take longer to get home. This is no time to lose your head.
  • Don’t let down your guard when you’re nearing those treats at home. Remember: Young versions of Barbie and Ken, Buzz Lightyear and those too-old-to-be-trick-or-treating teenagers will be crossing streets in your neighborhood and might not be paying attention.

The Halloween commute certainly can be a curse. Not to mention there’s baseball to be played. Speaking of going batty - we hope the Texas Rangers turn into pumpkins this week and learn “it’ll all be over soon.” Wouldn't that be a better reason to howl at the moon? ADOT wants you to be around to tell the cryptic tale all over again next year, when Halloween falls on a Thursday. Sleep and drive well, my pretty.

 

ADOT’s on Jeopardy!, baby

ADOT’s on Jeopardy!, baby

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ADOT’s on Jeopardy!, baby

ADOT’s on Jeopardy!, baby

By John LaBarbera / ADOT Communications
October 12, 2023
Two clues from Jeopardy. The categories are on the left and read "Road" and "Same first and last letter geography," from top to bottom. On the right is a picture of the Stack annd a map between Kingman and Winslow from top to bottom.

“Jeopardy!,” in its current iteration, has been on the air continuously since September 10, 1984. That includes close to 10,000 episodes spanning five decades.

So it came as a surprise to us over here at ADOT that our state highways were referenced not once, but TWICE in a few months.

The first instance occurred in July. The category was “Road.” The clue was: “In Phoenix, The Stack is the name for the interchange where I-17, going north-south, meets this east-west interstate. The correct response, of course, is Interstate10.

The second time came in September. The category was “Same first and last letter geography.” The clue: “Driving I-40 from Winslow to Kingman, you might want to stop in this city and maybe take in the Museum of Northern Arizona.” The answer is Flagstaff.

What ties these two events together, aside from the highway references, is that not a single contestant got either clue right. Nobody even hazarded a guess on the I-40 one.

Check out both questions on our Instagram page, conveniently embedded right below this text.

Has your job or special skill ever appeared on “Jeopardy!”?? Let us know!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Arizona DOT (@arizona_dot)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Arizona DOT (@arizona_dot)