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Q&A With Susan Martinovich, First Woman To Lead AASHTO

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Susan Martinovich, director of the Nevada Dept. of Transportation since 2007, is the new American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials president. She is the first woman to head the standards-setting group in its 96 years. NDOT has 1,700 employees, a $700-million budget and 5,400 highway miles to oversee. Nevada currently is undertaking its largest-ever project, a $246.5-million design-build widening of Interstate 15 in Las Vegas.

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ENR: What do you hope to accomplish as president?

Martinovich: AASHTO presidents had focused on everything from safety to climate, but without secure funding individual focus areas are stalled. My focus is getting multiyear, flexible transportation funding enacted as a new authorization bill or as a continuing resolution for three more years of planning, design and construction. Transportation investment is a non-partisan effort that is the economy’s backbone and benefits end users for years.

How will the downturn continue to impact AASHTO and its members?

States face challenges in knowing what types of projects can be funded and when. Transportation departments are going through staff cuts and furloughs as well as early retirement of senior employees. Despite the uncertainty, they will still take care of business. But there may be more roadway congestion and less maintenance as a result of financial constraints.

Are shrinking state budgets altering what projects move forward?

Most state transportation agencies are looking at different strategies for maintenance. Higher-volume roads will get more attention, while lesser-traveled ones will receive surface treatments to lengthen their life cycle as opposed to new pavement. There may be tension between local and state partners competing for funds, but this could result in better coordination to maximize budgets.

Does the outcome of the midterm elections bode well for AASHTO into 2011?

President Obama has always been supportive of transportation. He continues to focus on more investment in his speeches. With the elections over, there can now be [a] priority on enacting a stable, long-term transportation bill. A good infrastructure system is vital for U.S. competitiveness in the global economy.

Is AASHTO pushing for greater use of alternative procurement methods to build roads during the recession?

Yes, AASHTO and many states are moving in that direction. No single method works better than another; they are each useful, depending on the project. States are learning from each other, together with the Federal Highway Administration. The goal is delivering quality projects quickly, safely and within budget, regardless of the procurement method. It simply gives us more tools to work with.

As AASHTO s first female president, what does your tenure mean for women in the profession?

I think I am a role model. There are more women transportation-department CEOs nationwide, which is exciting since we bring a different perspective.


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