On Tuesday, the White House, in conjunction with the United States Department of Transportation, recognized 11 individuals from across the country as “White House Transportation Champions of Change.” The individuals were selected by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and the White House for their achievements and were honored this week for their exemplary leadership and innovation in transportation.
Earlier this year, the U.S. DOT issued a draft report, “Beyond Traffic,” which examines the trends and choices facing America’s transportation infrastructure over the next three decades. These include 70 million more people by 2045, a 45% increase in freight volume, demographic shifts in rural and urban areas, and a transportation system facing more frequent extreme weather events. The report predicts increased gridlock nationwide unless changes are made in the near-term. The Champions of Change event honored people who recognize these challenges in transportation and have endeavored to solve them.
“This year’s nominees are a truly gifted group of individuals who have exceptional vision and foresight when it comes to the issues we are dealing with in transportation,” said Secretary Foxx. “Their exemplary leadership is charting the course for our 21st century needs. I applaud them and I hope to see others follow their lead.”
This year’s theme, “Beyond Traffic: Innovators in Transportation for the Future,” honors a select group of individuals for exceptional service and leadership for our country’s future transportation needs. Innovators were considered in one of four categories: How We Move, How We Move Things, How We Move Better or How We Adapt.
This year’s honorees included:
Nathaniel P. Ford Sr.
Nathaniel Ford, CEO, Jacksonville Transit Authority, Jacksonville, Fla. — Ford led efforts to overhaul the Jacksonville Transit Authority (JTA) by implementing the Route Optimization Initiative, which has increased ridership, decreased travel times, and made safety upgrades to buses and stations. His efforts have transformed JTA into a more reliable, more efficient, and safer system for the people of Jacksonville.
Atorod Azizinamini, Chair, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Florida International University, Miramar, Fla. — Dr. Azizimamini invented the Folder Steel Plate Girder bridge system, which provides a cost-effective alternative for rapidly replacing or retrofitting short span bridges without impacting traffic or mobility. His rapid bridge replacement technology gives states a cost-effective solution to bridge upgrades that is faster to complete.
Habib Dagher, Director, Advanced Structures & Composites Center, University of Maine, Veazie, Maine — Dr. Dagher, a leading advocate for developing advanced structural systems, and his team at the University of Maine designed the “Bridge in a Backpack” program, which uses innovative and lightweight bridge materials. His concept is helping states build new bridges in an efficient, innovative way, allowing for faster construction and less disruption for travelers.
Peter Lagerwey, Regional Office Director, Toole Design Group, Seattle — Lagerway has spent more than 30 years managing pedestrian/bicycle planning and design projects with the City of Seattle and as a consultant to communities throughout the country. Mr. Lagerwey developed, refined and promoted the concept of a “road diet,” which reduces four-lane roadways to three, making room for bike lanes and pedestrians.
Olatunji Reed, Co-Founder, Slow Roll Chicago — Reed has worked to build a diverse, inclusive, and equitable bicycling culture throughout Chicago, which revitalizes underserved communities, improves health, and increases accessibility. He leads a coalition of cycling advocates fighting for a citywide biking infrastructure that is equitable and beneficial for all Chicagoans.
James Sayer, Research Scientist, University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, Ann Arbor, Mich. — Sayer was instrumental in developing the University of Michigan’s vision for introducing connected and automated vehicle technologies. To achieve this, Dr. Sayer designed, developed and implemented M City, a facility that will allow the automotive community to test cutting-edge technologies.
Kyle Wagenschutz, Bicycle-Pedestrian Program Manager, City of Memphis (Tenn.) — Wagenschutz helped establish Memphis as a national leader on bicycle and pedestrian programs in an urban environment. His work led to the city’s first bicycle master plan, which secured funding to construct more than 100 miles of dedicated bike lanes, which has helped make the city more accessible, livable, and walkable.