Safety Career Pathways Spotlight

The Safety Career Pathways Spotlights showcase professionals in the transportation safety field to help students and prospective workers learn more about these careers. The Spotlights underscore the diversity of career paths that professionals take to become leaders in safety, share professionals’ recommendations to other safety practitioners or those considering working in the safety field, and describe strategies and initiatives implemented that have made meaningful impacts on safety outcomes and created job pride and satisfaction.

Timothy E. Barnett, State Safety Operations Engineer, Alabama Department of Transportation

Timothy E. Barnett, P.E., PTOE, is the State Safety Operations Engineer for the Alabama Department of Transportation.

Even a quick glance at Tim's background will illustrate his commitment to roadway safety. From an early age, he cultivated an interest in traffic engineering due to his involvement in a minor intersection crash at the age of twelve. Later that month, he was assigned a social studies project for school and chose "Improving Safety at an Intersection" as the topic. Tim developed an alternative design and operation for the intersection where the crash occurred, and his design led to several meetings with city and ALDOT officials. Subsequently, the city's Transportation Director offered him a job when he turned 16. At that age, Tim took the city Transportation Director up on his employment offer and began a career with the City of Huntsville, Alabama while attending college. He ultimately became their Traffic Engineer. After twenty years with Huntsville, Tim joined the Alabama Department of Transportation as a Right-of-Way Engineer and later took a position as a Highway Design Engineer. About seven years ago, the ALDOT Chief Engineer asked him to lead the newly formed Office of Safety Operations, where he works to advance roadway safety on all roadways throughout Alabama, through planning, design, construction, maintenance, and operations of the roadway system.

Tim's career focuses on traffic operations and traffic safety at the federal, state, and local levels. He holds a B.S. and M.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Tim maintains a professional engineer's license in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi and is a certified Professional Traffic Operations Engineer.
Since Tim's career started at the local level, he understands the importance of providing assistance, training, and opportunities for local roadway safety workers. With the numerous demands on local agencies, roadway safety is often not given the same priority as other critical issues, such as bridges and road maintenance. To help advance safety at the local level, Tim identified the need to implement opportunities for local agencies to learn from state and national roadway safety experts. In addition to one-on-one consulting with local agencies, Tim hosts an annual Rural Road Safety Conference and Workshop. The conference location is a serene rural state park lodge with a spectacular view along the Tennessee River. Approximately 125 participants learn and discuss topics as varied as low-cost safety measures, rural roundabout design, and safety management legal aspects. The isolated location provides relaxed and positive opportunities for continuous networking and interaction during meals and the evening hours. The event's target audience includes county and small city/town engineers; the conference agenda varies from year-to-year to keep the conference fresh. Speakers include federal professionals with expertise on safety countermeasures and state and local engineers and consultants who work in areas that effect roadway safety. The ALDOT Traffic & Safety Operations Section leads the successful Rural Road Safety Conference and Workshop, with Stuart Manson, P.E., Safety Systems Engineer from the Traffic & Safety Operations Section, heading up the agenda development. The event is coordinated with assistance from the Alabama LTAP at Auburn University.

In addition to response and resolution of highway safety concerns on the Alabama public roadway system, he is responsible for managing the implementation of the Highway Safety Manual, Highway Safety Improvement Program, and other safety activities for ALDOT. Tim is a Fellow of ITE, and a member of ASCE, ASEM, and IMSA.

Tim is a dedicated and respected professional with a reputation extending far beyond his home state. Consequently, he is often recruited to serve on AASHTO and TRB Committees, Panels, and Working Groups, speak at statewide and national conferences, and participate in peer exchanges. Among other things, he is making numerous contributions to road safety workforce development in a field where formal multidisciplinary, multimodal road safety training and education are nonexistent at present.

We asked Tim if he could share one sentiment with the safety community, what would that sentiment be? "In most states the majority of severe crashes occur on rural roads. These crashes have common typologies where simple safety countermeasures applications can effectively and efficiently reduce crash occurrence and severity. Generally, persons with local level road safety responsibility are deeply committed to community safety, and it is only a lack of knowledge that prevents safety countermeasure implementation. As Benjamin Franklin once said, "An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest." To that end, I have always placed a high priority on knowledge advancement and transfer amongst my colleagues and friends."

Byron Bluehorse, Assistant Professor, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Tribal Management Program

Byron Bluehorse is an Assistant Professor with the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Tribal Management Program.

Byron is also the manager of the Alaska Tribal Technical Assistance Program, whose mission is to help tribes become aware of the significance of tribal transportation issues through education and training, to help tribes define transportation systems that enhance community and economic development, promote desired land use, protect cultural resources, to orient and coordinate federal, state and local governments, and maximize efficient use of indigenous transportation resources.

Byron Bluehorse is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. He holds a bachelor’s degree in University Studies and a master’s degree in Community and Regional Planning from the University of New Mexico. From 1993-1997, Byron served in the U.S. Marine Corps, an experience which led him to Japan, Panama, and the Philippines. After receiving an honorable discharge, Byron returned home to New Mexico to pursue a higher education. While in graduate school, Byron served as an AmeriCorps volunteer where he helped to establish the University of New Mexico Tribal Service Corps. Byron's past employment experience includes the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, U.S. Forest Service, Resource Center for Raza Planning and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). After moving to Alaska in 2005, Byron began working as a Contracts and Grants Specialist for the BIA. In this capacity, he provided technical assistance in the area of P.L. 93-638 Indian Self-Determination contracting to tribal entities in the Interior and Arctic Slope regions. Byron currently lives in Fairbanks and is a member of the American Planning Association.

Becoming involved in safety

While working for the Alaska Tribal Technical Assistance Program Center (AKTTAP), Byron met many Tribal planners who were passionate about shedding light on the need for more safety opportunities. Those mentors opened his eyes to the safety arena. AKTTAP eventually hosted a Regional Safety Summit, which many Tribal Governments participated in, to raise awareness of available opportunities and technology to improve and develop new programs. They also worked with several Tribes to develop safety plans. AKTTAP also held a peer-to-peer safety workshop session where they utilized Tribal input to create a safety website (tribalsafety.org) where Tribes can access numerous resources.

Byron shared an example of a safety activity that he has been involved with that he feels could be a best practice for others. He has participated in several Road Safety Audit (RSA) teams, one of which led to a report in which he served as lead author. Byron shared that being a part of these teams has opened my eyes to the history, process, and benefits of an RSA. He strongly encourages anyone interested in RSAs to take RSA training and participate in an RSA audit. Such opportunities provided him with a better understanding of the built environment and the movement of people. He also developed a greater appreciation for low-cost options such as roadway reconfiguration, also known as Road Diets.

One recommendation that Byron would like to share with the safety community is to listen to your clients and the community, as they have the local knowledge of the roads that they drive daily and can add valuable insight to safety concerns. Quantitative data can help, but gathering local knowledge and stories increases greater success to find and implementing counter measures that could be used.

Marie B. Walsh, Ph.D., Director of the Louisiana Transportation Research Center

Marie B. Walsh is the Director of the Louisiana Local Technical Assistance Program at the Louisiana Transportation Research Center. Marie has been a member of the National Center for Rural Road Safety Stakeholder Team since the Center’s inception and is a long time local road safety advocate.

Marie began her professional career in the environmental engineering field, and was involved with the environmental auditing and systems management field nationally before moving to the Louisiana Department of Environment Quality (LDEQ.) At the LDEQ she managed the Technical Services Program of the Air Quality Division. Performing a wide variety of tasks ranging from intensive emissions data collection and analysis, emissions inventory development, tracking compliance performance measures, outreach and training to industrial and governmental organizations, and coordination with other parts of the LDEQ and with the Environmental Protection Agency. Marie recalls maintaining the technical library for the department and began working on electronic information resources before the internet was popularized.

Looking back, Marie believes that now we would call the work of the Technical Services Program a "multi-disciplinary," data driven approach to reducing toxic air emissions. We worked to improve and expand federal, state and local data collection to ensure that critical data elements were available to allow better problem identification and mitigation strategies. Extensive outreach and education of industry and community groups was necessary. Providing technical, data-laden information in a usable form to diverse user groups was a constant challenge. The parallels between that job and today's safety initiatives have become more apparent over time. But to Marie, safety has remained more challenging, and certainly more interesting.

The challenges involved with improving the processes that supported the functions of the Technical Services Program led Marie back to LSU where she began a PhD program in Human Resource Education and Work Force Development; structuring her coursework so she could learn about business process re-engineering and improvement, performance management, organizational development, leadership training, and workforce development.

Marie's link to the LTAP program evolved through her work with the East Baton Rouge (EBR) City Parish in the Quality and Employee Development Department. She was familiar with the LTAP Program through her work with the EBR Public Works, where they had often hosted LTAP classes in their training facility. Marie was fortunate enough to hear about the Director position and was hired at LTAP 2004.

Marie shares how she become involved in safety as it relates to the transportation field.

"I attended my first TRB meeting in January of 2004, five days after I started with LTAP. I went to every session that remotely related to local roads, low volume roads, safety and workforce development. The safety ones were the most interesting and compelling. I returned to Baton Rouge with questions as to why Louisiana did not have a local roads safety program and closer to home, why our Louisiana LTAP didn't teach road safety classes or offer safety technical assistance. When hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated Louisiana in 2005 the LA DOTD was working on the first comprehensive Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP). LTAP represented the locals (who were swamped with disaster recovery efforts) at the SHSP meetings. When the Local Road Safety Program was proposed for inclusion in the SHSP a leader was needed. Seeing the opportunity, I volunteered and committed

John P. Miller, P.E., Traffic Liaison Engineer in Highway Safety and Traffic for the Missouri Department of Transportation

Career Pathways Spotlight

John P. Miller, P.E. is the Traffic Liaison Engineer in Highway Safety and Traffic for the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) and is their former Traffic Safety Engineer.

The National Center for Rural Road Safety interviewed John recently to learn more about what has motivated him to be involved in transportation safety and to share his thoughts with you.

Safety Center: John, please give some of your personal history, a little biography if you will:

JM: I want to begin by indicating I am honored to have been selected to serve as a Safety Stakeholder Group member for the National Center for Rural Road Safety. Rural road safety is very important to me and is a critical part of our effort to drive down roadway fatalities. Growing up on a farm in rural Missouri allowed me to understand dedication, devotion, commitment, and community as well as the importance of a vast transportation system.

This transportation system allowed cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, sisters, brothers, children, my spouse, and my parents to attend a very special occasion – my grandmother celebrated her 106th birthday. My family has always been very close and much of this is directly tied to our rural upbringing. This transportation system has also involved a fatality of a cousin on a rural Missouri road. It also has changed the life of another due to a drinking involved crash. Rural roadway safety is very important, and everyone plays a role.

Safety Center: Could you tell us a little about how you become involved in safety as it relates to the transportation field?

JM: While I have been directly linked to roadway safety due to personal situations, I have to say it was mostly due to my work in the Traffic Division of MoDOT that led me down this career path. My first experience in safety was related to the reviewing of traffic crash reports and determining corrective action. I found the work to be very interesting and even rewarding knowing you were making a positive difference with safety projects you are implementing.

Eventually I was given an opportunity to manage the traffic and safety areas of our Transportation Management Systems (TMS). TMS is a data system that ties our crash, roadway, bridge, roadsides, and other data elements by a common referencing system. This system has allowed us to make decisions based on what the data is telling us, and it has allowed me to have a better understanding of safety. I believe it is a vital element in any safety professional’s career to have a data background.

Prior to my current position, I served as the state’s Traffic Safety Engineer. This leadership position involved a great deal of public involvement and speaking opportunities at both the state and national level. It involved moving numerous safety initiatives forward using systemic safety analysis to determine opportunity locations for implementation. It involved being a team player while serving on numerous teams including as “Data Driven Safety Analysis” member for FHWA, Missouri LTAP Advisory Committee, AASHTO Subcommittee on Safety Management, and various NCHRP research initiatives. The position also involved implementation of the Highway Safety Manual (HSM) within MoDOT.

My current position involves management of the safety section (includes the Traffic Safety Engineer position) as well as signing, marking, access and other various areas in the office of Highway Safety and Traffic. I am also involved with behavioral safety issues working closely with the Highway Safety Director – changing traffic safety culture is vital to bringing down roadway fatalities.

I also want to add that I am very fortunate to have a safety mentor to help me stay the path – Dr. Tom Welch (former State Safety Engineer from Iowa DOT). Tom has always been very helpful and has provided positive guidance over the years, especially when I first began my role as the Traffic Safety Engineer. He always said the State Safety Engineer position at the DOT is the best position to have and he is correct – very rewarding to put in place so many safety initiatives that make a difference.

Safety Center: John, please share an example of a safety activity that you have been involved with, or one that you feel could be a best practice for others?

JM: I want to continue to promote systemic safety analysis and project implementation. I really believe that much of the success we have had in our state relates to our analysis methods and ultimately treatment of “like” situations and locations. For instance, much of our traffic crash issues relate to roadway departure. We used our data to identify a system of roads that share characteristics and treat them all with a safety countermeasure. The easiest example of how we used systemic safety analysis relates to cross-median type crashes and installation of median guard cable. We evaluated our divided roadways and learned early on that spot treatments would not eliminate this devastating crash type. If the situation was similar just down the road, then why not treat it as well. That method has since translated into other safety initiatives and thousands of miles of safety countermeasures installed.

I also want to share a data area best practice. Since 2002, the Missouri State Highway Patrol has “shared” the same crash data system with MoDOT. We are very fortunate that we were able to make this work as it has eliminated any duplication of effort. It has also allowed us to improve our data quality over time since we work closely on data issues. I highly recommend other states emulate this successful effort.

Safety Center: If you could share one sentiment with, or make one comment to, the safety community, what would it be?

JM: I was reminded recently of a quote I gave at a conference once to describe our roadway visibility improvements in Missouri. I said, “we want our roads to look like runways” to motorists. In other words, we want to provide visibility features like bright stripes and reflective tabs to assist drivers in all driving conditions, especially when it may be dark and rainy where is becomes very difficult for drivers. These are some of the lowest cost safety countermeasures we can do, but they may make the difference.

Ultimately, it will take everyone for us to get to zero fatalities. You cannot do this alone, so reach out to your peers and share your ideas and countermeasures that are working. And finally, live safety by changing your own culture. If you speed, slow down. If you talk on the phone, stop (even using Bluetooth). If you aren’t using the seatbelt, well I’ll just stop there. I hope this is a good read.