Illinois Transportation and Highway Engineering Conference Celebrates a Century

When the first Transportation and Highway Engineering (THE) conference was held at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1914, there really wasn’t much of a highway system in Illinois. Communities often would donate their horses and automobiles for the day to build quarter-mile stretches of pavement with the goal of “pulling Illinois out of the mud.” Things have changed a lot with THE as well. Early on in the conference’s history, attendees were invited to “smoking parties” to meet up with old friends and make new ones. To celebrate the conference’s 100th anniversary, conference organizers produced a fascinating video reflecting on its history and on transportation studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

One thing that has remained consistent over the past century is that the State of Illinois and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have been committed to a high-quality and innovative transportation system. The 100th Transportation and Highway Engineering Conference, held March 25 and 26, looked back at the progress that has been made and forward to what the future holds for transportation in Illinois. More than 50 speakers gave presentations in both general and break-out sessions that focused on bridges and structures, operations and safety, local roads and streets, and design and construction.

At THE, engineers from each Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) district were honored for their excellence in service, and the Illinois Association of County Engineers and Illinois Division of the Federal Highway Administration recognized outstanding engineers throughout the state. Additionally, ICT recognized Geno Koehler from IDOT’s Bureau of Operations as the Technical Review Panel (TRP) Most Valuable Player. Koehler has served as a TRP chair for two ICT projects and has received praise for his passion for highway safety. Because of his efforts as part of ICT project R27-064, “Development of a Highway Incident Management  Operational and Training Guide” and R27-118, Phase 2 of the project,  more than 1,700 workers (including 600 trainers) in Illinois have been trained to be safer and more effective on Illinois roadways.

Additionally, two ICT projects were recognized with the High Impact Project award. Project R27-089, “Highway Safety Manual Lead State Peer-to Peer-Workshop,” was led by TRP Chair Priscilla Tobias, Bureau Chief for IDOT’s Bureau of Safety Engineering. The principal investigator was Yanfeng Ouyang of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Project R27-090, “Investigation of Contributing Factors Regarding Wrong-Way Driving on Freeways,” was also recognized. The TRP chairs for that project are Tobias and Richard Coakley of CH2M Hill. Principal investigators are Hugo Zhou of Auburn University and Ryan Fries and Brent Vaughn of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

As information about the 2015 conference becomes available, it will be posted on the ICT and THE Conference websites.





On Tuesday evening, conference guests enjoyed a reception with live music by Emily Otnes & the Weekdays. Conference director Bill Buttlar made a valiant effort to resurrect the tradition of the Engineer Sing-Along from the 1930s.



Geno Koehler of IDOT’s Bureau of Operations was recognized with ICT’s Technical Review Panel Most Valuable Player Award. Accepting on his behalf was Bruce Hucker (left). ICT director Imad Al-Qadi (right) presented the award.



ICT project R27-089, “Highway Safety Manual Lead State Peer-to-Peer Workshop,” was named as one of this year’s High Impact Projects. Pictured above are, from left, Tim Sheehan (accepting the award for technical review panel chair Priscilla Tobias), Al-Qadi, and principal investigator Yanfeng Ouyang.


ICT project R27-090, “Investigation of Contributing Factors Regarding Wrong-Way Driving on Freeways,” was also recognized as one of this year’s High Impact Projects. Pictured above (from left) are Sheehan (accepting for technical review panel co-chair Tobias), principal investigators Ryan Fries and Brent Vaughn (who also accepted the award for co-principal investigator Hugo Zhou) Al-Qadi, and Jiguang Zhao (accepting on behalf of technical review panel co-chair Rich Coakley).