Former AASHTO President Bill Ordway Passes Away

AASHTO Journal, 11 May 2012

Bill Ordway, a former Arizona transportation director who served as president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, died April 11 in Flagstaff at the age of 87.

Ordway was elected vice president of AASHTO for 1982-83. At the AASHTO Annual Meeting in October 1983 in Denver, Ordway was elected to serve a one-year term as the association’s president.

During his year leading the association, Ordway focused on such priorities as working with Congress on the types and amounts of federal taxes on trucks in the then-recent Surface Transportation Assistance Act and initiating within AASHTO what he characterized in the January 1984 edition of the AASHTO Quarterly as “a more orderly grouping of goals and objectives under a strategic and operational plan.”

Ordway also used that AASHTO Quarterly interview to describe the direction in which he thought AASHTO should be headed. “I see AASHTO continuing as a premium organization in the technical and research areas through its various committees,” he said. “Our trend in the last few years in taking a more pro-active role in developing constructive, in-depth policy along with professional input on major issues, is a direction in which I hope AASHTO will continue to move.”

Ordway was born in Maine and moved with his family to California in 1930. He attended the California Institute of Technology, leaving in 1942 to join the Army. During his World War II military service, Ordway was a ground school instructor in Wickenburg, Ariz., and a flight instructor for the Army Air Corps. Following the war, he studied engineering studies at Stanford University and graduated from there in 1949. It was during his time at Stanford that he married his wife Nancy.

After starting his transportation career at the Los Angeles County Bridge Division, Ordway moved with his family to Arizona in 1957. He worked as an engineer for the Arizona Highway Department in Tucson, Safford, and Flagstaff. Ordway was named deputy director in 1968 and appointed acting highway director in January 1974. After the agency was replaced with the new Arizona Department of Transportation that July, Ordway became its first director.

The creation of ADOT brought together the Highway Department and the state’s Department of Aeronautics, in addition to a new division for public transit. Ordway, in organizing and overseeing that transition as director, guided the development of policies and goals defining the new agency’s broad-based mission and multi-modal transportation priorities throughout the Grand Canyon State. He served as director under four governors and retired in 1985. Ordway’s other key accomplishments as director included working with the state legislature and business leaders to authorize a five-cent gas tax increase. During his tenure as Arizona’s transportation director, Ordway was elected president of the Western Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. He also served as chairman of the AASHTO Standing Committee on Planning.

Ordway is survived by his wife, Nancy; daughter, Sue Ordway, and her husband, Drifter Smith; and daughter, Kathy Butler, and her husband, Dave.

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