AASHTO Journal, 24 July 2015
Brian Ness, director of the Idaho Transportation Department, was named president for the coming year of the Western Association of State Highway Transportation Officials during the 18-state regional organization’s annual conference July 22 in Boise.
He takes the WASHTO gavel from outgoing president Malcolm Dougherty, director of the California Department of Transportation.
“I appreciate the confidence my colleagues in the western states have shown in me,” said Ness. “I intend to continue the momentum already started by previous WASHTO presidents.”
He added that “Idaho’s economy is dependent on factors beyond our state borders, and transportation is a key driver of that economy. This unique opportunity strengthens Idaho’s ability to have a unified voice with our western state partners as transportation policy is set nationwide.”
In addition, WASHTO tapped Carlos Braceras, executive director of the Utah DOT, as the group’s new vice president.
The annual WASHTO conference, held July 19-22, provided a forum for officials from the member agencies across the West to exchange ideas, discuss new project techniques and share best practices from some states for others for others to consider implementing.
Ness has headed the ITD since 2010, working to boost public confidence and trust.
The state agency said he achievements there include changes that saved millions of dollars, and translated into an additional $180 million in new projects for the ITD’s five-year infrastructure program.
Also, “under Ness’ leadership, ITD has earned more than 190 state, regional and national awards and honors,” the agency said. Among them: In 2013, the ITD was presented the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials President’s Award for Administration for the results of its realignment efforts.”
Ness also helped explain to state lawmakers both the agency’s money-savings changes and the long-term funding gap that faced Idaho for the quality of its road and bridge network to keep pace with demand. The legislature voted in April to raise an estimated $94 million more a year through higher fuel and vehicle fees.
Lawmakers also approved a two-year provision to allow surplus general funds to be spent on transportation projects. Ness told AASHTO’s Transportation TV that “with this surplus-eliminator money, we’ll look to target projects that save lives, increase the mobility for the users of the system and enhance economic opportunities in the state of Idaho.”
The WASHTO annual meeting brought together over 500 officials representing departments of transportation from the western states plus the AASHTO national headquarters.
The regional group works with the U.S. DOT and other government agencies to contribute to national policies on transportation issues that are responsive to its members’ needs. It also advocates for legislation that supports efficient and effective transportation systems, economic competitiveness and the environmental integrity of member states.