The board of directors of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials elected Carlos Braceras (above on the left), executive director of the Utah Department of Transportation, to serve as its president for 2018-2019, along with Missouri Department of Transportation Director Patrick McKenna (above on right) as its vice president. These actions occurred during the group’s annual meeting in Atlanta on September 20-24.
“I’m honored and inspired to accept the role of AASHTO president during this inflection point in transportation history,” Braceras said at AASHTO’s annual meeting following his election. “We all recognize we are at an inflection point of transportation. Technology is changing fast, the way we do our jobs is changing, climate is changing, the demands of mobility are changing, and the way we operate our transportation systems is rapidly changing.”
Braceras, who previously served as AASHTO’s vice president and secretary-treasurer, added in a statement that, as the group’s president, he plans focus on three “emphasis areas” during his term: workforce development, reauthorization of current surface transportation legislation – an effort that will focus on both funding and policy reforms – all while “communicating transportation’s vital role” in American life.
“State DOTs are facing new challenges on several fronts,” Braceras explained. “As technology develops rapidly, we as owners need to adapt proactively to operate safer, more effective transportation systems. Attracting and keeping a highly-skilled workforce is critical. It’s also imperative that we find ways to educate lawmakers and members of the general public about the irrefutable connection between long-term investment and safer, smarter, and more reliable transportation systems.”
In terms of workforce development, Braceras said the current robust economy and low unemployment rate are making it difficult for state agencies to compete with the private sector for engineers, technicians, and information technology professionals. “State DOTs must attract and keep these workers to build, maintain and manage America’s increasingly sophisticated transportation networks,” he stressed.
A native of New Jersey, Braceras began his career at UDOT in 1986 and became UDOT’s executive director in 2013; responsible for leading more than 1,600 employees while guiding the design, construction, and maintenance of Utah’s 6,000-mile road and highway system, as well as transit projects.
Braceras previously served as the agency’s deputy director and chief engineer, where he helped shape UDOT’s strategic direction and its mission of developing innovative transportation solutions to strengthen Utah’s economy and enhance quality of life.
Braceras earned a bachelor’s degree in geology from the University of Vermont and a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Utah. Prior to UDOT, he worked as a well-site geologist in the oil and gas exploration and development industry.
He also currently serves as a member of the Transportation Research Board’s Executive Committee and is the 2018 Chairman of the ITS America Board of Directors.
Newly-elected AASHTO Vice President McKenna has served as director of the Missouri DOT since December 2015 and previously served the deputy commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation.
McKenna, who is also president of the Mid America Association of Transportation Officials for 2017-2018, is a member of the executive committee for the National Academy of Science’s Transportation Research Board. He received a bachelor’s degree in finance from Bentley College and a master’s in management and finance from the University of Maryland University College.