Above, outgoing and incoming ARTBA chairmen, Bob Alger, left, and Steve McGough at the Monday night banquet.

WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 25

The ARTBA Board of Directors concluded the convention. Updates are now closed. Thanks for reading.

***

Russell McMurry

Russell McMurry, commissioner for the Georgia Department of Transportation, is gave a breakfast address. He said the state is expected to have the nation’s fifth largest population by 2040. Georgia’s economic reach is assisted by the 15 interstates run through the state.

McMurry reviewed the state’s innovative transportation funding mechanisms, including switching to an indexed excise tax on gas from a sales tax; a $5 per hotel room night fee; electrical vehicle fees; and heavy vehicle fees.

In addition, the state allows regional referendums on whether to assess a sales tax for transportation. If approved, 75 percent of the money is used to fund approved county projects, and 25 percent to urban areas in the regions.

TUESDAY, SEPT. 24

Artificial Intelligence, Automation & Displaced Workers in the Coming Machine Age

Ross Smith

Ross Smith, director of Skype for Good at Microsoft, delivered a luncheon address on how technology has displaced workers in the past, and is continues to do so today and in the future–up to 800 million globally by 2030.

Machine learning and output is doubling every 18 months, but humans are not keeping pace, Smith said. “The next five to 10 years is going to be more disruptive than people realize.”

Smith gave a brief history of how innovation has displaced workers from when aqueducts replaced water carriers, through steam and electric power, and the latest advances in robotics and artificial intelligence.

“Machines have always changed the way people work,” he said. “Will this time be any different, or is this the existential threat that many people fear?”

Read Smith’s article on page 22 of the latest issue of ARTBA’s Transportation Builder magazine.

***

 

Robots and AI Panel: How Transportation Design & Construction Firms Are Preparing for a New Era.

Robots & AI panel, left to right: Andy E. Kaiyala, vice president of engineering at The Lane Construction Corp.; Mitch Tobias, worldwide market manager, construction digital & technology at Caterpillar Inc.; Jim Peterson, design build director & senior vice president at HNTB Corporation; and Carson T. Carney, vice president of sales & technology integration at TyBot, LLC. Standing at right is moderator Tom Webb, vice president of strategic initiatives and customer relations at HCSS.

***

Future of Work

Bryan Nicol

Bryan Nicol, managing director of infrastructure and capital projects at Deloitte, delivered a talk: The Future of Work – How Transportation Construction Jobs Will Change…Whether You Like it or Not.

“It is essentially a revolution that is happening,” Nicol said. “The scale, complexity, and speed are enormous. It is unlike anything we’ve ever seen.”

He pointed to three numbers from a recent Deloitte survey of C-suite leaders:

  • 81 percent expect to increase artificial intelligence in their organizations over the next three years;
  • 66 percent said they will need to re-skill their workforce due to automation; and
  • 90 percent are using alternative talent (gig workers, independent contractors) within their organization today.

Employees will no longer spend their entire career in one organization, which has been common at state transportation departments. “That is not happening anymore,” Nicol said. Jobs must be structured so workers leave a legacy for the next person to find, improve, and carry forward.

Firms will have full-time employees, but increasingly deploy contractors and gig workers, partnerships and joint ventures.

“Be cautious, not fearful,” Nicols said. “Fearful means you freeze. Or you can move forward, address where you want to be in the future to be a better organization. Successful organizations will say: ‘We are changing our future before it changes us.’ “

***

The second full day of the convention is underway with a joint meeting of the Contractors, Planning & Design, and Transportation Officials divisions. ARTBA members and staff are discussing challenges and opportunities in the next surface transportation reauthorization bill, workforce recruitment and retention, and other issues.

MONDAY, SEPT. 23

First-day sessions have concluded. The Chairman’s Banquet is Monday evening. Live updates will resume Tuesday morning.

Mentoring the Next Generation

The panel included Brian Ness, director at the Idaho Transportation Department; Tom O’Grady, corporate president at HNTB; and Tina Millán, senior vice president and U.S. national market leader—aviation, WSP USA. Industry Leader Development Council Chairman Ozzy Bravo of AECOM moderated the panel. “When we send someone into the room who doesn’t look like our client, we don’t connect, we don’t get the business,” Millán said.

***

Industry Experts Explain Why Safety Certification Matters

Safety experts discuss the Safety Certification for Transportation Project Professionals (SCTPP) program, from left to right: Chris LaRocca, HSE Specialist at Allan Myers; Ethan Brown, project manager at Wright Brothers Construction; J.R. Glascock, corporate safety manager at The Lane Construction Corporation; and Bryan Stone, Safety Director, Superior Construction Company Southeast. Standing at right, Brad Sant, ARTBA’s senior vice president of Safety & Education.

***

2019-20 Officers Named, Washington Updates Given

The association announced the election of its 2019-2020 officers during an annual business meeting. Legislative, regulatory, and market updates are now underway.

ARTBA General Counsel Rich Juliano said more than 50 national associations have now signed a coalition letter supporting the Senate’s America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act (ATIA) highway reauthorization bill. (Read ARTBA’s analysis.) Twelve states have sent state coalition letters to their senators supporting ATIA.

Nick Goldstein, ARTBA’s vice president of regulatory and legal issues, outlined the many reforms made by the Trump administration. See the Regulatory Roundup.   

ARTBA Foundation Awards Luncheon

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ARTBA’s 2019 Division & Women Leaders Awards Winners Announced

  • Two senior transportation industry executives, two Ph.D. candidates, and a global engineering professional services firm are the recipients of the ARTBA Foundation’s “Women Leaders in Transportation Design & Construction” awards. READ MORE
  • Transportation design and construction industry leaders were recognized with division awards. READ MORE

***

Amber MacArthur, top, president of Ambermac Media and host of the award-winning “The AI Effect” Podcast, gave a keynote address: “How Artificial Intelligence Can Help Your Business & Drive Results.”

Next year will be “a tipping point” for technology, as the number of devices connected to the internet reaches 26 billion. “Change never happened so fast in the past, and it will never happen so slow in the future,” she said.

Coping with these changes requires “relentless adaption.”

MacArthur outlined several major trends: voice technology; vehicle mobility; chatbot technology; computer vision & robots; synthetic content, such as “deep fake videos” ; and AI’s impact on the future of work.

Sure urged the audience to be the first to experiment; push boundaries and stay relevant; stay open to “crazy idea”; do well & do good”; and act now to upskill, to embrace a “learn it all” culture, and an ethos of constant learning.

***

ARTBA 101 Session

New directors, new members, and first-time convention attendees listen to a presentation about how ARTBA serves its members and the transportation design and construction industry.

***

A panel of ARTBA’s Women Leader Awards program winners shared their strategies for implementing successful programs and activities to promote women leaders within their organizations.

Lisa Robert, executive vice president at RS&H and chair of ARTBA’s Women Leaders Council, standing at right, moderated. Panelists were, left to right: Shannon Miller, vice president of human resources at Jacobs; Melissa Tooley, director of external initiatives at Texas Transportation Institute; Agnieszka Lapinski, department manager, Gannett Fleming; and Jihane Fazio, associate vice president, AECOM

“What is important to diversity issues is important to everyone. It’s not just diversity it’s a work climate issue,” Tooley said.

“Diversity issues are all inclusive starting with recruitment efforts, promotions, making sure job descriptions aren’t gender-biased and more” said Miller.

SUNDAY, SEPT. 22

ARTBA’s 2019 National Convention has opened in Savannah, Ga. First day activities included meetings of past chairmen, the Council of State Executives, and the Bridge Policy & Promotion Council.

Opening reception.

The Materials & Services Division also hosted an opening reception, above, which was sponsored by Martin Marietta Materials.

ARTBA Chief Economist Dr. Alison Premo Black and Steve Gaston, assistant state bridge engineer at the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), addressed the Bridge Policy & Promotion Council.

Black said there is softening in the bridge market, with the real value of contracts put in place dropping to $11.3 billion the first eight months of this year, compared to $14.2 billion last year during the same period. Some of the decline is due to the completion of several major projects, Black said, and because the 2015 FAST Act surface transportation law is nearing its December 2020 expiration. Passage of a reauthorization bill before then would buoy the market, she said.

“The dynamics in the long run are still positive,” Black added.

Gaston outlined GDOT’s $45 million annual bridge maintenance program, and the agency’s $100-$175 million of annual replacement projects. The state has built 122 bridges since 2015, bringing its total inventory to 14,799.