A new TRB role for Brian Ray: ‘Every new beginning starts with some other beginning’s end’

January 29, 2012

This article is one in a series about the experiences of KAI staff members at the recent Transportation Research Board annual meeting.

Assessing accomplishments from the prior year, strategizing about how goals and objectives will be met in the coming 12 months, and getting acclimated to a new leadership role – Kittelson & Associates Inc.’s Brian Ray tackled a bit of the past, present and future during the just-concluded 2012 Transportation Research Board annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

The KAI principal engineer wrapped up his two, three-year terms of service as chair of TRB’s Geometric Design Committee (AFB10), and got his feet wet as the incoming chair of its Design and Construction Group’s Design Section. When his term is over, he will have served on the committee for 15 years. Brian officially takes over as section chair April 15, but the TRB annual meeting gave him the chance to tag team his new role with the outgoing section chair.

Brian said this year’s event, which drew nearly 11,000 transportation engineers and researchers worldwide, provided a kind of ending and beginning. It also was a source of excitement, given that he will soon oversee seven committees and a task force and continue to advance the profession and learn new things.

“I feel a twinge of sadness to leave the Geometric Design Committee, but I’m excited about the future,” Brian said. “It’s been a real pleasure and privilege to have led that group for the past six years. On a practical level, being committee chair has given me special insights in being an engineer in the field and to apply my experiences to TRB in a committee environment.

“I’m really looking forward to applying my ideas, organizational skills and lessons learned to the other section committees,” he added. “And, this is the part that’s so exciting: I’m getting the chance, 26 years into my career, to continue to engage in activities I feel passionate about while learning about committee topics that are, relatively speaking, new to me.”

Brian likened the approach to meeting today’s transportation challenges to the proverbial “sharpening a pencil” to review and refine solutions. He emphasized the importance of collaborative research among various technical groups and applying solutions that consider each project’s unique context. These solutions, he said, must “balance various users’ needs in the face of increasingly limited funding.”

Looking back, Brian said he was pleased by the Geometric Design Committee’s accomplishments and noted the committee’s “best years are still ahead.” As an example accomplishment, he cited KAI-led research funded by NCHRP that advanced the state-of-the-art in freeway ramp and interchange spacing from a one-size-fits-all approach to performance-based guidelines.

“The research need was established over ten years ago and our committee developed and promoted the research needs statement,” he said. The topic was later funded and the research conducted, with the final NCHRP Report 687 published in 2011.

Looking ahead, Brian said collaboration between researchers, practitioners, agencies, stakeholders and communities will be vital in identifying transportation solutions.

We need this (TRB) forum to identify and understand transportation issues in their broadest sense, to bring together talented people and resources to conduct applied research that leads to the tools and methodologies that solve transportation challenges. I fundamentally love the principle of TRB, and I’m proud of the opportunity to stay engaged and apply my energies in a broader context.

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