Oregon City’s Nancy Kraushaar honored by APWA for career rich in transportation achievements

May 03, 2012

Nancy Kraushaar, PE was recently honored by the American Public Works Association (APWA) as the recipient of the Professional Manager of the Year in Transportation award for her career achievements to date. The story of her career began in high school when Nancy, who currently serves as Oregon City’s public works director, discovered her knack for math. It was not until she was in college that she considered becoming an engineer, partly because it was an unexpected move for a woman in the 1970s.

I was a freshman at the University of Colorado and majoring in arts and sciences. After waitressing the previous summer with a woman who was studying architectural engineering, I was struck for the first time that women could do that. This was a real person who became a role model doing something that would be an exciting and challenging career path for me too.

Nancy graduated with a degree in civil engineering in 1976 and began her career in geotechnical and environmental engineering. After about 15 years, she wanted to try something different. She considered teaching high school math, but could not manage going back to school to earn a teaching certificate. Instead, Nancy began to explore another aspect of the engineering field.

Once I got into the municipal engineering and public works, I just loved it. It’s practical and it provides essential public services.

Nancy and her husband moved to Oregon in 1991, and in 1996 she began working as a capital projects manager in Oregon City. She says the most challenging part of the job was learning the underground utilities aspect. Oregon City named Nancy as its director of public works and city engineer in 2000. Among other projects, she oversaw the renovation of the 7th Street Corridor and a stretch of Main Street through downtown, as well as multimodal enhancements on major arterials like McLoughlin Boulevard, Beavercreek Road, and Molalla Avenue.

Most recently, Nancy has been supervising the Jughandle Project, which was designed to reduce congestion and improve safety along state Highway 213, one of Oregon’s most congested corridors. Nancy worked with Kittelson & Associates, Inc. on multiple concepts before the preferred “jughandle” interchange configuration was selected. This configuration provides the best plan for off-site improvements needed for future regional center and urban growth development in Oregon City. The configuration eliminates all left-turn movements and improves connections to and from state Highway 213 near its interchange with Interstate 205.

The Jughandle is the most complex project the city has ever faced. It’s an innovative intersection improvement and a very ‘smart’ design because it minimizes the amount of new pavement we need to construct, which is good for the environment, and it doesn’t just add lanes to accommodate more traffic. It incorporates geometric design and creativity to create the needed capacity.

When asked about being honored by the APWA, Nancy is quick to credit the people she works with, both her staff and the agency’s partner firms, for her success and accompanying accolades.

Part of my success throughout my career in Oregon City reflects that we’ve had very good consultants working for us. You don’t get a great project unless you have good consultants, both in planning and in carrying out the project.

Nancy says that her decision to become an engineer has never disappointed her, even as the skills she needed expanded far beyond succeeding in math class and grew to include being an effective manager of staff and stakeholders; a clear communicator of project goals and objectives to the public and the project teams; and a strong advocate of context sensitive-design and sustainable construction standards, materials, and quality control.

For me it’s all about making a difference in Oregon City and not just doing what is the easiest or most basic design, but introducing aesthetics and design quality that results in a project with positive long-term community benefits. Let’s not make these projects expensive, but let’s do what we can to make them really good.

Nancy is the first person in the Northwest to receive this national APWA award, and she is invited to receive the award during an August ceremony in California.

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