Advancing Women in Transportation

Each year, WTS Minnesota recognizes members of the local community for their achievements in the transportation field. Members will celebrate with our winners at the Scholarships & Recognitions Luncheon on April 9. WTS Minnesota is pleased to introduce this year’s recipients.

Member of the Year: Scott McBride

During the past year, Scott has made his mark as a tireless advocate for key WTS MN initiatives.  As the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) Metro District engineer, Scott is in a unique position to influence individuals at all levels in the transportation industry. 

Many members of the WTS MN Board first met Scott at WTS MN’s 30th Anniversary Gala in 2012. Scott stood out to us because, well… he was among the last guests to leave the party. Since our initial introduction to Scott’s personal brand of enthusiasm, his avid support for WTS and excitement to participate in our events has continued to stand out.

Scott has sent numerous emails and informal communications to colleagues encouraging them to participate in WTS MN events. Because of Scott’s influence, WTS MN has seen major increases in male participation, including MnDOT Commissioner Charlie Zelle (who became a member this past year).  The Commissioner’s first introduction to WTS was the members only meet and greet we hosted after he began at MnDOT, and who better than Scott could remind him that real men, and MnDOT employees no less, join WTS. MnDOT membership (both men and women) in this chapter increased 70% in 2013. 

Scott also participated as an advisor when the chapter revised its mission and strategic plan this past summer.  His assistance through this process has made WTS MN a more appealing organization with a clear vision toward the future.  He also provided valuable advice and insight in marketing what WTS MN has to offer its members.  Scott’s enthusiasm, his avid support for WTS, and excitement to participate in our events has continued to stand out.

Woman of the Year: Metropolitan Council Chair Susan Haigh

As the chair of the Metropolitan Council, Susan Haigh’s leadership on transportation issues is outstanding. She is a tireless advocate for building a 21st century transportation system for the Twin Cities metro area.

  • In 2012, Susan participated on the Governor’s Transportation Finance Advisory Committee, which developed recommendations to fund and finance the state’s highways, roads, bridges and public transit, as well as its air, rail and port facilities.  
  • In 2013, she criss-crossed the state with MnDOT Commissioner Charlie Zelle to make the case for an adequate, sustainable funding mechanism for highways and transit, speaking about the importance of investing in both for the economic vitality and quality of life in Minnesota.
  • She has led the Council through construction of the METRO Green Line (Central Corridor light rail transit). During the sometimes difficult construction process, she advocated for millions of dollars of funding to provide loans for businesses that saw losses due to construction, and for a marketing campaign to support Green Line businesses.
  • She has been calm, measured and persistent in her efforts to resolve issues related to the alignment of the METRO Green Line extension (Southwest LRT), attending countless meetings and listening to local officials and residents.  She serves as chair of the Southwest Corridor Management Committee.
  • Under Susan’s leadership, the Council is creating Thrive MSP 2040, the new regional development framework for the metro area that emphasizes transportation investments to help achieve five regional outcomes: livability, sustainability, prosperity, equity, and stewardship.
  • Also under Susan’s leadership, the Council is updating its Transportation Policy Plan, which covers all transportation modes in the region, including highways, transit, bike/pedestrian, airports and freight transportation.
  • She co-chaired the Corridors of Opportunity policy board, an unprecedented collaboration of the public, nonprofit and philanthropic sectors to promote sustainable, vibrant and healthy communities through development and revitalization along the region’s emerging transitway system, and to engage historically underrepresented communities in transitway planning and community development.
  • Under her leadership, the Council adopted a Transit-Oriented Development Strategic Action Plan, a TOD policy, and established a new TOD office within Metro Transit to partner and coordinate with communities to advance TOD. 

Employer of the Year: Hennepin County

Hennepin County won the WTS Employer of the Year award because of its commitment to WTS and its women employees. Hennepin County is an organization with women in positions at all levels of the organization, including Debra Brisk as the Assistant County Administrator for Public Works. Under Debra’s leadership, the county’s commitment to WTS has grown. As a WTS MN Advisory Board member, Debra has encouraged staff to attend WTS events and to become members of WTS. Debra recently announced that staff can be fully reimbursed for their memberships in WTS. As a result of the county’s commitment to WTS, the number of Hennepin County staff members of WTS more than doubled in 2013, from 4 to 9 members.

Within Hennepin County Public works there are numerous gatherings to support women in the transportation field including; lunch with the women transportation engineers, brown bags to discuss issues including diversity and inclusion, a culture and communications team, and various networking opportunities to expand knowledge relating to the transportation field including formal project management training deployed in 2013.

In addition, Hennepin County facilitates various leadership development programs targeted towards fostering leadership skills in women and minorities.  This includes a Public Works diversity and inclusion group – “Connections”, formal annual leadership programs supported by assigned mentors and new agency policies supporting diversity and inclusion.  

Rosa Parks Diversity Leadership Award: Fostering an East Side Transit Equity Conversation

The Fostering An East Side Transit Equity Conversation (FESTEC) campaign was a six-month organizing blitz that took a historic approach to transit organizing on the East Side of St. Paul. A steering committee of District Councils and other neighborhood groups (50% women) hired 10 organizers who lived in the neighborhood, 90% people of color and 60% women, to bring forward the voices of women, low-income, and communities of color to transit decisions. With this diverse organizing group, they were able to bring together a large town hall meeting. The meeting had over 75% people of color and good representation of elders, youth, women, and men. They developed a set of four Transit Equity Principles to guide future transit projects.

The equity framework they worked with made the issues of all under-represented communities central; the concerns of women and elders, people of color, and low income.

They were also able to productively create a new dialogue as they brought together community members and transit systems professionals into a transformative intersection between these two groups. Systems people had new strength in their realms to insist on equity issues, and community people had the power of more information and new relationships.

Innovative Transportation Solutions Award: I-494/34th Ave S Diverging Diamond Interchange

The I-494/34th Avenue South diverging diamond interchange (DDI) is one of the first DDIs constructed in the state of Minnesota, and the only DDI in the country that incorporates light rail transit (LRT). This project was led by the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) and included key participation and project funding by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and the City of Bloomington. The DDI, open and operational since October 27, 2013, provides an exciting application of multimodal transportation design that alleviates congestion while accommodating all modes of transportation through the corridor. The following are the three most notable reasons why this project deserved to win WTS’s Innovative Transportation Solutions Award: it is an innovative multi-modal transportation solution, the largest funding source was innovative in that it was based on the likelihood for a transportation project to have a positive economic impact, and the project required a significant amount of stakeholder coordination.

©2011 WTS International. All Rights Reserved. www.wtsinternational.org