The Pittsburgh Chapter of the Pennsylvania Society of Professional Engineers (PSPE) will honor Pennsylvania Turnpike Commissioner James J. Dodaro with its 2004 Distinguished Service Award at its Engineer's Week Banquet Saturday, Feb. 28 at The Club at Nevillewood.
The Distinguished Service Award is presented in recognition of “outstanding contributions toward the improvement of the social, economic and professional status of the Professional Engineer.”
Past recipients include the late Richard Caliguiri (former Pittsburgh City Mayor), former Allegheny County Chief Executive Jim Roddey, and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Transportation Writer Joe Grata.
Commissioner Dodaro has served on the Commission for two decades, including seven years as Vice Chairman. He is the Commission's senior member in terms of length of service. Currently serving as Secretary-Treasurer, he is the lone western Pennsylvanian on the five-member panel that oversees operation of America 's First Superhighway.
During his tenure, which began on March 27, 1984 , Commissioner Dodaro has helped steer the toll road agency into a new era of rebuilding, expansion and customer service.
The Turnpike system has grown from 470 to 530 miles as commissioners continue to advance new projects mandated by state lawmakers. These projects include the Beaver Valley Expressway in Beaver and Lawrence counties, the Greensburg Bypass in Westmoreland County , the Mon/Fayette Expressway in Allegheny , Washington and Fayette counties and the Southern Beltway in Allegheny and Washington counties.
Ground was broken in November 2003 for the first part of the proposed Southern Beltway, an east-west spur off of the Mon/Fayette that eventually will link the Mon Valley with Interstate 79 and Pittsburgh International Airport .
Commissioner Dodaro, 59, an attorney specializing in public agency law, has provided strong support and critical leadership for the Turnpike expansions. To date, the Turnpike Commission has completed $1.3 billion worth of expansion projects in southwestern Pennsylvania and has committed another $1 billion to expansion projects in the Pittsburgh region that are in various stages of development.
The Turnpike Commission also has begun to totally reconstruct the Interstate 76, I-476 and I-276 mainlines, an undertaking that will require an estimated $3.4 billion over a 30-year period. Improvements such as wider shoulders and medians, additional lanes, upgraded barriers and straightened curves will increase capacity and enhance safety. The commission also has implemented electronic fare collection to improve traffic flow and reduce potentially dangerous backlogs at interchanges.
Commissioner Dodaro's concerns about the geometry and topography of the Turnpike between New Stanton and Breezewood, relating to customer safety, led to the commission's “55 for 55” initiative. It placed a 55 MPH speed limit on the Interstate 76/I-70 mainline between Milepost 75 (New Stanton) and Milepost 130 (15 miles west of Bedford), as of April 3, 2001 .
Born in Blawnox, Commissioner Dodaro attended the University of Pittsburgh on a football scholarship after graduating from North Catholic High School in 1962. He worked his way through the Duquesne University School of Law to earn his Juris Doctorate in 1969.
His extensive resume includes service as Director of the Allegheny County Department of Development from 1979 to 1984 and as Allegheny County Solicitor from 1984 to 1992. He was honored in January 1995 as Man of the Year by the Constructors Association of Western Pennsylvania in recognition of his “leadership as a Turnpike Commissioner for a better transportation system in western Pennsylvania .”
Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato recently appointed him to the Port Authority of Allegheny County Board of Directors.
Commissioner Dodaro and his wife, the former Carol Pogyor, reside in White Oak. They have two sons, a daughter and five grandchildren.