Game changer: Technology

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Paula Hammond, PE, has dedicated her entire 33 years as a professional engineer to state transportation improvements. In 2007, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire appointed Hammond secretary of transportation — the first woman in the agency's history to run the Washington State DOT. She leads a department of 6,800 employees and oversees 18,500 lane-miles of state highways, 3,600 bridges and tunnels, and the nation's largest ferry system. Photo: APWA

PAULA HAMMOND, PE

SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION
WASHINGTON STATE DOT (WSDOT)

Like many government organizations, WSDOT's revenues and resources can't keep up with need. As the agency finishes its largest-ever $16.3 billion construction program, Paula Hammond hopes technology will empower the agency to keep the state's economy rolling.

“Washington is among the first states to use technology to use variable-rate tolling to reduce congestion,” she says. “We launched a high-occupancy toll-lane project in 2008; the number of drivers using the lanes is growing steadily and they're using them when it most matters.”

Electronic tolling is also helping fund construction and operation of commuter and freight corridor megaprojects that will add capacity at some of the worst chokepoints. The agency is also:

  • Using GPS to track ferries, enabling customers to estimate arrival and departure times and make reservations online.
  • Managing winter operations with a GPS snowplow- and materials-tracking database.

“As vehicles become more fuel efficient and gas-tax revenues decline, technology that accommodates mileage-based user fees may pave the way for future investment,” Hammond says.