IRF Honors Excellence and Outstanding Achievements at its Annual Awards Luncheon
Over 200 government officials, executives and road professionals gathered at IRF's Annual Awards Luncheon to recognize the winners of the IRF Global Road Achievement Awards (GRAA). The GRAA program was founded in 2000 to recognize leading projects and organizations from around the world. The IRF Awards Program publicizes to the world the innovative, practical, creative, cost-saving and sustainable solutions the road industry provides to societies and economies across the world.
Brian Harris, IRF-Washington Chairman, welcomed guests and called attention to the fact that even though road builders provide the very foundation upon which society moves and connects, in large part, road builders are mostly unsung heroes.
"We are all well aware of the current financial crisis and recession that many irresponsible people brought about. And we don't hear too much about those responsible paying for their mistakes," said Harris. "Instead, some of them are actually getting bonuses. Now, imagine if we as engineers had colossal failures of that magnitude. And indeed, it seems that some only pay attention to our industry when something goes wrong. Today we are here to recognize the great benefits the road industry provides to the economies and societies around the world."
Congressman Oberstar Keynote Address
Before the presentation of the winning projects, Congressman James L. Oberstar (D. Minn.) provided a keynote address to the global audience. Congressman Oberstar is the Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and is widely acknowledged as the body's leading expert on transportation policy.
After the Congressman made his opening remarks in several languages, he called specific attention to the epidemic of road fatalities.
"Today we understand that preventing accidents isn't just about the road design or the engineering, but it takes a collective effort that encompasses all aspects of the driver and the road," said Oberstar. "It is great that organizations like IRF can bring the industry together to help ensure our roads, and more importantly, our drivers are safe."
Oberstar paid special recognition to his home state of Minnesota for their Towards Zero Deaths program and the success they have had in reducing fatalities on their roads.
"The Towards Zero Deaths programs demonstrates the lives that we can save by working together," said Oberstar. "I encourage us all to combine our efforts through organizations like IRF, to share our solutions so that we can save lives."
IRF Fellows and Student Paper Competition Winners
To conclude the IRF Annual Awards Luncheon, Jeff Reed, Chairman of the IRF Educational Foundation, announced the winners of the IRF Annual Student Paper Competition. This year, five winners from four universities were welcomed to the stage to receive their awards and be recognized for their accomplishments.
Before he announced the winners, Reed recognized the Fellows in the audience and lauded the IRF Fellowship Program and its importance in providing educational opportunities across the world.
"The IRF Fellowship Program has donated more than 8 million dollars in scholarship money to help engineers from across the world get a top-quality education. The IRF Fellows represent the best and the brightest of the future or the transportation industry."
Many in the audience were able to meet the IRF Fellows and agreed with Reed's assertion.
"I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to meet new contacts in the transportation field, and particularly to have conversations with some of your Graduate Student Fellows," said Ralph Erickson, Office of Highway Policy Information of the U.S. Federal Highway Administration. "The future of transportation world-wide will be better given the quality of these students. Programs like yours will help ensure that more great students follow this path."
To conclude the event, Brian Harris encouraged all in attendance to submit their outstanding projects for IRF's 2010 GRAA competition, noting that the more projects IRF is able to recognize and publicize, the more recognition the transportation industry will receive worldwide.
"By demonstrating our real value to the world isn't just a pat on our own backs," said Harris. "It is a way for those outside the transportation industry to understand the solutions we provide for today's challenges. And that understanding will ultimately help turn our innovative ideas into real projects that will have real results."