TSU Pays Tribute to the United States Highway System and the Alumni Who Have Contributed to its History
Songwriters have written about the magnetic zeal of the highway for generations. Life is a Highway, On the Road Again, Highway Blues, Get Your Kicks on Route 66—are all anthems to the life on the road and the free travel of the U.S. Interstate System. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Interstate System, which is considered one of the greatest engineering achievements of the 20th century. Throughout the years, Tri-State University has made its own contribution to the white lines and roadside signs with the many engineers who graduated from TSU and went on to design and engineer local, state, and federal highway projects for one of the most significant transportation developments in history.
When President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, it forever changed the way Americans traveled from city to city. Though the highway system originated in the 1930s, this legislation addressed the funding for the projects. The initial budget of $33.5 billion was allocated to the project; however, the final estimate of the cost ofthe Interstate System was issued in 1991. It is estimated that the final cost was $128.9 billion, which built 46,876 miles of pavement. Fifty years later, the Interstate System is still in progress. Recently, Congress pledged nearly $300 billion to fund further improvements and repairs to the U.S. Interstate System.
With TSU’s strong civil engineering program, many of the school’s best and brightest went on to make their careers with the governmental entities, contractors,and engineering firms whose work has been used to construct, maintain, and redesign the heart of our nation’s economy.
George Merritt, CE ’98, is transportation engineer with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Responsible for working with the Georgia Department of Transportation (DOT) partners, he is accountable for any project affecting the interstate system.
“I am involved with all parts of a project being developed, beginning in the concept phase through the environmental process,” said Merritt. “I also review all designs, contract administration of projects, which includes oversight of all construction activities, and monitor the Interstate to ensure that all projects are being maintained.”
Currently, Merritt is assigned to Interstate routes that include portions of I-16, I-20, I-85, I-520, I-985, and SR 400, covering the Northeastern and Eastern portions of Georgia. He is responsible for more than $300 million in construction projects, which is expected to soon exceed a half billion dollars worth of projects under construction. Another $1.5 billion worth of projects under his supervision are still in the designing process.
Merritt credits his education at TSU for the success he has experienced in the FHWA.
“Without any doubt, the quality of the educators, the level of involvement between the professor and student, and the constant attention on how the theory meets the practical and real-world application helped me have an advantage over others in my profession that came from larger, research-oriented institutions,” said Merritt. “Tri-State professors provided as much assistance as possible and seemed to have more personal investment in educating us as students as opposed to just teaching at us. Going to TSU to get my education was the best decision I have ever made.”
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