Susan Shaw, director of Mega Projects for the Virginia Department of Transportation and winner of the 2017 Alfred E. Johnson Achievement Award. (VDOT)

As director of Mega Projects for the Virginia Department of Transportation, Susan Shaw has been responsible for overseeing some of the biggest highway projects in Northern Virginia — all aimed at easing congestion and making the commute of hundreds of thousands of people a bit less awful.

Now her work has garnered national attention.

Shaw received the Alfred E. Johnson Achievement Award from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). She was honored at the group’s annual meeting this week in Phoenix.

The award honors individuals who have made outstanding contributions in the field of highway engineering or management. As part of her work, Shaw oversees projects worth more than $3 billion, including the ambitious transformation of Interstate 66.

As part of that, Shaw is managing the $2.3 billion outside-the-Beltway portion that will add two toll lanes and three regular lanes in each direction on I-66, from Gainesville, in Prince William County, to the Capital Beltway. The goal is to ease congestion on the perennially gridlocked highway. Shaw closely coordinates that work with all elements of the inside-the-Beltway portion of the I-66 transformation, which includes the conversion of its high occupancy vehicle lanes (HOV) into toll lanes in the peak direction during peak travel times.

Before her work on I-66, Shaw and her team at VDOT also were responsible for the nearly $1 billion I-95 Express Lanes Project done in partnership with Transurban. The project is another example of Virginia’s use of public-private partnerships in transportation.

In giving the award, AASHTO said Shaw, who joined VDOT in 1997, “has been a department trailblazer leading projects that are delivered through innovation and collaboration.”

Also honored at AASHTO’s yearly meeting:

  • Victor Mendez, former deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Mendez received the George S. Bartlett Award, which honors an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to highway progress. Mendez was previously director of the Arizona Department of Transportation and in 2009 was appointed the administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, where he approved the launch of the Every Day County initiative, designed to speed up the delivery of highway projects and to address the perennial challenge of limited funding. AASHTO was also part of that initiative. The Bartlett Award is given jointly by AASHTO, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association and the Transportation Research Board.
  • John Njord, former executive director of the Utah Department of Transportation, also received the Thomas H. MacDonald Award, which recognizes a state transportation official who has “rendered continuous outstanding service over an extended period or has made an exceptional contribution to the art and science of highway engineering.”

AASHTO officials said that under Njord’s leadership, UDOT was recognized as one of the nation’s most innovative and best-run state transportation departments.

“Every year it is AASHTO’s privilege to recognize the extraordinary people, projects, and programs that are making transportation safer and more reliable for everyone,” said Bud Wright, AASHTO’s executive director. “These honorees are truly remarkable innovators who demonstrate the kind of can-do spirit America will need to keep up with the transformational technologies emerging in transportation today.”

AASHTO is a nonpartisan, nonprofit association that represents state departments of transportation in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.