Canton resident Jeff Horne had the weight of nearly 150,000 motorists on his back when I-96 closed for 167 days – yes, he was counting – for a massive road reconstruction project in Livonia and Redford.
Horne, transportation engineer for the Michigan Department of Transportation's metro Detroit region, was as relieved as anyone last year when drivers rolled onto the seven-mile stretch of I-96 after its $148-million makeover.
"It was a huge sigh of relief," Horne, 33, said. "I felt a lot less stress in my life. It was a major accomplishment."
Horne's work as project leader on the I-96 fix and other projects has earned him MDOT's Director's Award – the highest honor the department gives for outstanding leadership and public service.
MDOT Director Kirk T. Steudle said MDOT employees are "driven by the guidance and strong example set by leaders like Jeff Horne" – leaders who Steudle said "stand out" among their peers. MDOT has 2,500 employees.
Livonia Mayor Jack Kirksey said Horne kept local officials informed as the work by Dan's Excavating caused unavoidable traveling pains for nearly 150,000 motorists. Kirkey lauded the project.
"I don't really think it could have gone any better," he said. "It was extremely well orchestrated. I was one of many who were impressed that they were so well organized.
"It was one of the finest pieces of road work that I have ever seen," Kirksey said. "It far exceeded our expectations."
Kirksey said it was routine to see families standing above the freeway and watching workers below.
"We had people standing on the bridges looking down below," he said. "It would not be uncommon to see moms and dads and a couple of kids looking down to see what was going on down there."
Horne has led several MDOT projects, but none as massive as the I-96 reconstruction, which involved road and bridge repairs that Kirksey said should last "a long time."
Horne received his bachelor's degree in civil engineering and his master's degree in construction engineering management from Lawrence Technological University. He has worked for MDOT for just over 10 years.
Horne, who lives in Canton with wife Stacey and daughters Hailey, 4, and Elizabeth, 1, said he was pleased he was singled out for the award, which was given in the professional category. MDOT started bestowing the honor over 20 years ago to recognize exemplary work and service.
"I feel very honored and privileged to receive this award," Horne said. "It's a huge accomplishment. It's pretty cool to receive it."
Darrell Clem, email@example.com