Since James S. Sullivan began working for the Mississippi Department of Transportation 11 years ago, the University of Mississippi civil engineering alumnus has continued to rise through the organization’s ranks. The state traffic engineer, he stays busy overseeing all aspects of the traffic engineering division.
“The Traffic Engineering Division is responsible for providing technical guidance on the use of traffic control devices – signs, signals and markings – on the state’s highways,” said Sullivan, who earned his bachelor’s degree in 1986. “The division is also responsible for administering the Highway Safety Program and the Intelligent Transportation Systems program, the latter of which focuses on strategies to improve operational efficiency and traveler information.”
Sullivan’s area manages the MDOTTraffic.com website, traffic alerts via email and social media, MDOTTraffic mobile apps, the 511 traveler information phone service and other ITS deployments. The division also manufactures highway signs, maintains the interstate highway signs and provides traffic signal maintenance for certain districts.
Sullivan said he enjoyed his days on campus.
“My most memorable civil engineering classes at Ole Miss were those with Dr. Stead, Dr. Abdulrahman, and Dr. DeLeeuw,” he said. “Each of these professors, in addition to providing instruction, challenged and encouraged me in their own unique ways – and at times entertained. Times of study with fellow students provided many fond memories as well.”
MDOT’s Traffic Engineering Division has been a leading supporter of the transportation engineering program within the Department of Civil Engineering. Several other alumni serve with Sullivan in the division, including Acey Roberts, Kevin McMillon, Celina Sumrall, Amrik Singh, Brian Hovanec, Eames Henley and Wes Dean, the deputy chief engineer in operations.
“My direct interaction with James was through the MDOT-funded Oxford roundabout project,” said Waheed Uddin, UM professor of civil engineering and CAIT director. “This project received the AASHTO “Sweet Sixteen” Award for MDOT, putting it among the nation’s top 16 state DOTs.”
Sullivan was the contract supervisor of this research project and Uddin was the project principal investigator from 2008 to 2010.
“I appreciate the timely feedback and continuous encouragement that James and other engineering alumni provide to enhance our academic program,” Uddin said. “They frequently lecture civil engineering students at ITE chapter meetings organized by the student chapter of the Institute of Transportation Engineers.”
Yacoub “Jacob” Najjar, chair and professor of civil engineering, agreed.
“James has had a great career since graduating from Ole Miss,” he said. “He is a great role model for our students and recent graduates.”
Among his stellar career, Sullivan consider finding MDOT employment to be among his greatest achievements.
“I was fortunate to have been able to work on a number of interesting and significant transportation projects throughout the state,” Sullivan said. “My time with the Mississippi Department of Transportation, all of which has been in Traffic Engineering Division, has proven both professionally and personally rewarding.”
The state of Mississippi adopted a new Strategic Highway Safety Plan earlier this year and along with it, its vision, “Toward Zero Deaths.”
“It’s rewarding to team with a staff dedicated to work daily with the goal in mind to implement highway traffic safety countermeasures, traffic control devices and ITS strategies in an ongoing effort to reduce the number of highway related fatalities and crashes until the ultimate goal of zero is reached,” Sullivan said.
He was thrilled to have been recognized as part of a team that won the Best of ITS Award presented by ITS America for Best New Innovative Practice for Partnership Deployment for the Mississippi River Bridges: Incident Management, Freight Movement and Security ITS Project. The project involved adding multiple ITS deployments at each of the four Mississippi River crossings in Mississippi, using ITS strategies that improve operations at the Mississippi River Bridges through traffic cameras and other sensors and dynamic message boards and other means to convey traveler information.
“This project required close coordination with each of the border states with which Mississippi shares river crossings,” Sullivan said. “The project also includes a traffic incident management component whereby the states build local coalitions designed to improve traffic incident response and clearance times in an effort to minimize congestion related to traffic incidents at each of the river crossings.”
Sullivan serves on a technical committee of the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which serves to provide input to the Federal Highway Administration related to the content of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. He is also on the Traffic Control Devices Committee of the Transportation Research Board.
Sullivan and his wife, Suzanne, enjoy being involved with their church, playing golf, fly fishing, photography and following Ole Miss sports.