Harvey Shebesta worked for the State of Wisconsin for over forty years. He was involved with the planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance of most of the interstate system in the southeast part of the state. He served as District Director for his last 22 years with the State Department of Transportation. Mr. Shebesta holds a BSCE from the University of Wisconsin and a Certificate from the Yale Bureau of Highway Traffic.
Harvey joined ITE in 1954 and was a member of the Executive Board of the old Midwest Section.
He was instrumental in forming the Wisconsin Section and served as its Charter President. He was the Head of Department 3 (Section Technical Activities) of the Institute’s Technical Council from 1967 - 1968. In 1969 he was the Chairman of the Wisconsin Section Technical Committee. From 1970 - 1972 he served as Director of District IV. He was elected by his peers to serve as ITE’s International Vice President in 1979, and then as International President in 1980.
He also served ITE as Chairman of the ITE Traffic Technician Curriculum Steering Committee and Director of the ITE Midwest Section. He has presented papers at over twenty ITE meetings, Section meetings and conferences of sister associations. He has spoken on topics ranging from “Professional Responsibility” to “How Your Highway Dollars Are Spent.” In 1977 Harvey served President of the Wisconsin Section of ASCE.
Harvey accomplished many things while with the State of Wisconsin. Upon his assignment as District Engineer (now District Director), he initiated a program, in cooperation with the Southeastern Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC), in which WIDOT personnel were assigned to SEWRPC for periods of six to eighteen months depending upon ongoing Planning Commission activities. Through this program, WIDOT personnel gained firsthand, on-the-job experience in the long range planning process while serving as temporary staff to SEWRPC. This program also developed a “reserve” staff from which SEWRPC could, when necessary, draw experienced help requiring little or no detailed instruction or additional training in planning activities. Twenty-one different engineers and technicians participated in the program before it was suspended due to budget and staff reduction.
In April, 1970, construction of the Milwaukee Harbor Bridge (I 794) began. This project, which eventually took 7.5 years to complete and cost $57.4 million, would have significant effects on land uses in its path. These included the Milwaukee Sewage Treatment Plant, several harbor terminals including their highway and railway access, and the Milwaukee Summerfest grounds. Construction would require these operations to adjust their activities from time to time. To give these operators ample time to adjust their schedules, Harvey directed the contractors to have monthly meetings of all interested parties and outline their anticipated schedules for the next five weeks. This process maintained amiable relations between all parties and permitted the project to proceed to completion without adverse incident. Subsequently, major projects have included similar procedures to maintain proper liaison between contractor and abutting landowner.
In 1972, in response to the U. S. Department of Transportation Safety Improvement program funding, Mr. Shebesta presented a program of projects for improving safety on freeways in Milwaukee County. Safety program projects were completed over a period of four years, resulting in a drop in the fatality rate from an average of 2.01 per 100 million vehicle miles prior to 1973 to an average of 0.65 per 100 million vehicle miles after 1973. The low rate continues. Safety features included median barriers, removal of roadside obstacles where possible, installation of impact attenuators at immovable roadside objects, breakaway sign posts and light poles, improved highway lighting, grooved pavement, increased superelevation on problem curves, improved signing, placement of light poles in the median and replacement of vertical median curbs with flush paved shoulders.
Harvey did not seek accolades. He concentrated on getting the job done efficiently and expeditiously. Above all, he is a consummate professional whose career spanned the turbulent years of urban freeway construction. His interpersonal skills and demeanor served him well as he worked to enhance mobility and safety within an environment of the dynamic politics of Southern Wisconsin. He performed skillfully in an era of changing expectations and constrained fiscal and human resources.