Troy’s First Traffic Engineer

To commemorate the City of Troy’s 60th Anniversary in 2015, Troy Historic Village publish a different story each day that highlights a person, discovery, or event that occurred locally, regionally, nationally, or even globally between 1955 and 2015 and that helped shape our lives and our community.  Dick Beaubien was featured on May 28.

Richard “Dick” Beaubien is a Michigan native and a proud alumnus of the University of Michigan where he earned a Civil Engineering degree in 1967. Dick recalls that he graduated the same year he earned a 1-A draft rating for US military service. He quickly requested a deferment to return to school for a Master’s Degree, and then sought a position with the Federal Highway Administration to work on the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways. This was a calculated decision because engineering highways incorporated strategic military goals. The enacting legislation for the Interstate highway system, approved during the Eisenhower administration in 1956, called for US Air Force bases to have direct links to the system in order to defend the military facilities the event of an attack on our country. Extensive straightaways on the highways could also be used as runways during national emergencies.

During the next five years Dick worked in Texas, California, Washington DC, Nevada, and Illinois. “I learned a great deal during those years,” he said in a recent interview, “including the fact that I really liked living near water. So, in the early 70s, “I returned to Michigan to work as a traffic engineer for a consulting firm in Southfield. The City of Troy was a client. When they posted a position for a traffic engineer in 1975, I applied for the position and got the job.”

Dick was soon integrated into the administrative team that planned and built the infrastructure that continues to support the City’s impressive commercial and residential developments. As the traffic engineer he worked very closely with Public Works Director Dick Graham, City Engineer Bob Quigley, Public Services Director Don Spurr, plus the Police Department and then Police Chief Forest Fisher. As the Director of the Right-of-Way Department he worked closely with City Assessor, Ernie Reschke.

“In a single year we purchased 150 properties for sewer, water, and road right-of-ways,” he said.  He worked closely with Planning Director Larry Keisling to review development plans and assure the road system could handle additional traffic.  He described his relationship to Larry Keisling as, “unindicted co-conspirator.”

Dick, who also served as the International President of the Institute of Transportation Engineers in 1990, spoke to the importance of his profession. “You are doing something important with your life for the benefit of others. It is a demanding job because so much is expected of you. Motorists want an efficient transportation system, so that they will not be unduly delayed by red traffic signals or by traffic congestion. Employers want their employees to arrive for work on time, and they expect expeditious shipment of goods. Motorists and pedestrians who become involved in traffic crashes demand corrections to the transportation systems to ensure that the crash will not be repeated. Elected officials want the needs and desires of both travelers and employers to be satisfied – within a strict budget, of course.”

Although now retired from City employment, Dick continues to work as a traffic engineering consultant, is an active member of the Kiwanis Club of Troy and races 19-foot “Lightening Class” sailboats. He and his wife reside in Troy. They have three adult children.