MISSOULA – For 25 years he’s helped engineer some of the biggest highway projects in the state, including millions of dollars invested in Western Montana over the past seven years.
Now, Missoula District Administrator Ed Toavs is retiring from the Montana Department of Transportation, moving into the private sector. But he says that just opens new horizons for problem solving.
“I’m thrilled and I’m blessed to have worked from MDT for the various managers over the years in the different parts of the state, especially here in Missoula and Kalispell. But also blessed given this opportunity to expand further and to learn things outside of Montana and to bring those back to Montana.”
And for Toavs, who was raised in Columbia Falls, going to work for Seattle-based Jacobs Engineering Group is a chance to work on some of the largest engineering challenges in the West, while continuing to live in Montana. He makes the move after accomplishing a huge “to do” list with his staff, building community relationships to accomplish huge projects like the Kalispell Bypass and the Russell Street bridge.
“Along with that came the $100 million investment to what we call the Missoula cluster. Orange, Van Buren, Bonner, the interstate, Frenchtown Frontage Road, the ADA project, etc, etc. That was all built on that relationship and respecting people’s positions. And I really enjoyed that. And I think everybody got to learn from that, instead of just folding your arms and saying ‘you’ve got to meet my demands.’ That’s not the way to do business.”
But Toavs says innovation is the way to do business, as dollars dry up and technology plays a larger role, especially for smaller communities with an aging infrastructure.
“They’ve worked in this decade. They won’t work in the next decade. We have to figure out a different way, from funding to how to find the solutions. And is the solution going to work 20-or-30 years from now.”
“When I look at things like their street systems, their water, their sewer, they’re storm drains, their land use planning, and boy, there’s definitely some needs out there.”
Toavs pays tribute to what he calls an amazing staff at MDT, but says there’s one person that deserves special credit.
“Throughout my journey in 25 years I’ve just had a lot of support from a lot of different managers. But I would say the one person that I have to acknowledge throughout the way is my wife Tracy. For the last 22 years, she’s followed me on the journey, to every spot. And she has really backed me for all of our moves, including this latest move. The one person I need to give a shout out is to my wife Tracy. She is my best friend and my wife.”
And that relationship is easily his most successful project.
Toavs says even with the record amount of road building going on, Western Montana still has major transportation challenges ahead, and we’ll talk more with him about that tomorrow.