Lorie Tudor, 62, was named the first woman director of the Arkansas Department of Transportation in March 2020. She was named deputy director in 2014 in charge of all operations at the department. Tudor has been with ArDOT for 39 years, leaving for two years in the mid-1990s to earn a bachelor’s in civil engineering from the University of Memphis. Tudor returned to ArDot as a planning engineer and worked her way up through the ranks.
You started in the department as an entry-level typist. What have you learned from your journey that influences you now as the director of the entire department?
I learned that hard work, a positive attitude and a strong faith will keep you grounded and confident to lead others. I learned that listening and working to find solutions to problems will generate trust, goodwill and positive energy that lead to success. I learned that ArDOT’s biggest asset is the employees and it is important that they feel valued and appreciated.
What are the biggest current priorities of the department?
ArDOT celebrates its 100th anniversary this year! This makes it a perfect time to update our strategic plan to keep us focused on our biggest priorities, which are: provide innovative transportation solutions to improve safety and mobility, ensure ArDOT is a great place to work so that we can attract and retain a strong workforce, deliver reliable and efficient customer service, and continue fostering collaboration and strengthening partnerships.
How is the $3.6 billion or so awarded to Arkansas in the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act being spent?
We are using it to fund our Renew Arkansas Highways Program. This is a 10-year construction plan that will provide pavement preservation projects that will improve and maintain 7,000 miles of interstate and state highways, as well as bridge improvement and preservation projects that will replace or repair approximately 1,100 structurally deficient and posted bridges in the state highway system.
Does the department have enough money now to properly maintain and improve the state’s infrastructure?
We have more than 16,400 miles to maintain, which is problematic for a rural state like Arkansas with a small tax base. To put that in perspective, California has an approximately 15,000-mile state highway system to maintain but will receive $25.3 billion (over five years) from the IIJA. For Arkansas, the additional funding from the IIJA combined with the half-cent sales tax revenue will allow us to make great progress in improving and maintaining our higher traffic volume roads, which make up about half of the system. The challenge remains to find enough funding to improve the remainder of our lower traffic volume rural roads. Many of these roads have deteriorated to the point that costly major reconstruction work is necessary. However, we remain committed to finding innovative and cost-effective solutions to this dilemma.