Engineer gets national award

LAWRENCEVILLE - Gwinnett's first traffic engineer and Department of Transportation Director has been named a distinguished member of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

George Black, who left his county job to work with the National Transportation Safety Board in 1997, is one of 193 engineers ever given the honor.

"It's nice to have recognition for a career and all the elements of it," Black said. "It's humbling."

Black said he was "in the right place at the right time," when he was named the county's first traffic engineer, creating the division in 1973. Black said he is mostly proud of the staffing hires he made during his tenure with the county, but he is also credited with the construction of Ronald Reagan Parkway, a project that links Snellville to Duluth.

"I was going to call it the Sweetwater Parkway, but the political people changed my mind," Black, 63, recalled with a laugh. He drove down the road recently and marveled at the accomplishment. "We bought a wide right of way, and did things with urban berms to separate it from the residential areas. I think it's still a pretty good looking road."

Black studied traffic accidents in college and brought his skills to Gwinnett, teaching local police officers how to investigate accidents for decades. One of his students was Charles Walters, now chief of the police department.

Black was also an expert witness for the district attorney when vehicular homicide became a crime in Georgia, he said, adding that he only lost one case.

Black will receive the honor during a November event in Pittsburgh.

"George richly deserves this recognition," said Wayne Shackelford, who was the county's highest appointed officer before serving as commissioner of the state DOT. "His impact on traffic safety and accident investigation in his days as Gwinnett traffic engineer was awesome. He created the division in 1973 and then was named director of the Gwinnett Department of Transportation in 1985 where he made marvelous progress including such projects as Ronald Reagan Parkway."