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U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Public Affairs, Washington, D.C., www.dot.gov/affairs/briefing.htm - News

FHWA 35-09Contact: Doug Hecox
Friday, November 20, 2009Phone: 202-366-0660

Federal Highway Administration Names First Hispanic Woman to Lead Division

WASHINGTON - Irene Rico, recently named to head the Virginia division of the Federal Highway Administration, will become the first Hispanic woman in the agency's history to hold such a position, Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez announced today.

"Irene has distinguished herself as a leader and a valued member of the FHWA," said Administrator Mendez. "Her experience - both as a skilled engineer and a talented manager - make her the right choice for this important position. She puts people first and is a great role model for public service."

Starting Jan. 25, 2010, as Virginia's Division Administrator for the FHWA, Rico will oversee the state's use of more than $1 billion in Federal aid and American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding for highways and bridges. She will also serve as the FHWA's local representative to state and local officials, as well as numerous stakeholder groups.

"Virginia has been a national transportation leader, and I hope to help it remain that way," Rico said. "We all play a role in getting America's economy moving again, and I look forward to continuing that work in my new role."

Rico said relationship-building, the ability to adapt to change and her commitment to continued diversity will help her develop the agency's next generation.

"As I see it, one of my new roles is to develop future leaders for the agency," she said. "The success of the FHWA depends on its upcoming leaders, and good ones don't happen by accident."

Her career with the FHWA began in 1985, where she worked as a Highway Engineer Trainee. Later, she served in the agency's New Mexico division office where she helped the state construct its first automated truck weigh station. The facility, located on the Texas-New Mexico border on I-10, remains in use today.

She went on to work in FHWA's Texas division office, where she increased inspection check points for vehicles on the Bridge of the Americas in El Paso. Rico later served as the Assistant Division Administrator for Virginia for five years.

Since 2007, Rico served as the Special Assistant to the Executive Director where she advised the FHWA leadership on transportation policy issues and played a key role in implementing ARRA's $26.6 billion highway program.

She earned a bachelors degree in civil engineering from the University of Texas-El Paso and a master's degree in civil engineering from the University of New Mexico.

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