National Hispanic Heritage Month: Victor M. Mendez, State and Federal Transportation Official

As a young engineer, Victor M. Mendez wasted little time deciding what to focus on in his career. “Thinking back, I migrated to transportation very early,” he said in an interview with the Washington Post in 2012. “I remember how satisfying it was to be able to say I helped design and construct a road or bridge.”

Mendez earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Texas, El Paso, and a master’s degree in business administration from Arizona Department of Transportation. He initially worked as a civil engineer for the U.S. Forest Service in both Oregon and Arizona.

In 1985, Mendez began working for the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT). Over time, he established a wide-ranging record of achievements in transportation financing, technology, research, planning, construction, and administration on behalf of the Grand Canyon State. Mendez worked his way throughout the ranks of ADOT, becoming deputy director in 1999.

Mendez was appointed ADOT director in 2001 by Governor Jane Dee Hull, a Republican. Mendez continued to serve in this position under Hull’s Democratic successor Janet Napolitano. His key accomplishments at ADOT included overseeing completion of Arizona’s first major design-build project, the widening of the Superstition Freeway in the East Valley.

Mendez was also president of AASHTO. He was both the first Hispanic American and the first person of color to serve in that position. During his time as time as AASHTO president from November 2006 to October 2007, he emphasized such priorities as sharing best practices and innovations among the states and sustaining the association’s role in keeping the national transportation system viable and strong.

Mendez served as ADOT director until 2009, when he was appointed administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). During his time at FHWA, Mendez encouraged the adoption of innovations in highway design and construction. He also promoted international outreach, signing the first memorandum of cooperation with the Forum of European Highway Research Laboratories.

Mendez remained FHWA administrator until being appointed deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) in 2014. In this capacity, he served as chief operating officer of USDOT and oversaw the day-to-day operations of the department’s 10 modal administrations and the work of more than 55,000 employees nationwide and overseas. Since stepping down as USDOT deputy secretary in 2017, Mendez has provided consulting and advisory services to clients in the transportation industry.

For more information on Victor M. Mendez, please check out

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