Trapani retirement ‘loss to valley’
One of the most familiar names in the local transportation business, Ralph Trapani, is heading on down the road.Trapani’s name has become a household word in much of the Roaring Fork Valley because of what many consider his exemplary work on two projects – Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon and the four laning of Highway 82.Trapani, 49, plans to end his 27-year career as a state highway engineer and regional manager with the Colorado Department of Transportation in May.”This job has been the greatest job,” Trapani said. “To be able to manage a project like Glenwood Canyon is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for an engineer.”Trapani said the retirement is possible because his lengthy tenure with CDOT qualifies him for a healthy pension. He will continue to work at a slightly less frantic pace with a local consulting firm, which he declined to name.Trapani is quitting CDOT, his only employer since college, in order to spend more time with his 1-year-old son, Lucca, and wife, Jeanne Golay. “I’m happy and healthy and I’m really interested in spending more time with the little guy as he grows up,” Trapani said.Owen Leonard, director of CDOT Region 3 and Trapani’s immediate supervisor, said someone will likely fill Trapani’s position on a temporary basis until a permanent replacement can be found.”Ralph’s been with us for a long time. We’re losing a lot experience,” Owen said.Trapani moved to Boulder from Buffalo, N.Y., in the early 1970s. He turned down an academic scholarship in New York to pursue ski racing at the University of Colorado. A second-generation Italian American, Trapani said he comes from a very modest background.He graduated CU in 1974 with a degree in civil engineering and joined the Colorado Department of Highways in Glenwood Springs in July 1975.”I hadn’t been to Glenwood Springs until I interviewed for the job and they asked me to go up there and see what I thought,” Trapani said. “But frankly, I needed a job so badly that it didn’t matter what I thought. I had to take it.”At the time, Interstate 70 was just being extended past Silt. He moved quickly up the ladder from stake pounder to inspector to acting project engineer on the entrance into Rifle.Trapani got his first lesson in community relations on that job. Trapani convinced a reluctant community to get on board with a project that may have seemed pointless in the mid-1970s.”That was my first experience processing people’s concerns in connection with a project,” Trapani said.From there his career moved to the Vail Pass project.In 1980, Trapani was selected to be the program engineer on the next big phase of I-70 construction: Glenwood Canyon. Trapani’s boss hired him partly because of his background in architecture and design, and partly because of his success with the residents of Rifle.The state’s plans to build a four-lane highway through the canyon drew years of protests. Trapani started with the project on a drafting table and carried it to its completion at the official ribbon-cutting ceremony in 1992: It was his only assignment for 12 years.Trapani’s work on the canyon has been lauded nationwide. He and his team were recognized for their engineering skills and environmental sensitivity. As recently as April 15 of this year, I-70 was named as one of Colorado’s top two transportation projects of the 20th century by Washington, D.C.-based American Road & Transportation Builders Association, partly because of the work in Glenwood Canyon.After the canyon was finished, Trapani was asked to take on the Basalt-to-Buttermilk segment of Highway 82. Many believe that without Trapani’s skills and experience, the four-lane highway would still end in Basalt. “I think it’s a fair statement,” Leonard said. “Ralph’s knowledge about the project delivery process has been instrumental in getting Highway 82 done.””I think Ralph’s retirement is a big loss to the valley,” said Pitkin County Commissioner Mick Ireland. “Without Ralph we would still be dealing with a pretty dangerous two-lane highway and little chance of funding an upgrade.”
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