St. Marys native Brad Heigel recently became the guy who ensures that Commonwealth residents have a smooth ride when they travel the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
Heigel, was recently named as the chief engineer for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC).
Taking over the organization’s top engineering job means Heigel will be responsible for leading the commission’s engineering design and construction departments. It is a big responsibility: The Pa. Turnpike Commission operates and maintains 545 miles of toll roads, oversees 70 fare-collection facilities, 17 service plazas and 27 maintenance facilities, and generates nearly $750 million in annual toll revenue. According to Pa. Turnpike Commission CEO Roger Nutt, more than 500,000 motorists make use of the Turnpike daily.
"Being named the chief engineer at the Pa. Turnpike Commission has been a career-changing opportunity for me," Heigel said. "To have previously worked here for 20 years and to return in this position has truly been a dream."
Heigel is a 1984 graduate of Elk County Christian High School and graduated from The Pennsylvania State University in 1988, where he earned a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering. He has been a licensed Professional Engineer since 1993.
"Upon graduation from Penn State in 1988, I moved to Mechanicsburg for employment at an engineering consulting firm Boswell Yule Jordan. In 1990, I joined the Pa. Turnpike Commission," Heigel said. "I began in their traffic engineering unit, moved into a project manager position and when I left in 2010, I was the Total Reconstruction Program Manager and the Right-of-Way/Utility Unit lead. From 2010 to 2012, I was a vice president and office manager for Michael Baker Jr.’s Harrisburg operations."
Heigel returned to the PTC in April 2012 to assume the role of chief engineer, overseeing the design and construction engineering departments, which in turn are overseeing a $500 million capital plan to rebuild and widen the aging highway system and increase investment from $400 million per year to more than $600 million.
"To be among the few that have had this position as chief engineer of the Pa. Turnpike, often referred to as America’s first superhighway, is amazing," Heigel said.
He said over the course of his career, he has enjoyed working on a variety of projects and meeting others in the field.
"The transportation engineering industry is a relatively small, tight-knit community of great professionals within the state of Pa.," Heigel said. "Over the years, it has been exciting to work on large, complex transportation projects with many amazing and talented professionals across the Commonwealth. Some of these projects can take years in design and construction, but the journey is rewarding when it’s finally complete and usable, and it’s really neat to think that anyone here in Pa. or elsewhere can use it for years to come in their travels across Pa."
Heigel is the son of the late Edward “Skip” and Janet Heigel of St. Marys. He has two sisters, Amy of Owego, N.Y., and Jill of DuBois, and now lives in Mechanicsburg with his family, wife Nancy and children Jessica, Dustin and Samantha. He is active in his community as a member of the Upper Allen Township Park and Recreation Board and the St. Joseph's Parish Council, and has been coaching basketball at local schools for a number of years.
"I coached high school, J.V. boys and assistant varsity basketball at Mechanicsburg High School from 1990 to 2000. We won the District 3 gold medal in 1995," Heigel said. "Recently, I have coached the 8th grade girls at St. Joseph’s in Mechanicsburg. We won the Harrisburg Diocesan Championship in 2011 and finished seventh in the state of Pa.
"I still enjoy playing basketball, but also enjoy running and biking and an occasional round of golf."
Heigel said although his professional focus is on the Turnpike, he still travels the roads back to his hometown whenever he is able, returning for visits, the occasional wedding and funeral, and his ECCHS class reunions.
"I still have so many great memories of growing up in St. Marys. I am very proud of my hometown and I speak of it highly," Heigel said. "It’s unbelievable the number of people that I meet across Pa. that know someone from St. Marys."
There's one more thing Heigel has of his hometown that many other people outside of St. Marys also enjoy.
"Most importantly, I always have a cold Straub's in the refrigerator," he said.