By Mark Holan
Robert “Bob” E. Alger began his transportation construction career with a trio of tips and a trifecta of tenders.
He took all three pieces of advice from his father: “Be honest; be trustworthy; and work hard. You’ll have a job for life.”
Of course, the younger Alger could only accept one of the three job offers he received after earning a civil engineering degree from Penn State University. He picked The Lane Construction Corporation 40 years ago and never looked back.
Dad was right.
ARTBA’s 2018-2019 chairman started at Lane as a job engineer on the Cowanesque Dam in Pennsylvania. He ascended through the ranks as a project manager, district manager, and executive. He was named Lane’s president and CEO in 2001.
Under his leadership, the company has grown from a regional Northeast contractor to become a national transportation and heavy civil construction powerhouse. Revenues have grown from $350 million in 2001 to $1.7 billion in sales volume. Massive Lane-built highway, bridge, tunneling, rail, transit, airport, dam and lock projects are helping connect and improve communities in multiple states across America.
“You always knew who the up-and-coming leaders of the organization were, whether you worked with them or not,” said Lane Chief Operating Officer Mark Shiller, a 30-year company veteran.
“Bob definitely stood out as one of the individuals who was going to rise to the top,” Shiller said. “There was no question in my mind, or the minds of others. His leadership qualities were well known.”
Alger’s roster of ARTBA volunteer leadership positions includes: senior vice chairman, first vice chairman, Contractors Division president, Contractors Division first vice president, ARTBA Foundation trustee, and Trans2020: “MAP-21 Policy Promotion, Implementation & Funding Enhancement Task Force” co-chair.
His leadership roles also extend to other industry groups. He’s a founding member of the Construction Industry Ethics and Compliance Initiative (CIECI) and Construction Industry Safety Initiative (CISI) group, which promotes Safety Week annually across the country. He’s a past president of The Moles, The Beavers, and American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Construction Institute. He’s also a past chairman of the Construction Industry Roundtable (CIRT).
Bob and his wife, Joan, have two adult children, Bob, Jr., and Lauren.
“Bob lives his personal life by the same values he leads his business life,” said David Benton, executive vice president at Lane. “He is very much a family man. I am proud of the fact that I have Bob as a boss, but I am equally proud of the fact that I have Bob as a very close friend.”
Alger outlined his chairman’s agenda during an October presentation at ARTBA’s national convention in New York City.
He said ARTBA would remain laser-focused on its core mission of transportation market development by working to achieve three main goals: a permanent revenue solution for the Highway Trust Fund; passage of a new infrastructure investment package that includes significant investments in the National Highway Freight Network; and laying the groundwork for the scheduled 2020 reauthorization of the FAST Act highway and transit investment law.
The association will also “continue to collaborate with federal agencies to build a regulatory environment conducive to more efficient and safe project delivery,” he added.
Special focus will be given to expanding the number of firms and organizations supporting ARTBA’s Transportation Makes America Work lobbying and advocacy communications program to help ensure the industry has the necessary financial resources to achieve its legislative and regulatory goals, Alger said.
In the safety arena, the continued growth of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI)-accredited Safety Certification for Transportation Project Professionals™ (SCTPP) program, is another priority. The SCTPP was launched by industry executives and safety leaders in fall 2016.
“Safety training and education have always been core ARTBA competencies,” Alger said. “We will continue to build greater awareness and participation in safety certification programs by contractors and public agencies.”
Finally, Alger highlighted his plans to engage ARTBA officers and directors, the Industry Leader Development Council, and Women Leaders Council to increase “peer-to-peer” membership development outreach.
“There’s a lot of work of ahead of us,” Alger said. “We’ve got to understand that, then roll up our sleeves, put on our hard hats, and let’s go do it.”
Mark Holan is ARTBA’s editorial director.
• ASCE’s Outstanding Project & Leadership Award, 2013
• The Moles Award for Outstanding Achievement in Construction, 2011
• Outstanding Engineering Alumni Award from Penn State’s College of Engineering, 2006
Lane’s First ARTBA Chairman
Bob Alger is the second leader of The Lane Construction Corporation to become ARTBA chairman. Lane President William R. Smith took the wheel of the association at its 28th annual meeting in 1931.
Attendees at that St. Louis convention discussed a $12 billion road construction program, split equally between the federal government and then 48 states, to relieve the massive unemployment of the Great Depression.
John S. Lane started the Connecticut-based company in 1890 as a stone-crushing operation for railroads and streets. The firm quickly expanded its operations throughout New England and New York State.
By the Great Depression, Lane had paved more than 1,400 miles of roadway, becoming one of the largest highway contractors on the East Coast.
In 2016, Lane was acquired by Salini Impregilo Group, a global construction contractor specializing in hydro and dams, railways, metro systems, roads, and motorways.