Traffic Engineering

Invented by Burton Marsh, Class of 1920

Marsh was the first full-time traffic engineer in the United States. After receiving his degree in civil engineering from WPI, he worked for a time as a city planner. His achievements in that field attracted the interest of the mayor of Pittsburgh, who appointed him head of the city's new Bureau of Traffic Relief in 1924. He was so successful, Philadelphia lured him away to tackle its traffic mess in 1930.

Three years later, Marsh became director of traffic engineering and safety for the American Automobile Association, where he pioneered an emphasis on pedestrian safety that contributed to a major reduction in pedestrian fatalities between 1937 and 1957--despite a significant jump in the number of cars on the road. He also helped establish the AAA's school safety patrol and assisted in setting up driver education programs in the nation's elementary and secondary schools. From 1967 to 1970, he was executive director of the Institute of Transportation Engineers, an organization he helped found. In 1970, the ITE created the Burton W. Marsh Distinguished Service Award, its highest honor.

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