A Passion for Small-Town Bridges in Texas
April 27, 2021
Michelle Veale brings 26 years of Managing Bridge Projects for TxDOT to Ulteig Transportation Team
Do you love what you do? Do you love what you make?
For Michelle Veale, P.E., MSPM, Ulteig’s new Senior Project Manager in the firm’s Project Management department, the answer to those questions is “yes” because of bridges. Especially the small bridges throughout Texas that cross over small rivers and creeks and connect communities throughout the state.
It’s what led her to dedicate more than 26 years of her career to managing bridge construction projects for the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). It’s also what led her to Ulteig, to continue building on that legacy for the firm’s transportation clients.
Ready to retire from her job at TxDOT and search for other opportunities, Veale connected with Colt Amberg, a former TxDOT work colleague, who had made the move to Ulteig and currently serves as a Transportation Development Manager for the Texas region. Amberg suggested that Veale consider Ulteig for the next chapter in her career. Ulteig created a Senior Project Management position for Veale to better serve clients in the Texas market.
In joining the firm, Veale wants to put her passion for bridges and for managing transportation projects to help Ulteig better serve its clients in Texas and the southwestern U.S. “I want to be able to help Ulteig leverage my experience. I’m really looking forward to this new opportunity; I feel it’s going to be a great fit.”
“I really love project management,” said Veale. “And I know the Texas market, based on my years of experience in working with TxDOT. I understand how to navigate the system in this state and how to work with others to get projects completed, while improving processes. I’m really excited to join Ulteig and be part of their Texas team.”
During her time with TxDOT, Veale estimates she worked on hundreds of bridges– big bridges, small bridges bridges of all sorts and styles. Of all the bridges she worked on, Veale points to the elevated section of the U.S. Highway 287 in Wichita Falls, Texas, as one of her proudest moments. “It was a stressful project, but an incredible learning experience,” Veale said.
But what Veale relishes the most about her work is the ability of bridges to connect people and the identity a bridge can create for a community. “I love all of those small bridges on county roads in rural Texas and working with the local governments and the district to get a bridge replaced.”
While working on these smaller bridges may not be as “sexy” as working on large, multi-million-dollar projects, Veale appreciates the impact that she can have on small-town life throughout Texas. “That small bridge may only impact five people, but now those five people can take their kids to school, get to work safely, and meet their neighbors in town or at the local store,” said Veale. “That’s what really drives me. I love those kinds of projects. That’s why it’s hard for me to say what my favorite bridge is. I think about those small bridges and helping farmers or ranchers who rely on them.”
Veale also points to how people living in small towns identify with their bridges. “I had a project several years ago, where the local folks told me, “For the last 40 years, all the graduating class seniors go and have their picture taken here [at the local town’s bridge].”
Where does Veale’s passion for bridges come from? She points to her childhood, growing up in El Paso, where she spent hours playing with Lincoln logs and tinker toys. “I loved building stuff as a kid,” Veale said. “One day, I found this picture of a bridge and I remember walking into the garage and showing it to my dad. I said, ‘Hey dad, this is what I want to do when I grow up.’”
When Veale isn’t managing a bridge project, more than likely, you will find her cycling somewhere in Texas. A passionate road biker, Veale has ridden the MS 150 from Houston to Austin several times, and she’s biked in many other parts of the state.
“My first passion is for my daughter, who’s 21, and right after that, it’s road biking,” said Veale, who dreams one day of having a custom Tomii steel framed road bike made for herself.
Ulteig welcomes Michelle and celebrates her passion for making transportation better.