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Employee Spotlight: Jon Schumacher, District 1 Bureau Chief of Construction

Bureau Chief of Construction Jon Schumacher oversees major projects in District 1, such as the Jane Byrne Interchange, Interstate 55 and Weber Road interchange, and upcoming I-80 corridor improvements. He truly rose through the ranks, starting as part of the co-op program in 1997 and going full time in 2001 after graduating from college.

Here are some of Schumacher’s thoughts about his job and life outside of IDOT.

Have you held other positions at IDOT?

District 1 has a rotation program where you spend one year in three different bureaus before being placed in your permanent assignment. My rotations included construction, materials and traffic. After completing the program, I was placed in construction and have worked my way up, including time as an inspector, resident engineer, area construction supervisor and, now, bureau chief.

What does your current job entail?

Generally speaking, my position is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the construction program for District 1 with a staff of five area supervisors, approximately 70 resident engineers, 140 inspectors, 15 office support staff and numerous consultants in the field. The typical year sees the district letting between 250 and 300 construction projects that must be inspected, documented and administered in accordance with the state and district specifications.

Some of the major projects we have in the district are the Jane Byrne Interchange reconstruction, Pump Station No. 4 along I-290 reconstruction, new diverging diamond interchange at I-55 and Weber Road, I-80 and U.S. 30 reconstruction, eastbound I-80 from Gardner to Rowell – this is the first of the I-80 projects as part of the reconstruction of the I-80 corridor from the district line to U.S. 30 – and add lane project on westbound I-90 from Illinois 43 to I-190.

What’s your favorite part of the job?

First off, being an engineer in construction, I really enjoy taking a set of plans, working through the engineering problems that arise and building the project itself. Solving the various issues that come up during a construction project is a rewarding experience, as you know that once the project is completed, there will be a tremendous benefit to the motoring public.

My favorite part about working for the department and solving these issues are all the people I have come in contact with over the years. Because of all the hours we work in the field, the other members of the construction team end up being like a family. Just like any family, there are good times and bad times, but at the end of the day you wouldn’t trade them for anything.

Anything interesting you’re doing on the job?

I don’t like change just for the sake of change, but one of my pet peeves when asking why we do something is “that’s the way we always done it.” Currently, I’m working with staff to revise some of our practices to make various procedures more efficient. This includes increased use of technology or just eliminating unnecessary parts of the process. Over the past year, we have implemented an electronic review of both authorizations and acceptable use policies and worked with the Bureau of Materials to revamp the material inspection closeout process.

Anything others should know about your bureau?

The other bureaus in the department tend to specialize in what they do. For example, Traffic has signal engineers, signing engineers, traffic control engineers, etc. Materials has mixture control engineers, soil engineers, physical test engineers, etc.

One thing I always like to remind people about construction staff is we tend to be involved in all these areas. We may not have the depth of knowledge that those in the other bureaus have in their areas of specialization, but we have a base of knowledge in each of those areas.

Tell us a little bit about your work and education background.

I graduated from Purdue University in 2000 with an emphasis in transportation and construction. I also obtained a minor in business management. Prior to coming into the office, I spent 15 years working for IDOT in Lake and McHenry counties. I was also the District 1 lead for the implementation of our CMMS system for construction documentation.

What do you like to do outside the office?

My family and I love to travel and spend time outdoors. We have crisscrossed the county on numerous road trips and have visited 43 states. Some of our favorite activities are hiking, biking and kayaking. We have favorites across the country, but have really enjoyed our time in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Washington and Tennessee.