Employee spotlight: Michael Walton, Engineer of Day Labor

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Employee spotlight: Michael Walton, Engineer of Day Labor

It takes a special set of skills to respond at a moment’s notice to perform emergency road and bridge repairs throughout Illinois. Michael Walton and the team he leads at the Bureau of Operations Day Labor — IDOT’s in-house construction company — work daily to make the impossible happen.

“It’s really rewarding to provide the districts and other state agencies with the manpower, equipment and specialized skills that our crews have in addressing the projects we repair every year,” Walton, Engineer of Day Labor, said of the depth and breadth of services his team brings to the table. “Our managers, supervisors, full-time and part-time personnel bring together skill sets of several trades from unions throughout the state, spend time away from their families and often work long hours to address the growing needs. Working together with these people has made this job enjoyable.”

A recent example of the bureau’s work occurred in January, when a crew installed a large steel “strongback” beam atop an Interstate 74 overpass east of Champaign after it was struck by an oversized load. The work helped stabilize the bridge and will keep motorists safe until a permanent solution is found.

“I lead the section in completing approximately 100 to 120 road and bridge projects each year throughout the state and assisting the districts and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency in addressing emergency concerns,” Walton said of his role. “Our construction staff, as well as our administrative staff, team of mechanics, mobilization unit and fabricators are all key elements in providing the districts with the ability to address their top repair priorities every season.”

Walton, who grew up in Metro East, began his career at IDOT as a District 8 engineering intern in the summer of 1986. He interned the following two summers and cut his teeth on projects like the survey and layout of I-255, construction of state road projects in the Collinsville area, and the repair and repainting of the Martin Luther King Bridge in East St. Louis.

He began working full time in District 6 after earning his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and entered the district’s rotation program, in which he served as a design squad leader, program analysis engineer, traffic operations engineer, safety analysis engineer and maintenance field engineer. He left IDOT in 2006 to work in the private sector but returned in 2016 to serve in his current position.

In addition to his bachelor’s degree, Walton also earned a master’s in business administration from the University of Illinois Springfield. His education and experience prepared him well for his work at IDOT.

“Having the experience in design, planning and construction prior to working in Operations gave me a good understanding of how IDOT functions,” Walton said. “The business degree helped inform me on managing personnel and business issues, and the managerial positions in Operations prior to taking the Day Labor Engineer position better equipped me for the operational, equipment and unique personnel management needed for the position.”