ATSSA announces winners of three national awards

Awards given at 51st Annual Convention & Traffic Expo

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. (Feb.17, 2021) – The American Traffic Safety Services Association is pleased to announce winners of the Industry Achievement Award, the Mark of Excellence Award and the National Safety Award.

The awards were given as part of the 51stth Annual Convention & Traffic Expo, held online Feb. 8-12 & 16-18. The Industry Achievement Award and the Mark of Excellence Award were announced on Feb. 16. The National Safety Award was announced today.

Industry Achievement AwardPaul Carlson, Chief Technology Officer, Road Infrastructure Inc.

The ATSSA Industry Achievement Award is the association’s highest honor and given to an ATSSA member who achieves distinction deemed worthy of special recognition. It honors members who have made significant contributions to ATSSA and left a mark on the roadway safety infrastructure industry.

Paul Carlson was nominated by five men from the fields of academics, business and government for this honor including Charlie Bond of Nippon Carbide Industries, Seth Chalmers of Dibble Engineering, H. Gene Hawkins of Texas A&M University, Neal Hawkins of the Institute for Transportation at Iowa State University, and Greg Schertz of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

“I can state without qualification that there is no other individual in our profession who has done more to advance highway safety in the last 20 years through research on traffic control devices,” H. Gene Hawkins, who chairs the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (NCUTCD), wrote in nominating Carlson.

Carlson holds a doctorate in civil engineering from Texas A&M and spent nearly 25 years at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute before joining Road Infrastructure Inc. in Greensboro, N.C., in January 2018.

He became a member of ATSSA in 1998 and since then has served on the Signs and Pavement Marking committees, Innovation Council, and MUTCD and Retroreflectivity subcommittees.

“I can think of no one other than Paul who has been more dedicated, knowledgeable, experienced and influential in the area of traffic signs, pavement markings and other traffic control devices, not only in the research he has accomplished, but also in tireless and passionate advocacy of the important role these features play in providing a safer roadway environment,” Seth Chalmers, director of traffic engineering for Dibble Engineering in Phoenix wrote in his nomination.

Chalmers noted that Carlson spent the first two decades of his career focused on advancing roadway safety through “innovative research methods” and then “championed the results that led to new roadway design standards, traffic sign fonts, minimum traffic sign retroreflectivity levels, pavement marking retroreflectivity test methods, and crash modifications factors for specific features of traffic control devices such as 6-inch pavement marking width and raised retroreflective pavement markers.”

Carlson is currently focused on the potential impacts of connected and automated vehicles (CAV) on roadway infrastructure and building relationships between the CAV industry and the roadway safety infrastructure industry.

“Paul is an internationally recognized technical expert in traffic control devices. He has utilized that expertise to pioneer advancements in the traffic safety industry and improve the dialogue with government and the automobile industry to revolutionize the path forward to save lives on our nation’s roads,” Greg Schertz of FHWA wrote. “His efforts, through speaking engagements and bringing together different participants for meetings, have not only led to changes in national standards but also created paradigm shifts in scientific and governmental partners. These shifts in thinking will undoubtedly contribute to saved lives.”

National Safety AwardJohn Leonard, Traffic Management Division Operations Engineer, Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT)

This award recognizes an employee or recent retiree of a government agency who made a significant contribution to the safety of our nation’s highways.

John Leonard has been in the traffic industry for three decades, is always willing to share his knowledge with others, and has been involved with national committees and conventions, including serving in a leadership role with the Temporary Traffic Control Subcommittee for the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (NCUTCD), Jay Ruegner, regional sales manager at Wanco Inc. of Arvida, Colo., said in nominating him.

He noted that Leonard has also been working on a wrong way driving initiative in Utah, incident management efforts and is a proponent of driver awareness about vehicle handling for all situations.

“If the motorist understands what they need to do in any driving situation, it reduces driver stress and helps them make better decisions and that saves lives,” Ruegner said. “Google John’s name and you will see dozens of articles where he is quoted discussing local traffic issues …. You don't need to look long before you realize the impact he has had on the drivers of Utah and the influence he has had nationally.”

“His commitment to safety has set the bar high,” Ruegner added. “He is a great ambassador for UDOT and his influence has national reach. He has always been a forward thinker trying to improve what can be improved to make the roads safer.”

Mark of Excellence AwardDavid Kuniega, Chief Chemist, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT)

The Mark of Excellence Award is given to an ATSSA member who has made outstanding contributions to the advancement of roadway safety infrastructure through improved pavement markings.

David Kuniega is a longtime chair of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Subcommittee on Materials (which includes maintenance of the AASHTO pavement marking specifications such as M247—Glass Beads used in Pavement Markings and M249—Standard Specification for Retroreflective Thermoplastic Striping Material). He also is a longtime chair of the National Transportation Product Evaluation Program (NTPEP) Pavement Marking Committee where he oversees the annual accelerated pavement marking test decks many states use for Qualified Products List (QPL) acceptance. He also participates in ATSSA Pavement Marking Committee meetings where he provides detailed reports from his work at AASHTO and NTPEP.

Kuniega, who retired this month, has been a leader in the pavement marking industry for the past decade and is known for his leadership and integrity within the DOT community, which enabled industry input into the development and maintenance of national material specifications and testing protocols, Paul Carlson, chief technology officer at Road Infrastructure Inc., said in nominating him.

“It is well known within the pavement marking industry that David has single-handedly opened doors to allow industry input to improve the AASHTO specifications as well as the NTPEP testing protocols,” Carlson said. “His national leadership is felt within every state DOT as well as by every striping contractor and material manufacture. …The nation’s highways are safer than ever, partly because of dedicated leaders like David.”

For more information about ATSSA’s 51st Annual Convention & Traffic Expo, visit


ATSSA’s core purpose is to advance roadway safety. ATSSA represents the roadway safety industry with effective legislative advocacy and a far-reaching member partnership. The association also leads the nation in work zone safety training and education for roadway workers across the country. ATSSA members accomplish the advancement of roadway safety through the design, manufacture, and installation of road safety and traffic control devices. Visit to learn more.

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