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Transportation planner stumbles into passion

Transportation planner stumbles into passion

December 9th, 2018 by Nicole Roberts in Local News

Julie Smith/News Tribune Alex Rotenberry poses outside of the Jefferson City Police Department with the Spin Scooter.

After working various odd jobs throughout his 20s, Alex Rotenberry wasn't sure what he wanted to do for a career. It wasn't until he worked on a Texas state Senate candidate campaign in Galveston, Texas, that he stumbled upon his love of planning and transportation.

The candidate wanted to use the existing rail for commuter trains between Galveston and Houston, which piqued Rotenberry's interest.

"I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do with myself," said Rotenberry, who grew up in the Dallas area before moving to Missouri in 2013. "I got a degree in political science, and I couldn't really make anything work with that. My 20s were wasted trying to figure it all out. But that was the switch that turned on, during that campaign, about moving people efficiently."

Over the last five years as a Jefferson City planner, Rotenberry said his passion for transportation has grown and gives him an opportunity to make a difference in the community.

"I love the kind of work I do," said Rotenberry, who now has a master's degree in city and regional planning. "I think it's a lot of fun, and it's really interesting. I think I'm making a difference out there."

Rotenberry's day-to-day schedule varies heavily, including holding public meetings, designing plans and working with JeffTran, the Missouri Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration.

He is also heavily involved with the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, which provides transportation planning for the metropolitan area that encompasses Jefferson City, Holts Summit, Taos, Wardsville and St. Martins, as well as portions of Cole and Callaway counties.

CAMPO is a Metropolitan Planning Organization, which is a federally required organization for an area that has an urbanized population of more than 50,000 people.

As a MPO, CAMPO must produce certain plans, such as a long-range transportation plan for the area and a plan that documents all projects in the CAMPO region that use federal transportation dollars. CAMPO also produces plans for its area that are not federally required, such as the 2016 Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan that outlines goals to improve safety, connectivity and mobility for pedestrians and bicycle users.

While the job contains loads of paperwork and can be monotonous, Rotenberry said, he enjoys working with a wide range of people.

"We're not stuck working with the same people over and over again," he said. "We work with new people all the time. We're working with people from the county and MoDOT and the city and some of the villages and cities that are in (CAMPO's) area. There's just so much variety, so many things to do, so many people to meet. It's wonderful, and I enjoy that aspect of the job."

Rotenberry emphasized getting involved with local commissions and committees that work with planning and transportation if someone wants to go into this field. He added those interested can also attend Jefferson City Council and Jefferson City Planning and Zoning meetings or speak with the city's planners.

Outside of work, Rotenberry enjoys exploring new cities, visiting comic conventions and attending baseball games. He noted his goal is to visit all 30 major league baseball stadiums.