HANNIBAL – When Tom Batenhorst began his career as a highway designer in the design department at the Missouri Department of Transportation in 1986, he was not given a computer. “Plans were drawn by hand and certain calculations were done on Texas Instruments calculators,” he recalls. He did get a terminal to use off the mainframe in 1987, then personal computers came over the next few years. Batenhorst would eventually become a licensed professional engineer, and with 34 years of public service, he retired as district planning engineer on Jan. 1, 2020.
There were many other changes affecting how projects were built, types of materials used, and the incorporation of public involvement in the decision-making processes.
“It has been very rewarding to see our state agency value the opinion of those affected by transportation projects and has allowed us to get to know our citizens better, as well as give them the opportunity to recognize we are professionals who work hard to improve Missouri’s transportation system,” he said.
Batenhorst was instrumental in the project management of four-laning the Avenue of the Saints, the U.S. Route 61 corridor, from LaGrange to Mount Pleasant, Iowa.
“This was definitely a highlight in my career,” he noted. “It was exciting to have public interest in not only that project, but also throughout the project from the environmental impact study, an archeological dig, the location of the highway, and the many celebrations along the way,” he added. This project was especially meaningful to him, because he uses this highway to drive to his hometown of Muscatine, Iowa and to his alma mater, Iowa State University in Ames.
While Batenhorst served in many roles throughout his lengthy career, including highway designer, design squad leader, project manager, district design engineer, and district planning manager, the project most memorable for him is the Route 47 bridge over Interstate 70 at Warrenton. “It was the first big project I was the lead on as a designer, and it involved not only construction of a new bridge over an interstate, but also signals, lighting, ramp and outer road work,” he said.
Due to the length of his service and nature of his work, Batenhorst had the opportunity to work with many people both within and outside of MoDOT, and also forge friendships. “As a public servant, I’ve been given the opportunity to work with people all over the state, including elected officials, planning partners and consultants,” he noted. “I will miss working first and foremost with my MoDOT family, but really all those I’ve had a chance to work with over the years,” he said.
“Tom’s experience and institutional knowledge have been valuable to not only our MoDOT team, also to the citizens of Missouri for his foresight and leadership in continuing to maintain and improve our transportation system,” said MoDOT District Engineer Paula Gough.
As for retirement, Batenhorst plans to continue to remain active in the Hannibal community as a lifelong member of the Hannibal Jaycees, a board member for the Hannibal Parksand Recreation Department, coordinator for the Hannibal to Quincy portion of the St. Jude Run, as well as spending more time with his wife of 31 years, Terry. He also enjoys golfing, running and playing pickleball. They have one son, Caleb Bourn, and two dogs, Cyrus and Lulu, who help keep them entertained.