JWI’s Innovative Way Forward

By Alieu Kamara, Senior Project Engineer

With almost 25 years as a Woman-Owned Business (WBE) and a certified Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), J.A. Watts, Inc. (JWI) is a service partner to municipalities, state and county agencies that provides owner’s representation and construction, project, and program management services. JWI prides itself on the principle of treating clients and employees like family, with a desire to ensure everyone, including women and minorities, feels celebrated and appreciated for their dedication and hard work.
Ed Schoonveld, Senior Vice President of Engineering and Technology, leads the department with
Managing Directors who bring over 120 years of experience in the transportation industry. This
wealth of expertise and knowledge is passed down to their employees through mentorship and

Our transportation engineering work began on local streets and roads and expanded to include highways and tollways, including several significant corridors and interchanges. The Mile Long Bridge Reconstruction; the Congress Parkway and Jane Byrne Interchange Reconstruction; Illinois Tollway Veterans Memorial Tollway (I-355) Road and Bridge Rehabilitation, Illinois Tri-State Tollway and I-57 Interchange; the Illinois Tollway Elgin O’Hare Western Access I-490 at I-90 Interchange; and the Illinois Tollway JOC Program, which serviced over 30 plazas and maintenance facilities, are just some of the incredible projects our team is proud of.

The prime Phase III consultant on several construction projects for the Illinois Tollway and IDOT, Chris Trcka, PE, leads his team, who work alongside agency Resident Engineers. JWI is responsible for the on-site layout, design changes, inspection and testing, preparation of records, document maintenance, change orders, and periodic progress reports. Our IDOT District 2 Various Various Prime included several bridge deck and roadway reconstructions at IL 64 over I 39/US51, I 39/US 51 over the Kishwaukee River, and US 20 in Galena, IL. We are excited to continue work on the I-90 Kennedy Expressway Reversible Lane Control System (REVLAC) as the Resident Engineer.

The Cook County Systemwide Roadway Pavement and Asset Management program is another exciting project for JWI, which showcases our people’s range of capabilities to update, improve, and strengthen infrastructure. Under the leadership of John Farsatis, PE, the team is underway cataloging and assessing pavement, signage, and other various roadside assets that are visible from a roadway automated vehicle-based system data collection across Cook County. Underneath the surface, and not always visible to the untrained eye, is our work in ITS and fiber maintenance. Jim Laskero, PE, and his Technology team have been working with Adesta for the Illinois Tollway Systemwide Fiber Maintenance, providing a Liaison Engineer, watch and protect services, construction inspection services, and more. With JWI’s oversight, The Tollway’s I-90 Corridor has been reconstructed, widened, and improved. A new fiber optic system was added to support smart traffic devices and improve their duct system to allow leasing fiber ducts to more customers. The new Fiber Optic system and quick backbone fiber run spans 24 miles.

Hope Garrett, PE, is the driving force behind the creation of the latest Civil Planning and Design Services department at JWI. She saw the need to add Civil Engineering design to JWI’s capabilities to serve our clients better – another example of JWI’s innovative way forward. The new department provides infrastructure services to our clients involving the various elements of Civil Engineering projects. Our commitment to continuous improvement and serving agency partners has led to the first Prime win for the Civil Planning and Design Services department on a Phase I/II project for IDOT.

Not only is Hope a leader within JWI, but also a leader within the industry. She has been a member of the organization Women in Transportation Seminar (WTS), for the past 5 years. WTS’s mission and principles align with JWI’s commitment to diversity, as well as the focus on promoting the advancement of women in the transportation industry. It is due to these similar values that JWI was selected as the 2023 Employer of the Year by the WTS Greater Chicago Chapter.

Our commitment to diversity is showcased through two separate internal organizations within the company – WINGS and the Diversity and Inclusion Action Council (DIAC). WINGS is a space for our women to empower and interact with one another. DIAC is a team of openminded individuals who are courageously pioneering paths and building bridges in our communities. We are committed to advancing
and initiating actions, programs, and policies that support cultural awareness and allyship to minimize social inequities.

These efforts and more are a true testament to JWI’s innovative way of progressing forward. In true fashion, our theme for 2023 is “Inspire Innovation and Go Above & Beyond Expectations”. We know the future has many closed doors for us to open, and we look forward to continuing to explore opportunities for growth and push down barriers.

This article was featured in the Dec/Jan 2023-24 issue of the APWA Chicago Metro Chapter Newsletter, available here.