RALEIGH, NC (AP) Don Goins, the longest-serving chief operations engineer for the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) died Sept. 26, after a battle with cancer. He was 62.
Goins’ job was to oversee the maintenance and operation of 78,000 mi. of state roads, but those who worked with him said his personal goal was to help people.
A man dedicated to his work, he took care of motorists stranded by flat tires and communities pummeled by hurricanes during his 10 years at the position.
Early in his tenure, Goins started the incident management program, which began with yellow pickup trucks that patrol busy highways to assist motorists. The program now includes remote-controlled signs warning of traffic jams ahead.
This year, Goins was one of the architects of the “Moving Ahead” program, which will use approximately $630 million in Highway Trust Fund money to upgrade mostly two-lane roads across the state.
“Don had an excellent handle on what some of the true needs are,” said David Allsbrook Jr., who was his chief deputy for four years. “He was very much a proponent of trying to improve our highway system from a safety standpoint.”
But Goins may be best remembered for his ability to marshal resources after natural disasters such as Hurricane Floyd four years ago. After Hurricane Fran in 1996, he moved NCDOT workers from across the state to a tent city at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh to help the Triangle.
“Don seemed to be at his absolute best in a disaster —dealing with it, coping with it, organizing,” said David D. King, NCDOT’s deputy secretary of transit.
Goins died just after Hurricane Isabel blew through the state, “but I think he knew it was coming — both the hurricane and his death — and there had to be a sense in him that everything would be all right with this department in responding to this crisis,” King said.
A Graham native, Goins received a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from North Carolina State University in 1965. He began his career that same year as an engineer-in-training for NCDOT’s Division 7 office in Greensboro.
He became the top engineer for Division 10, which includes Charlotte, before rising to the job of NCDOT chief engineer.
Gov. Mike Easley awarded Goins with one of the state’s highest civilian honors, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, and the NCDOT Operations Hall of Fame inducted him.