News Highlight

In Memoriam: Al Grant

Jun 16, 2015

Al GrantCOG's first-ever director of transportation planning, Albert Grant, died April 2, 2015, at the age of 88.

Grant joined COG in 1966 to build and lead a team that would be responsible for supporting the newly established National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB). In his time at COG and with the TPB, Grant oversaw a range of programs and planning activities, including regional travel survey work, studies of planned Metrorail expansions, and a new computerized carpool matching service. He was known for being professional, meticulous, and a skilled behind-the-scenes negotiator.

Grant served COG and the TPB for 21 years. Shortly after retiring in 1987, he went on to serve as the president of the American Society of Civil Engineers and received numerous awards and honors over the years for his many contributions to transportation planning and his work advocating for infrastructure issues at the regional and national levels.

Along with COG's founders, Grant ignited a culture of cooperation and consensus-building that still guides the people and the work of COG and the TPB today.

Learn more:

Al Grant, COG's First Transportation Planning Director, Remembered for His Leadership and Contributions to the Region

Former ASCE President Albert A. Grant Dies at 88


At its meeting on June 17, 2015, the TPB took a few moments to honor and remember Al Grant. Listen to the audio below.



Below are additional memories shared with us by some of Al Grant's former COG and TPB colleagues.

From Alan E. Pisarski, Former COG/TPB Chief of Data Collection and Analysis, 1966-1969:

I came to the TPB in 1966 after being hired by Al Grant and George Wickstrom to serve as the Chief of Data Collection and Analysis. The TPB was just getting underway and a full battery of travel surveys needed to be run and analyzed.

The early days of TPB were professionally difficult for the TPB and Al Grant. Al had to lead the newly created organization, threading his way through the thicket of State DOTs, who were not really sure that they liked the idea of some new agency taking on their prerogatives in their jurisdictions. Then there was the sensitive structure of the COG/TPB relationship – what did that mean? There was the then thorny DOT/HUD relationship. There was even a vestigial regional planning agency in the District with few staff and no money and which had had something like the TPB role but was superseded by TPB. A quagmire! Al and Walt Scheiber had to work out an accommodation on roles and goals. George always said that Walt wasn’t really sure what we did but he knew we were charged to do it and people seemed to respect what we were doing so he let us keep doing it.

Personally, Al was the quintessential gentleman -- always very polite and very gentle. I never recall him raising his voice or complaining or even getting angry. His office was absolutely meticulous -- pencils lined up, papers all neatly arranged, Martha Dunning, his valued assistant and our mother-hen, rushing in and out.

A fun memory I recall is that Al and George carpooled with Trudy Muranyi from Silver Spring each day. When they pulled into the garage you couldn’t see them for the cigar smoke in the car. Trudy would get out gasping for air and a big balloon of smoke would come out with her. George smoked the cheapest cigars available and Al the best. Great memories.

From George Wickstrom, Former COG/TPB Director of Technical Services, 1966-1992:

Everyone who ever worked with Al Grant knew that he was a great administrator and a true professional. Never was this made clearer to me than when the TPB was charged by the Board of Trade and by Walt Scheiber with the task of evaluating the Capital Beltway, past, present, and future, and holding a major regional conference on the results. Unfortunately for me, I was tasked with doing the job in a totally unreasonably short time period. I gathered the troops and made assignments. After the first simulations and forecasts came in, little time remained for analysis, much less to prepare the final report and presentations. I enlisted the aid of Art Smith, then a graphic consultant, to prepare the oversized charts for the regional meeting. Still, a final report had to be written in less than a week. I went up to Al and explained that we were going to miss the deadline, and we should postpone the meeting! To my eternal gratitude, Al said he would stay late and help with the final report. Together, we got it done just in time. The meeting and the report were a large success. I know this because Walt came up to me at the meeting and told me so!

From Jim Hogan, Former COG/TPB Director of Travel Forecasting, 1972-2009:

I served 15 years of my career at TPB with Al Grant as the DTP director. Among his many gifts was a marvelous sense of humor.

Each fiscal year the DTP budget had to be negotiated with the three state DOTs. VDOT insisted on having the meetings in Fredericksburg, an event George Wickstrom dubbed "Grant takes Richmond!" During one of those meetings, Al left me to supervise activities in the department. His instructions to his administrative assistant Martha Cranford were the following, "Jim's in charge; don't let him sign anything!"

From Phil Shapiro, Former COG/TPB Deputy Director of Transportation Planning, 1976-1984:

I started at TPB in 1976. Soon after I started, Al showed a lot of faith in me and made me the deputy director. Those of you that know me can decide whether he was a good judge of my ability to manage the responsibility. Al always made it look easy no matter how much trouble some of the state reps made. He never lost his cool.

Al once told me a story about two psychiatrists who worked in the same building. They went up the elevator every day, both of them well coiffed and relaxed. At the end of the day they came down the elevator, one looking as good as he did in the morning, the other looking a mess. One day the mess asked the other guy how he could listen to his patients all day and not look any worse for wear. His answer was "who listens". Guess which one was Al and which one was me.

To Al.


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