Joe Crabtree, director of the Kentucky Transportation Center at the University of Kentucky, retired on March 1. He had served in that role since 2010. Doug Kreis, associate director of the Kentucky Transportation Center (KTC), is serving as interim director.
A native of Lexington, Kentucky, Crabtree attended Bryan Station High School. As a senior, a classmate informed him of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s scholarship in Civil Engineering at UK. He applied and UK awarded him the scholarship. His student years brought about another important milestone: Dr. Crabtree began dating his future wife, Lisa. They grew up in the same church and were reacquainted when her family moved back to Lexington. Crabtree would go on to complete his bachelor’s degree and receive a National Science Foundation fellowship to attend graduate school. The Transportation Cabinet granted a leave of absence from the scholarship’s job commitment so that he could complete his master’s degree in one year. Crabtree began his transportation career in the Division of Research, working in the Traffic and Safety section.
When Governor John Y. Brown transferred the Kentucky Department of Transportation's research functions to UK in 1980, Crabtree became a UK employee and was released from his remaining scholarship obligation. Always up for a challenging opportunity to test his capabilities and limits, Crabtree sought out the Navy recruiter who had courted him as a student. The recruiter encouraged him to apply for the Nuclear Propulsion Program. Upon his acceptance, Crabtree reported to Officer Candidate School in February of 1983. He served as an officer in the United States Navy from 1983 to 1987.
After leaving the Navy, Crabtree went to work for Mobil Chemical Company in Illinois. Family roots in Kentucky—Lexington and Powell County—would lead him back to transportation, and back to the Kentucky Transportation Center in 1992. He enjoyed that first decade back at the Center—when KTC managed the Advantage I-75 Operational Test Project, created the Intelligent Transportation Systems research area and supported the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet in many leading national initiatives. It was during this time that Crabtree earned his Ph.D. in civil engineering, which paved the way to eventually becoming the Center’s director.
In retirement, Crabtree plans to stay involved with KTC, assisting with research a few days a week.
The content for this article was provided by KTC.