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news release

Contact: John Dourgarian
RELEASE: October 30, 2000

NJDOT to honor visionary engineer

As part of Governor Christie Whitman’s Many Faces, One Family initiative, Commissioner James Weinstein will join State Senator Connors and Assemblymen Connors and Moran, along with local officials, in dedicating the Route 72 bridge into Long Beach Island in honor of DOT engineer Dorland J. Henderson. The event will be held at the bridge on Wednesday, November 1, 2000, at 10:30 AM.

Dorland J. Henderson, known as "Don," overcame discrimination in the early part of his career to become one of DOT’s top engineers in the mid 1950s. One of the first assignments he was given was to develop a low level lighting system for the Route 72 bridge spanning Stafford Township and Long Beach Island.

The lighting system on the Route 72 bridge was the first of its kind in the world. The goal of building such a unique low-level lighting system was to preserve the clean lines of the structure. The lighting system, made up of 768 separate fluoresent lights, has been hailed as one of the most aesthetically-pleasing ever designed for a bridge in this country, and has been described as a "string of pearls," and a "pathway to heaven." The lights have been in continuous use since 1958.

Mr. Henderson designed this lighting system from scratch – an achievement that few electrical engineers of the day could match. Mr. Henderson rose through the ranks of DOT, and experienced many forms of discrimination and job denials. Perhaps because of these injustices, or despite them, he took it upon himself to ensure that his employees worked in an environment devoid of racial distinctions.

Mr. Henderson died in 1996 at the age of 96. As we celebrate Governor Whitman’s goal of Many Faces, One Family, it is fitting to honor this man of vision, know-how, and fortitude. His unique bridge, along with the expertise and fairness he brought to his job at NJDOT, will be honored at this ceremony.

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