A Tribute to Colleague and Friend, Kirk Zeringue

We are deeply saddened over the death of LTRC Special Studies Research Administrator Kirk Zeringue, who passed away on Friday, June 26, 2020, at the age of 42.

To many, he described himself as “a jack of all trades, master of none.” However, those closest to him are quick to boast of his many contributions and impacts to the field of transportation and research.

As a valued voice and contributor, Kirk served on the TRB ADA50 Standing Committee on Transportation Programming and Investment Decision-Making and the TRB ABG 10 Standing Committee on Conduct of Research. He was also selected by TRB to serve on the project panel for NCHRP Project 23-07: “Guidebook for Identifying and Implementing Forecasting Techniques for Effective Target Setting” as well as the chairman of the project panel for NCHRP Project 17-87: “Enhancing Pedestrian Volume Estimation and Developing HCM Pedestrian Methodologies for Safe and Sustainable Communities.”

In May, he received a Master of Transportation from The University of New Orleans and was awarded Outstanding Graduate Student.

Kirk’s drive to further his knowledge and expertise was evident not only in his recent pursuit of higher education but also in his years of experience in the field and his desire to ask questions and produce results. ITS/Traffic Program Manager and friend, Julius Codjoe, explained, “Kirk knew the name of any DOTD resource that I needed off the top of his head. He left this world young, but most of his working life had been at DOTD. He served DOTD with a passion and he loved what he did. Kirk will be remembered for his institutional knowledge of DOTD and LTRC. He was widely known and he knew widely.”

A particular area of passion for Kirk was analyzing probe data. This data is a form of traffic flow data, collected by third-party companies, using GPS-enabled vehicles travelling in the traffic stream over pre-defined road segments. DOTD gets probe data from INRIX through the RITIS platform of the University of Maryland’s CATT Lab.

“Kirk was a champion for DOTD. He was constantly asking for help in educating folks around the state on how to better use data to solve their own problems. He wanted to enable people. In a world where many just want to help themselves solve their own problems, it was refreshing to meet someone who cared about empowering others. He wanted what was best for the state. He wanted to make a difference, and he wanted to encourage others to do the same,” said Director of CATT Lab and friend, Michael Pack.

Kirk also made a difference in people’s lives wherever he went. Known for his brisk walk down the hall and between buildings, he was constantly on the move, investing in those around him. Whether he was presenting to a national audience of researchers, giving a guest lecture, or leading a project meeting, he is remembered for his constant smile, genuine personality, attentiveness, humor, and excellent managerial and problem-solving skills.

“Kirk saw opportunities to solve Louisiana’s transportation problems where most people would have just thrown their hands up in the air and quit,” said Pack. “He did more with limited data sets and limited tools that other states and people that had significantly more resources.”

A loving father and husband, Kirk would also frequently share stories of his children, Skyler and Emi, and he often spoke highly of his wife, Lori. “Kirk always talked about how smart she was and would even send her Excel spreadsheets we were struggling to analyze. True to word, she always had the answer and would turn around what could have taken us a lot of time to solve,” added Dr. Codjoe.

Family man, data expert, innovator, colleague, and friend, Kirk’s time in this world may have been too brief, but the effects from his presence will be far-reaching for years to come. We are grateful for the many years we were able to witness Kirk’s love of numbers, people, and problem-solving work together to benefit our communities and state in such a profound way.