Highways and Heights: The Remarkable Career of Isaac Joskowicz

“It was December of 1977, and I remember that the Alabama Theatre on Westheimer, just west of Montrose Boulevard in Houston, was screening the first Star Wars movie,” recalls Isaac Joskowicz. It was his first time in the Bayou City, moving to the United States from his native Bolivia. Fortunately for BGE, his curiosity was not limited to the world of fiction. What fascinated him the most about the city was the intricate web of roads in Houston.

But it wasn’t just the typical asphalt and concrete that captured Isaac’s interest; it was the complexity of the interchanges that allowed for the free flow of vehicles, eliminating the need to stop at traffic lights or roundabouts. The most complicated ones, nicknamed ‘Spaghetti Junctions,’ captivated Isaac’s imagination, convincing him to pursue the field of transportation engineering.

After taking one semester of intense English the following year, he started college in the fall of 1978 at the University of Houston (UH). By 1986, he had obtained his master’s in civil engineering.  In 2012, after successfully defending his ‘Dynamic Bus Lane’ dissertation, he received his PhD from the University of Texas in Arlington, the largest university in North Texas.

Isaac’s 38-year career has been a remarkable journey, marked by numerous challenges, successes, and well-deserved recognition. Between 2006-2007, his comprehensive traffic studies in support of the City of Houston’s flextime workplace initiative earned him the prestigious Mayor’s Recognition Award.  Most recently, he received the 2023 TxITE Distinguished Engineer – Private Sector Award from the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE), Houston Area Section.  The award acknowledges Isaac’s contributions and commitment to advancing traffic and transportation projects in Greater Houston and the State of Texas.

Several of his career projects reflect Houston’s growth over the past four decades. METRO’s HOV, LightRail and BOOST Systems, the Westpark Drive Intelligent Highway System, the Katy Freeway reconstruction, the Grand Parkway/Segment E, the HCTRA All-Electronic Tolling, and the innovative concept presented by BGE for the SH 6 Triple Left System in Sugar Land, all bear Isaac’s distinctive mark.  The latter won the Texas CEC 2011 Engineering Excellence Award Gold Medal Winner/Special Projects Category.

For aspiring transportation engineers, Isaac’s advice is founded on three fundamental principles. He emphasizes the importance of mastering technical aspects first, followed by developing supervisory skills to transition into management roles, and finally, honing marketing skills to leverage technical excellence.  

Isaac likes to savor life’s moments after a busy day at work and when he’s not teaching Transportation Engineering at UH. In his spare time, he enjoys friendly poker games with friends, family, and even clients to create bonds that go beyond the board. And when it comes to the culinary arts, he takes pride in serving up the best fajitas in town.

Receiving TxITE’s 2023 Distinguished Engineer Award.
BGE’s Director, Transportation Systems; Megan Siercks, PE, PTOE, PTP; Mirian Joskowicz, Isaac’s wife; and Matt Brannen, BGE’s Managing Director, Transportation Systems.
Isaac in front of UH’s Roy Cullen Memorial Classroom building, where he has taught Transportation Engineering since 1991.