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State Highway Administration chief Pedersen will retire

Neil J. Pedersen, who led the State Highway Administration for more than eight years, will step down from his post at the end of the month, the agency announced Wednesday.

Pedersen will remain with the administration into the fall in a paid advisory position to assist with the transition and oversight of the construction of the $2.6 billion Inter-County Connector.

The 29-year veteran of the SHA said a “combination of personal and professional reasons” led him to retire.

“My wife and I have realized there are some things that we’ve wanted to do, but we haven’t been able to do because of the demands of the job,” Pedersen said.

Pedersen chairs the Transportation Research Board of the National Academy of Sciences, an experience he said piqued his interest in transportation issues beyond those that he deals with at SHA. He said he hasn’t decided where those interests will take him professionally, or whether he will end up back in the public sector or consulting in the private sector.

“I’m going to take a little time and make that decision,” said Pedersen. “I’m very interested in the area of traffic safety and the area of transportation and the environment in particular.”

The SHA owns and maintains 17,000 miles of road lanes in Maryland, and 2,600 hundred bridges.

During his time at the administration, where he led the planning division before taking the top spot, Pedersen oversaw improvements to Routes 32 and 100 in Howard County, Route 50 on the Eastern Shore, Interstate 195 and the beltways around both Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

Since being appointed by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. in 2003, Pedersen oversaw the largest construction program in the history of the SHA, according to the Maryland Department of Transportation. That includes the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and the ICC in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

“Whether a large project like the ICC or a smaller neighborhood improvement initiative, Neil always brought the same level of energy, concern and expertise to the table,” Transportation Secretary Beverley K. Swaim-Staley said in a statement.

Pedersen said he sent his resignation letter to Swaim-Staley Wednesday morning.

Raquel Guillory, spokeswoman for Gov. Martin O’Malley, said the search for a replacement began “as soon as [Pedersen] let us know.”

Deputy Transportation Secretary Darrel B. Mobley will serve as interim administrator of the SHA until a permanent replacement is found.