Tony Illia, the public face of the Nevada Dept. of Transportation as lead public information officer in its southern region and a former ENR journalist with a long tenure in covering the construction sector, died suddenly on July 30 in Las Vegas. He was 52.

The cause was heart related issues, a family member says.

The Nevada highway agency confirmed the death In an Aug. 2 statement, describing Illia, a seven-year NDOT manager, as "a committed public servant" and noting his "tireless work and kind spirit."

Illia wrote for ENR from 2000 to 2014, authoring detailed updates of such major projects as the Hoover Dam Bypass bridge, the $1.8-billion Project Neon interchange expansion in Las Vegas, and the $527-millon Lake Mead water intake tunnel, as well informed analyses of financial, labor and project management issues on other big regional projects and faced by industry firms and agencies.

His one-time ENR blog, Neon Desert, attracted strong industry readership.

In a 2009 cover story he authored about a safety turnaround at one Las Vegas high-rise project, CityCenter, which had a number of fatalities during construction, Illia set a vivid scene as he shadowed workers on site for several days: "It feels like the first day of school. There is excited talk, off-color jokes, old-friend reunions and nervous glances. People size one another up and separate into clusters—ironworkers, carpenters and Spanish-speaking laborers."

But his narrative and message became more serious by the article's end: "Leaders should be concerned because it is not clear that 10 hours of safety training can stem the carnage. If it were that simple, no one would ever get hurt." he wrote. "That seems unlikely because the classroom instruction, booklets and blunt warnings do not tell the whole story.  You cannot force someone to behave safely even if you teach them all the rules. You cannot badger or terrify."

Doug Puppel, ENR’s Nevada correspondent and 20-year colleague of Illia, says that “as a former construction writer, Tony was invaluable in explaining the engineering behind the projects. He loved the industry and was always pointing out the safety procedures in place to protect the workers.”

Janice Tuchman, ENR editor-in-chief, adds, "We have lost a resource, a colleague and a friend."

Illia was a three-time winner of the Construction Writers Association's Robert F. Boger Journalism Award and was recognized five times for his work by the Nevada Press Association. He also wrote for the Las Vegas Business Press, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Architecture Las Vegas Magazine and was editor and co-publisher of Southern Nevada Real Estate Monthly.

A former Associated General Contractors spokesman, he also was a board member of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Construction and Engineering Management program's Industry Advisory Board.

Link here for Tony Illia legacy obituary.