Faster than a speeding bullet (and more expensive than Superman could have dreamed), the projected $9.95 billon California High-Speed Rail Project is designed to quickly connect commuters between Los Angeles and San Francisco, with a dozen stations along the route. Future rail extensions are expected for San Diego and Sacramento.
The rail system, which is administered by the California High-Speed Authority, aims to meet the state’s 21st-century transportation needs through the construction of the futuristic high-speed rail system by 2029.
“One of my proudest achievements, aside from gaining professional licensure and giving back to ASCE [through leadership and volunteer efforts], was working on the conceptual design of the California High-Speed Rail Project in Los Angeles in 2012,” says Jane M. Tran, P.E., ENV SP, M.ASCE, an engineer in the Los Angeles, California, office of Hatch Mott MacDonald. Tran was responsible for overseeing the production of more than 200 conceptual engineering drawings for railroad and roadway bridges throughout Southern California for the project.
“Challenges included leading the structural engineering effort to design the geometry of the bridges, collaborating with a team of about 20 alignment, civil, electrical, and systems engineers in three different offices, and improving the efficiency of the production and quality management processes to ensure that the task was completed on time and on budget,” explained Tran. “The project’s completion will one day allow riders to travel between San Francisco and Los Angeles in less than three hours, and it is expected to promote economic development, a cleaner environment, and the creation of more than 450,000 new jobs. I pride myself in contributing to a project that will one day become a milestone in American infrastructure.”
Her success in this project has led to other leadership roles within the HMM structural team, where she continues to excel in her technical capabilities. Currently, Tran is working on the Regional Connector Transit Corridor project, a $1.4 billion underground light rail transit line that runs 1.9 miles beneath downtown Los Angeles.
“I perform finite element analysis to model the soil structure interaction and designed one of three underground stations along the alignment,” notes Tran, who presently serves as president of ASCE’s Los Angeles Section Younger Member Forum (YMF). “It’s a very challenging and exciting project to work on because the project delivery method is design-build. This means that we are teaming up with the contractor to reduce the delivery schedule by overlapping the design phase and construction phase of the project.
“That means we are challenged to work faster, harder, and better every day because the aggressive schedule doesn’t leave room for mistakes, especially when portions of the project are being built onsite as we are completing our design.”
As LA Branch YMF president, Tran was responsible for some significant changes to their local chapter, including growing the K-12 outreach activities and revitalizing their P.E. Review Course.
“We started with about five events a year with some partnering schools, and [have now] grown to about 25 events,” says Tran, who in 2011 was honored with the Branch Outstanding Civil Engineer in Community Service Award. “Our K-12 program now reaches out to more than 3,000 students in the LA area, and this year, our new partnership with another nonprofit, Iridescent, will enable us to create a science video that will reach out to kids all over the nation. “
Tran explained that the LA YMF provides a 14-part course to help their members prepare for a grueling three-day exam that qualifies them for professional licensure. And for the members, the course is offered at about half the price as some of their local competitors, and helps serve as one of their largest fundraisers for ASCE activities.
“For the past six years, before my co-chair and I took over, the P.E. Review Course was barely breaking even,” she says. “We revamped the course by creating a new website, making registration easier and faster, substantially increasing our marketing, and surveying our students to make the changes necessary for continual improvement. It resulted in sold out classes every year, and the funds that were generated have helped us fund four new committees this year, with the possibility of two new scholarships.”
Concluded Tran: “I believe that engineers have the duty to give back to their profession, and that everyone has something invaluable to offer, whether it’s visiting an elementary school to inspire kids about earthquake engineering, or helping to shape our profession by changing public policy. I didn’t get to where I am today without the aid of or inspiration by others, and I don’t think that we as a profession can get to where we should be without the volunteerism of our membership.”