Faces of High-Speed Rail

John Hernandez

Creating Connections in the Central Valley

July 25, 2017 – When it comes to supporting the California high-speed rail project, it is no mystery where John Hernandez stands. As Director of the High-Speed Rail Support Group (HSRSG), Hernandez has taken on the role of being one of the project’s biggest boosters in the Central Valley. His organization highlights the widespread economic benefits high-speed rail will bring to the area and has positioned itself as a resource to the small business community.

Founded in 2015, the HSRSG is made up of dozens of active members who support the construction of high-speed rail in California. The group regularly works with the Fresno Economic Development Corporation and the City of Fresno and holds monthly luncheons to provide networking opportunities for businesses interested in working on the project.

“We’ve had the Small Business Administration, Board of Equalization and other government agencies, as well as local officials who support the project,” explained Hernandez. “We also focus on getting prime contractors to explain the processes of getting qualified and help people connect with businesses that are already involved so attendees can learn the process.”

High-Speed Rail Support Group

Hernandez said that while people may see cranes and infrastructure popping up around Fresno, many don’t realize that high-speed rail is happening, especially outside the Central Valley. HSRSG members go up and down the state meeting with chambers of commerce and similar organizations, focusing on spreading the word about the positive aspects of high-speed rail.

For more information about upcoming meetings, contact John Hernandez at 559-721-7097 or fetoday@gmail.com.


CHP Fresno

California Highway Patrol Keeps High-Speed Rail Safe

July 10, 2017 – With more than 600 state-owned high-speed rail properties in Fresno County alone, making sure each site is safe and secure is all in a day’s work for the California Highway Patrol’s (CHP) Safety Services Program officers (SSP). We sat down with Sgt. David Salcido and Officer John Makel with the CHP’s SSP unit in the Central Division to talk about their role on the project.

The unit is responsible for investigating crimes and suspicious activity at state properties – ensuring state employees and facilities are protected, including those of the California High-Speed Rail Authority. Each SSP officer works with local security to patrol and respond to calls of trespassing or breaking and entering on high-speed rail properties. The officers then ensure the property is under control and safe for both the public and state employees throughout the alignment in Fresno County.

After a property is purchased for high-speed rail, the building is boarded up while utilities are disconnected. The structure is then abated for hazardous materials before being demolished. This process may take 6-12 months. During that time, Sgt. Salcido says the public needs to pay attention and heed signs because several of these buildings are in states of disrepair.

“The hazards of walking around or being inside vacant property are high, and we can’t predict what’s going to happen,” said Salcido. “So if they heed the warnings to stay away from these areas, it would do us a huge amount of help.”

However, monitoring property is not the only thing the unit focuses on. Officer Makel says their unit wears many hats. In addition to patrolling and monitoring state properties, SSP officers are also responsible for providing protective service detail for elected officials, giving safety presentations and trainings, examining traffic collisions, and the list goes on.


HSR staff educating students

Educating the Next Generation on High-Speed Rail

June 27, 2017 – Urban and environmental planners and engineers in the Southern California Regional Office are not only working to build the nation’s first high-speed rail system, they’re educating students throughout the region. From Fall 2016 to Summer 2017, Southern California staff participated in 23 events, directly engaging 4,000 students and reaching more than 11,000 students in total.

Nearly 400 students heard from Southern California staff who participated in Engineer Week presentations in February, sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Staff presented to students at the Los Angeles Zoo, Los Angeles City Hall, Metro Board Room and Carson STEM High School. In March, they spoke to more than 2,000 students, then reached about 550 more students in April at various classrooms and career fairs throughout Southern California.

HSR staff educating students

Southern California Regional Director Michelle Boehm is excited to see the educational program continue to grow in 2017. “We have a commitment to engage students in Southern California about mobility opportunities and future decisions,” said Boehm. “The transportation landscape continues to evolve here, and high-speed rail will be one of many public transportation options that help students increase their productivity in school and later at work.”

In 2016, more than 5,000 students attended events at eight schools hosting high-speed rail staff at STEM classroom presentations and International Trade Education Programs (ITEP) and university career workshops and events. This includes about 500 university, high school and middle school students who directly engaged with Southern California staff to hear about high-speed rail project activities and careers on large infrastructure projects. Schools visited included the Girls Academic Leadership STEM Academy in Los Angeles, USC, UCLA, Cal Poly, and California State Universities at Fullerton and Dominguez.


Picture of Chuck Riojas

Preparing a Future Workforce

June 20, 2017 – California High-Speed Rail may be in its early stages, but it is already making a difference in the lives of people in the Central Valley. Chuck Riojas, Executive Secretary and Treasurer of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Fresno, Madera, Kings and Tulare Counties, oversees a pre-apprenticeship training program created with the Fresno Workforce Investment Board using over a million dollars they received in state grants.

Working with local unions through the Building and Construction Trades Council of Fresno, Madera, Kings & Tulare Counties, the program identifies and trains workers for careers in construction. The goal is to enable them to work on the high-speed rail project as carpenters, equipment operators, cement masons, laborers and all the other jobs the project will need.

Pre-apprenticeship training program

The program focuses on 12 targeted groups, identified in the high-speed rail project’s Community Benefits Policy, including people either lacking basic requirements for employment like a driver’s license or high school diploma, as well as those with bigger issues such as a criminal history. “They all have barriers to employment,” Riojas said. “It might be extreme or might not be, but they’re all seeking jobs.”

The six-week program offers a core curriculum of construction basics like reading a tape measure and math using fractions and decimals. Students also learn how to become more easily employable by learning to create a resume and how to interview.

Classroom work takes up the first two weeks, followed by “hands-on” training for the various occupations that give students their first experience in construction activities. Students then choose a profession to pursue and can apply for the various unions’ formal apprenticeship programs.

For more information on the pre-apprenticeship program go to HSRjobs.com.


Seattle Delegation Picture

Seattle Delegation Receives a Primer on California’s High-Speed Rail Program

June 12, 2017 – A 40-member delegation from the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce received an overview of California’s High-Speed Rail program as part of its 2017 Intercity Study Mission to San Francisco. Northern Regional Director Ben Tripousis gave advice on best practices in implementing the program.

Chamber leadership selected San Francisco for the three-day trip for the similar opportunities and challenges the cities are attempting to confront. The trip was designed to strengthen ties between the cities, explore best practices being employed to address regional issues and help develop sustainable solutions to Seattle’s most pressing issues and concerns.

“We must continue to connect with and learn from others if we are to ensure the future sustainable prosperity and global competitiveness of our region,” said Mindi Linquist, Vice President of External Relations for the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.

Members of the chamber met Tripousis at the San Francisco International Airport. They received a presentation on the California High-Speed Rail program and how the project has evolved over the past 20 years.

Officials in the state of Washington – with significant interest from leaders in the high-tech sector – are conducting a feasibility study for a high-speed rail line that would stretch from Vancouver, British Columbia to Portland, with potential stops throughout Washington.

Tripousis urged members of the delegation to “engage the public” early in the planning stages, adding that it’s important that communities have a voice in the ultimate vision of the program and its potential impacts.

“As elected leaders explore the potential for high-speed rail service in Washington State, it is important that we learn from those who are already implementing it here in California,” Linquist said. “Ben’s remarks emphasize the economic importance of establishing strong connections between our major metropolitan regions, and the need for thoughtful and inclusive engagement from the business community on this topic.


TEC Management Consultants Picture

Tenacity Pays Off for TEC Management Consultants

June 8, 2017 – It’s been nearly three decades since civil engineer Tim Coffey launched his firm in Inglewood. Certified as a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) and owned by an African-American, the company features two divisions, TEC Management Consultants and TEC Constructors and Engineers. Together, they offer engineering, construction, project management and utility relocation and design services. The company’s list of clients includes Southern California Gas, Walt Disney, Major League Baseball, LA Metro and Caltrans. According to Coffey, “From the outside it may look easy, but I can tell you, it requires a lot of hard work which means long days and nights.”

TEC Management Consultants Picture

In 2015, three years after he and his staff attended California High-Speed Rail Authority outreach events, Coffey became a subcontractor to WSP USA, the Rail Delivery Partner (RDP) for high-speed rail.

In the Central Valley, TEC negotiates deals with cities, counties, water and irrigation districts and communications and power companies who sign third-party agreements to relocate fiber-optic cables and other major utilities such as phone, water, gas and electricity. The company also handles right-of-way land acquisitions and provides contract management.

To date, the company has earned over $700,000 for its work on high-speed rail. It has contributed to company growth. “When we joined high-speed rail, we didn’t have any employees working on the project,” Coffey said. “Now, we have nine employees assigned to it and may soon hire a 10th person.”

Read more about TEC Management Consultants in our Small Business Newsletter.


Paleo Solutions Worker

Discovering the Past Beneath the Rails

June 7, 2017 – As they crouch on their hands and knees with their faces inches from the ground, Geraldine Aron and Paleo Solutions employees hunt for historical clues. They sift gingerly through the dirt looking for items that will tell them more about properties that may be impacted by high-speed rail.

Square One Productions

Since 2015, Paleo Solutions, a certified Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) based in Monrovia, has worked on three sections of high-speed rail – Palmdale to Burbank in Southern California and San Jose to Merced and San Francisco to San Jose in Northern California. “We find things that bolster or change what we already know about certain areas. They help us fill in historical gaps,” Aron said.

Along with archaeologists and mapping experts, crews look for who and what lived in the area. “Potentially, we’ll find some fossils in the San Jose to Merced section,” Aron explained. “Mammoths have been discovered on other transportation projects in the Central Valley.”

As work crews analyze data and prepare maps and surveys indicating the presence or absence of fossils, they identify areas that need to be monitored during construction. Aron looks at them under a microscope. Microfossils, the remains of bacteria, fungi, animals and plants, are invisible to the naked eye. The largest discoveries include fossils of dinosaurs and other giant beasts. They’re processed and identified before being moved to a museum for future research or educational purposes.

“The projects we work on allow us to make significant contributions to the sciences, while making cool discoveries,” Aron observed. “If it weren’t for projects like high-speed rail, we wouldn’t make these important findings.”

Read more about Paleo Solutions in our Small Business Newsletter.


Square One Productions Picture

Visualizing the Future of Transportation

June 6, 2017 – Before submitting a Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) for review, the California High-Speed Rail Authority wants to know what the high-speed rail project will look like and what impact it will have. Square One Productions, a four-person firm based in San Francisco, is producing visual simulations and photomontages that will accurately represent a before-and-after view of high-speed rail in two project sections from San Francisco to San Jose and San Jose to Merced.

Square One Productions

“The goal with the environmental document is to be able to compare and contrast,” said Square One owner Angela Lin. She is a subcontractor for HTNB Corporation, which is providing preliminary engineering and environmental services between the Bay Area and the Central Valley.

Lin and her three-member team read engineering drawings to build models for the visual simulation. The simulations are paired with written environmental analysis to produce a 3-D model of structures and the train, which are then inserted into the photo to better illustrate the design, scale and impact of the project.

Lin said her firm has done the same type of work for the Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority, the Bay Area Rapid Transit System and the Palmdale-Burbank section of the high-speed rail program. “It’s so hard to explain visual things in words,” Lin said. “And that’s part of the value of what we do.”

Read more about Square One Productions in our Small Business Newsletter.


Virginia Villa Picture

Electrifying Work Underground Prepares Path for High-Speed Rail

June 5, 2017 – “I love my job!” Virginia Villa declared. Villa owns West Pacific Electric Company (WPEC), a small business, based in Lemoore, which is relocating utilities to make way for high-speed rail.

West Pacific Electric

WPEC has a contract with design-builder Dragados/Flatiron to work on Construction Package 2-3 in the Central Valley installing underground AT&T duct banks, conduits (pipes) packed with wires or fibers enclosed in protective concrete or metal cases. Villa said getting on the project was a major achievement. “Over the last two to three years, I must have gone to more than 20 events concerning high-speed rail,” she said.

Last November, she was awarded a $685,000 contract to relocate underground utilities. To complete the job, Villa will hire 10 to 12 workers to help her core group of 8 to 10 employees. It’s hard work for this married mother of six, who was studying speech pathology at Fresno State when she went to work for her husband Lee’s electrical contracting company. In 2008, they launched WPEC with Villa as the primary owner. Today, a son and daughter are among their employees.

Villa believes the high-speed rail contract will mean more opportunities. “We’ve gotten great reviews and AT&T asked us to become one of their official vendors,” she explained. “It’s the result of working on high-speed rail—one million percent.”

Read more about West Pacific Electric Company in our Small Business Newsletter.


May is Bike Month Outing

Wrapping Up May is Bike Month with a Lunchtime Outing

May 30, 2017 – Southern California staff couldn’t resist a fun biking excursion after Regional Administrator Claudia Joaquin sent out a notice about Los Angeles Metro’s free Bike Share during Bike Month. Michelle Boehm, the Southern California Regional Director, sounded the call to action saying “Let’s go ride a bike!” The nearby Los Angeles State Historic Park quickly became the destination for a beautiful lunch hour ride.

May is Bike Month Riders

The adventurous group, consisting of Cullen Davis, Olivia Kress, Adrian Alvarez, Sean Calvin, Todd Nguyen, Kevin Alvarado, Mayra Ramos and Karl Fielding, set out on a sunny day, riding a mile north to the 32 acre park. Located in historic Chinatown, between the Los Angeles River to the east and the 110 Freeway on the west, Los Angeles State Historic Park was the site of a train station that brought easterners to Los Angeles at the turn of the 19th century, earning it the nickname of “the Ellis Island of Los Angeles”.

Claudia Joaquin and Jennifer Thommen enjoyed a leisurely walk along Alameda Avenue as the bikers whizzed by and waved, then caught up with them at the park. Thommen, Administrative Assistant to the CEO visiting the LA office, was surprised by the number of riders and bikes enjoying the bike share experience. “It’s so easy to find a bike station in downtown Los Angeles,” she exclaimed.

Back at the office Michelle symbolically honored Cullen Davis with a gold star for wearing a helmet. Olivia Kress, exhilarated by the outing, proposed a monthly high-speed rail bike riders club to explore the many historic areas of downtown Los Angeles.


Innovation Norway visit HSR

Norwegian Delegation Meets with Authority Representatives

May 24, 2017 – The California high-speed rail program welcomed a delegation from Innovation Norway to San Francisco on May 4. The visit offered insight into efforts to build the nation’s first high-speed rail program, while also providing an overview of California’s statewide rail modernization efforts.

May is Bike Month Presentation

Innovation Norway is the Norwegian Government’s most important instrument for innovation and development of Norwegian enterprises and industry, with focus on helping businesses grow and discover new markets. The delegation of 25 from the Norwegian transportation ecosystem represented state and regional entities focused on transportation. Their trip included a visit to high-speed rail, Google, California State Senator Scott Wiener and other important highlights of San Francisco and the Silicon Valley.

Northern California Regional Director Ben Tripousis provided an update on the status of the high-speed program, the program’s Sustainability Manager Meg Cederoth discussed the sustainability program and Chad Edison, Deputy Secretary for Transportation for the California State Transportation Agency, addressed statewide rail modernization during the meeting.

“We were encouraged to see how the state of California is working to build a modern and quick high-speed rail for the 21st century,” said Alexander Huth, project manager for the Norwegian Transportation Ecosystem.

“As all countries need to reduce carbon emissions, moving transportation from the roads over to rail is essential,” explained Huth. “In Norway, we are working on similar upgrades to our public transportation system. We all need to make this shift in order for the world to reach its carbon-emission cut goals. It is therefore in our interest that you succeed with the high-speed rail, and we wish you all the luck.”


Cullen Davis

Spinning Our Wheels for Bike Month

May 22, 2017 – May is National Bike Month, sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists and celebrated in communities throughout California. Employees working on California High-Speed Rail are excited to be a part of the fun and work biking into their daily train commute.

May is Bike Month Presentation

Leading up to May is Bike Month, the California High-Speed Rail Authority offices in Sacramento held a free one-hour bike clinic presented by Eric Navarro of Sacramento City Bicycle Works. Staff learned about traffic safety skills when riding, the proper way to navigate one way streets on your bike, keeping your bike road-ready, and tips and tricks for what to have with you on the road. He answered questions covering everything from the best type of bike pump to the cost of a traffic ticket for running a stop sign on a bike (more than $300!).

Senior Graphic Designer Cullen Davis is happy to incorporate biking into his commute, where he bikes to his local train station. “Biking is practical transportation—it just makes sense,“ said Davis. “I encourage everyone to see if cycling can fit into their commute.”

For Davis, conditions in LA have become increasingly favorable in recent decades. Air pollution controls have led to cleaner air, and there is an increase in dedicated bike lanes and bike-friendly transit. “Southern California weather makes biking comfortable for almost the whole year, and most of the city is flat, easy-riding terrain,” he explained.

The Metro parking lot in North Hollywood fills up every day before 8:00 a.m., but Davis finds plenty of space for his bike. He owns a roadster that he enjoys driving, but no car is fun in heavy traffic or hunting for parking. “Riding a bike doesn’t add much time to my commute,” he said. “I get extra exercise, sun and fresh air.”


Michael Murphy

Keeping Our Environment on Track

May 8, 2017 – In large infrastructure projects, it is important to figure out what is right for the environment while moving the project forward. Soar Environmental works as a subcontractor on the high-speed rail project, overseeing environmental strategy for Tutor Perini Zachry Parsons (TPZP), the company building from north of Madera to south of Fresno. Soar makes sure all environmental mitigation measures and permit conditions are adhered to.

“Soar Environmental acts as a go-between to make sure the contractor is implementing policies that are legal and consist of best management practices,” said founder and CEO Michael Murphy. “We make sure they are careful to conserve the environment and protect assets like water, animal and plant species and Native American artifacts.”

“Soar’s challenge is figuring out what’s right for the environment while being able to keep the project going. For example, there are only 17 acres of Hairy Orcutt Grass in the world, and some is in the project alignment.” Soar worked with California environmental permitting agencies, as well as local farmers, to set up places to relocate the grass out of the corridor so it can continue to grow.

“It’s been quite rewarding having people who work for me employed on a contract that will be going on for quite some time,” Murphy stated. “Knowing that my employees, their spouses and their children have a future provides real peace of mind.”


James Campbell

A Dedicated Career Track in Transportation

April 26, 2017 – James Campbell has dedicated his career to transportation projects in California, and it has all lead up to his work on the California high-speed rail program. In addition to award-winning accomplishments working on high-speed rail, he serves as Vice-President of the San Bernardino Railroad Historical Society (SBRHS) where he shares his love of one of the first high-speed locomotives from the 1920s at the Fullerton Railroad Museum.

James’ transportation career began in college as a bus driver in San Diego, after a summer job in high school shipping pickles on his cousin’s farm. His career in transportation continued after college, as he worked in various roles with agencies along the Los Angeles to San Diego corridor, moving to WSP|Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) in 2006 to work in Rail Operations on projects with Amtrak, Caltrain and others nationwide. James was the Deputy Project Manager with the Orange County Transportation Authority, after which he was promoted to Manager of Business Development for Rail in Southern California which included the high-speed rail program.

Dating from 1927, this is the first high-speed locomotive.

Currently, James is a Technical Specialist working on the high-speed rail program on the Burbank to Los Angeles and Los Angeles to Anaheim project sections. Last year he was named one of the ‘Top 40 Under 40’ by Mass Transit Magazine for his accomplishments in transportation. This year, James was acknowledged with an award from PB in the Project Management under $3 million category.

When he’s not working on transportation projects, James presides on the staff of the SBHRS, promoting the social and historical significance of railroads in the southwest through the operation and display of steam locomotive #3751. Dating from 1927, this is the first high-speed locomotive and capable of attaining speeds of over 100 miles per hour. It is also the main attraction at Fullerton Railroad Museum’s Railroad Days event May 6 and 7. James is also the 2017 President of the Railway Association of Southern California, promoting diverse professions within the railroad industry.


Ah’nesha Worshim and Darrell Patterson

Sustainability Begins at Home

April 3, 2017 – Ah’nesha Worshim and Darrell Patterson are friends concerned about global warming. Like many in Southern California, their concern fuels sustainable decisions in their lifestyle, transportation and work lives.

Ah’nesha Worshim

After becoming aware of devastating pollution in China caused by fabric processing, Ah’nesha decided to start an eco-fabrics business. Her studies in Fashion Merchandising at Cal State Long Beach take her to Downtown Los Angeles where she looks for fabrics made from natural sources like cotton, hemp and bamboo.

Ah’nesha plans to move to Los Angeles “to start using public transportation and get away from auto traffic congestion.” After a recent visit to New York City she noted, “Nothing is more than 25 minutes away using public transportation—it’s a great experience.” She looks forward to a one-trip fare in California that includes high-speed rail.

Darrell Patterson brings a passion for sustainable transportation to his work with the Southern California Association of Governments, and believes “we are all trying to find a way to live a sustainable life.” He is adamant that high-speed rail is key to inter-regional travel and looks forward to leaving long car trips behind and taking high-speed rail weekend trips to San Francisco.

Darrell observed, “People from all cultures with innovative ideas, coming together in stations like Union Station in Los Angeles that will include high-speed rail, are part of the future connecting all of us.”