Celebrating National Engineers Week

By: Steve Frieson, Principal, and Joe Gilpin, Principal

To celebrate National Engineers Week, we’re highlighting a different project each day, showing the innovative ways our engineers create active, healthy communities. See which projects have already been shared below, and check back each day for updates throughout the week!

1. Coachella Valley Link

Go to the profile of Alta Planning + Design
Alta Engineer Juan Ashton in the field.

The Coachella Valley Link is an innovative, multimodal facility of national importance that connects communities in the Coachella Valley while providing significant environmental, health, wellness, and economic benefits.

Alta prepared the engineering plans for the first segments to open bicycle and electric vehicle traffic in Palm Springs and Palm Desert, and the team is currently preparing design plans for additional reaches of the corridor.

Unique project elements include a blue, western facing walkway to represent the ocean, and an orange, eastern facing walkway to represent the desert. Other elements, such as “singing streetlights,” will enhance user experience while paying homage to the area, which is known for hosting music festivals.

2. Fort Collins Protected Bike Lanes

Go to the profile of Alta Planning + Design
Alta Engineer Juan Ashton in the field.
Go to the profile of Alta Planning + Design
Alta Engineer Juan Ashton in the field.

Alta has partnered with the City of Fort Collins to implement several new low-stress corridors, including work on Mulberry Street. As part of the project, Alta designed a signal that seamlessly merges a two-way separated bikeway, a pair of separated bike lanes, and a bike boulevard.

The Mulberry project uses differing types of barriers and intersection approaches so the City can gain experience with maintenance and operations for subsequent projects.

3. Palo Alto Bike Boulevards

Go to the profile of Alta Planning + Design
Alta Engineer Juan Ashton in the field.
Go to the profile of Alta Planning + Design
Alta Engineer Juan Ashton in the field.

Alta has completed a multi-year project to upgrade and expand the city’s bicycle boulevard network. These new generation facilities include a wide variety of traffic calming and comfort oriented treatments. Alta designed chicanes, bulbouts, raised intersections, raised crosswalks, mini-roundabouts, bioswales, speed humps and intersection treatments along four corridors within the City. This project began in 2013 and has undergone an extensive public process with local residents.

4. Memphis Hampline Project

Go to the profile of Alta Planning + Design
Alta Engineer Juan Ashton in the field.
Go to the profile of Alta Planning + Design
Alta Engineer Juan Ashton in the field.

The final phase of the Memphis Hampline is nearing completion! Alta has been involved with the City’s signature bike project since 2010 with several phases already complete. This spring, the city will break ground on the final portion that will include a two-way separated bike lane through the heart of the Broad Street corridor. The separated bike lanes close a major gap in the growing Memphis greenway and bikeway network, connecting Shelby Farms Park, a 4,500-acre major regional park, with Overton Park in midtown and downtown Memphis. The corridor provides a high-level bicycle connection through an economically-distressed neighborhood and an emerging arts, retail, and industrial district.

Memphis Hampline Project Manager Spotlight: Wade Walker

1. What made you want to enter the engineering field?

I always enjoyed figuring out how things worked, much to the chagrin of my parents when I took something apart that was important. Learning about the opportunities available in civil engineering, and transportation in particular, showed me that engineers don’t have to be confined in a cubicle or in front of a screen. Bringing visions to reality on an infrastructure scale is like playing with life size Tonka toys in a giant sandbox.

2. What unique perspectives or skills do you bring to the Alta team?

Having always worked in a multi-disciplinary environment, my career has afforded me with experience in not only engineering, but also planning, landscape architecture, and urban design. I also started my career in the construction field, so I know how things get built (or not). This broad set of experience has led me to a place where I don’t think I can be classified simply as an engineer; I like to think of myself as a placemaker.

3. What advice would you give to an aspiring engineer?

Learn all you can. Take on multiple types of tasks early in your career to see what really inspires and excites you, then make that your career passion. Also keep in mind that the colleagues you meet and work with, especially those at other firms or agencies, will be progressing up the ladder as you do and many will be leaders in their respective organizations at some point. So the relationships you develop early on will be the circle of trusted colleagues you have later on, and you’ll always be able to pick up the phone (or email or text, or whatever we’re doing in 10 years) to get advice. Relationships are key to success. And finally, do no harm. Just because something CAN be engineered doesn’t mean that it should.

5. Empire State Trail

Go to the profile of Alta Planning + Design
Alta Engineer Juan Ashton in the field.

Alta is providing project management, planning, design, and engineering services for the 750-mile Empire State Trail (EST), one of the largest projects of its kind in the nation. This initiative started in January 2017 and will connect 400 miles of existing trails with 350 miles of new trails using innovative design and implementation methods. The EST will connect trails across New York State by December 2020, including the Erie Canalway Trail, Hudson River Greenway, and Champlain Valley.

Alta is working in collaboration with the Hudson River Valley Greenway, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, New York State Department of Transportation, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the New York State Canal Corporation, many local counties and municipalities, and the Governor’s Office on the project.

This involves a $200 million dollar initiative of off-road trails and on-road connections across the state from NYC to Canada and from Albany to Buffalo. Some of the tasks include conceptual plans for on-road and off-road portions of the EST ranging from one mile to 35 miles, program and project management, problem solving and value engineering, design review, wayfinding signage design and implementation, and trailhead design and implementation.

6. Sherman Way Streetscape

Alta is working with the City of Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) to design streetscape improvements along the Sherman Way corridor in the San Fernando Valley. This project is part of Councilmember Bob Blumenfield’s Reseda Rising Initiative, and is intended to improve the public right-of-way to promote economic development, improve safety, and foster greater use of multimodal transportation options informed by neighborhood parking studies and current streetscape design on Reseda Blvd.

The purpose of this project is to build upon the existing Sherman Way Conceptual Plan to collect data, explore configurations with traffic analysis to develop a final design, create final engineering and construction documentation for project implementation, and develop cost estimates to guide decisions about possible phased implementation.

Sherman Way Streetscape Project Manager Spotlight: Juan Ashton

Go to the profile of Alta Planning + Design
Alta Engineer Juan Ashton in the field.

1. What made you want to enter the engineering field?

I chose engineering as an occupation to help build and maintain sustainable communities.

2. What unique perspectives or skills do you bring to the Alta team?

One of the most rewarding things I have done as an engineer is to observe the world around me more closely. The perspective I have gained by simply looking around is invaluable to the work I do. Whenever I come across a challenging design, I take inspiration from the world around me.

3. What advice would you give to an aspiring engineer?

The best advice I could give to an aspiring engineer is to look around and observe how communities are impacted by infrastructure. Over the next decade we will need to transform our infrastructure to sustain healthy communities.

7. Pershing Drive Bikeway

Go to the profile of Alta Planning + Design
Alta Engineer Juan Ashton in the field.

Alta led a planning study and engineering design to determine potential and preferred concepts for a 2.6 mile cycle-track bikeway along Pershing Drive through historic Balboa Park in San Diego, CA. This route will provide a key connection between two established neighborhoods.

Challenges included slowing traffic speeds on a roadway that serves as an urban freeway with high speeds, as well as an intersection that serves a large employer with significant volumes during peak periods. Other challenges included a significant elevation change of about 270 feet across two miles, resulting in an approximate five percent running slope over a mile-long stretch of the roadway.

Alta led the community engagement, concept alternative development, preferred concept adoption, visual renderings, engineering plan set, preliminary environmental review, and agency coordination for the project. Alta recently helped complete the final construction documentation, including leading design of a unique three-legged roundabout that interacts with the two-way separated bike lanes and a buffered bike lane.

Pershing Drive Bikeway Project Manager Spotlight: Kirk Paulsen

Go to the profile of Alta Planning + Design
Alta Engineer Juan Ashton in the field.
  1. What made you want to enter the engineering field?

I chose to enter the engineering field in college as math was a strong point of mine and I had family ties to professional engineers which certainly made it a familiar career path. While I initially chose to pursue a degree in electrical engineering, I quickly realized how much more interesting civil engineering was to me given the ability to work on large projects within communities and therefore switched my degree partway through to complete my degree in civil engineering.

2. What unique perspectives or skills do you bring to the Alta team?

I have many years of traffic analysis experience, which took place after starting my career working on transportation design plans. Now that I’m with Alta, I’m finding that both the design and analysis skills are a wonderful combination for understanding how a proposed design will likely operate once constructed. My passion for getting around as much as possible by bike, foot, or transit allows me to consider all potential travel paths that should be designed for.

3. What advice would you give to an aspiring engineer?

Finding your ideal role in the engineering field can take a lot of time — from determining whether the public or private sector is the right fit, to the wide ranging type of engineering work that is possible. While it can take time to figure this out, all of the experiences — good or bad — will help to make you a better engineer. I recommend keeping an open mind to soak up all the knowledge provided to you, even if it may not seem relevant to your career path at the time. Simply being able to better understand a different discipline of engineering can go a long way.

Go to the profile of Alta Planning + Design
Alta Engineer Juan Ashton in the field.

Project Manager Spotlight: Kate Whitfield

1. What made you want to enter the engineering field?

I started out the typical way. I was a high-school girl who liked science and math with a dad and grandfather who were engineers. Now I am the less typical engineer running around talking about active transportation. The themes have remained the same: problem-solving and good communication.

2. What unique perspectives or skills do you bring to the Alta team?

I tend to play a role bridging urban planning with engineering. I am always trying to bring the human side to a project.

3. What advice would you give to an aspiring engineer?

Work hard to be strong technically but always push yourself to develop interpersonal skills. Everyone does not have to take a leadership role but we do need to know how to communicate. How we interact with each other matters.