Meet people who are taking part in the high-speed rail program
12/5/2017 - The environmental technical documents produced for the California high-speed rail program are created to inform decision-makers and the public of significant environmental effects and possible ways to minimize those effects. These reports can be challenging for laypersons to understand. That’s why Westervelt Ecological Services sought the support of Laura Garwood, a professional writer and editor, to decipher tech-heavy documents and make them easier to understand.
Westervelt provides the program with environmental mitigation and habitat services and creates mitigation banks - wetlands, streams, or aquatic areas that are created, preserved, enhanced or restored to compensate for possible adverse effects on nearby ecosystems. Garwood deciphers environmental reports and documents produced by the Westervelt Ecological Services team.
“I make sure everything makes sense,” explained Garwood, “which can be important when people who have a lot of scientific know-how are writing something that’s shared among different agencies and people who have different areas of expertise and knowledge.”
Garwood – the lone principal of Laura Garwood Editing and Writing Services, a certified small business that she operates out of her Sacramento home – has been doing just that for Westervelt since June 2016.
Garwood’s firm provides services to Sacramento State University, as well as other organizations. Since launching her company 11 years ago, she’s been involved in a number of book-related projects and finds time to produce a humorous parenting blog and write articles for a variety of local and national publications.
Not long ago, Garwood learned that Westervelt Ecological Services had a contract to work on high-speed rail. “When I first started hearing about the whole thing, I had no inkling I’d be involved in this at all,” Garwood said. “It was a nice surprise when I got an email saying we have this huge project, and we’re excited. Can you edit some reports?”
“That’s one of my specialties,” Garwood said. “Not being a subject matter expert helps me. If I don’t understand it, then someone else with similar intellectual abilities will not understand it either.”
“I can be the reader’s advocate. My whole job revolves around what people are trying to say and then helping them say it.”
Read more about Laura Garwood Editing and Writing Services in the Small Business Newsletter.
11/21/2017 - “High-speed rail is one of the top five largest projects we’ve ever worked on,” said Adam Holt, Chief Financial Officer for Blair, Church & Flynn Consulting Engineers, Inc. (BC&F). In February 2014, the Clovis-based Native American-owned company landed a design contract for utility relocation engineering on Construction Package 1 with design-builder Tutor Perini/Zachry/Parsons. Since then, the amount of work has grown for the firm, which is certified as a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE).
Holt said the business will do more than $2 million worth of design work for Fresno area utility relocations. “The design and coordination for engineering work on high-speed rail are complex,” he said. BC&F works with local utility providers, special districts and public agencies to design solutions to conflicts between existing sewer, water, irrigation or drainage systems and the high-speed rail alignment.
Blair, Church & Flynn also has a land services support contract worth about $100,000 with right-of-way consultant, Mark Thomas & Company. BC&F researches and assembles property information, boundaries, easements, ownership and public right-of-ways along the alignment. Documents and maps dating back many years can be hand written, hard to read or difficult to understand the original intent. “Sometimes buildings, roads, parcels, structures and legal monuments described in the documents no longer exist,” Holt said. “In many places, high-speed rail will run beside an existing railroad corridor that is a hundred years old.” Over time, some easements have been handed over to cities and counties, while more roadways and utilities were added.
Holt sits on the Authority’s Business Advisory Council where he represents the American Indian Chamber of Commerce. He said, “It does a wonderful job of supporting businesses, advocating for opportunities and giving back to the community through a variety of programs that benefit Native American youth with mentoring, scholarships and education.”
Read more about Blair, Church & Flynn in the Small Business Newsletter.
11/13/2017 - Samantha Ihle and Brianna Tramontano are college students looking to make a new life for residents in Downtown Bakersfield. As part of an architectural student project at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, these two students were given the task of designing a project that would help revitalize Downtown Bakersfield within the Bakersfield High-Speed Rail Station area.
Their project, Vitae: Move to Live, includes in-fill housing, as well as a place where Bakersfield residents can exercise in a clean and safe environment. With Vitae housing, residents may bike to and from their homes to the Bakersfield High-Speed Rail Station using a future, bike-friendly Chester Avenue that will lead up to the station.
“This project can be a catalyst for change,” explained Ihle. “We wanted to retain the agricultural identity of Bakersfield while having a plan for urban growth.”
Projects like Vitae show how ease of use and accessibility can help revitalize a downtown area, like that of Bakersfield, while helping residents maintain a healthy lifestyle. “The proximity and ease of access of the high-speed rail and bicycling to and from Vitae will promote clean transportation,” said Tramontano, “as well as the promotion of exercise and walkability of the area.”
The Vitae project was judged best in class by all students working on the high-speed rail station area Cal Poly Studio project. Inspired by the city’s vision plan, Making Downtown Bakersfield, the project would fit within the new vision by helping redefine Chester Avenue, one of the main streets in the city, and creates more infill housing near the station. By creating more housing and exercise options at a high-speed rail station area, Ihle and Tramontano hope to see Downtown Bakersfield turn into a destination where residents can live and thrive.
Student projects are separate from City of Bakersfield Station Area Plan (SAP), yet are inspired by the SAP in Downtown Bakersfield. Students did their own research and made their own assumptions. None of these projects have gone through official review nor have been approved by the City of Bakersfield. Students were provided no official guidance; they were free to go with their own imaginations and ideals.
11/13/2017 - High-speed rail is fast moving, and in the age of technology and information at our fingertips, future generations aren’t slowing down. Living in the Central Valley and working in the Silicon Valley is becoming a reality, and the excitement is building. After experiencing high-speed rail firsthand in Japan with a delegation from California, one person who is looking forward to the project being completed is Christian Gonzales, president of the Fresno State chapter of #Iwillride. #Iwillride is a student-run organization working to see high-speed rail, mass transit, and transit-oriented districts become culturally commonplace.
Gonzales feels like he is a part of this monumental, historic shift in California. As an engineering student at Fresno State, he has been involved with the #Iwillride chapter for a little more than two years.
“I am excited about how convenient transportation will be throughout California and the engineering and learning opportunities involved with a project of this magnitude. The program has given me access to a lot of information about the project by talking to prominent leaders in addition to its great networking opportunities,” said Gonzales.
Through his participation with #Iwillride, Gonzales traveled to Japan with a delegation from California. They had the opportunity to tour the Kawasaki train factory, as well as the Japan Rail heavy maintenance facility and operation center. While overseas, he was able to ride a high-speed train for the first time from Tokyo to Osaka and then Osaka to Kobe, Japan.
As president of the #Iwillride chapter, Gonzales has been a dynamic supporter of the project and has participated in public hearings in Fresno regarding high-speed rail and also at the state capitol in Sacramento. “Every event I have been to be a part of has proven to be a great networking and learning opportunity,” stated Gonzales.
After graduating, he plans to become a full-time civil engineer at Precision Civil Engineering, where he is currently an intern. He looks forward to finishing school and continuing to make an impact in the Central Valley by working on local infrastructure projects.
“I take great pride in the Central Valley, and becoming an engineer locally is how I intend to give back to my community,” explained Gonzales. “Fresno is growing at a rapid rate, and with Fresno being the central hub for high-speed rail, it is only going to grow faster!”
11/9/2017 - Long before the high-speed rail project begins to carry passengers between San Francisco and Los Angeles, it is already creating hundreds of well-paying jobs for workers throughout the Central Valley. One such worker is Fernando Madrigal, Jr.
Madrigal left the Marine Corps after 12 years of service where he worked in communications for an artillery support unit. After working a few security guard jobs, he signed up for a 10-week training program sponsored by PG&E that introduces workers to the various construction trades including ironwork, electrical, plumbing and sheet metal work. After considering his options, Madrigal decided that being an electrician was the career path he preferred, and he is now working as a third-year apprentice union electrician with Local 100 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).
Madrigal is employed by AC Electric Company and has been involved in the high-speed rail project for about nine months. Previously, he helped construct a new administration building and a school bus refueling station for the Reedley school district. He’s currently working with a crew near the site of the new Clinton Avenue bridge, which is being rebuilt as part of the realignment of State Route 99. Madrigal’s crew is identifying underground utility locations and setting up power connections for new traffic signals at the intersection of Clinton and Weber Avenues.
“We set up the intersection, rewiring the lights for the new traffic patterns,” Madrigal said. “We’re also doing a lot of the underground work for new traffic signals and relocating all the electrical for the new bridge.”
Work on the Clinton Avenue bridge is currently on schedule, and despite the usual headaches of doing construction in such a busy intersection Madrigal says there haven’t been any major setbacks.
“It’s going good. We are supposed to have the bridge opened in November,” Madrigal said. “And once that is finished we’ll start the demo of the Ashlan Avenue bridge and start it all over again.”
11/9/2017 - “We’re working all along the high-speed rail alignment in the Central Valley,” declared Dan Rossovich, co-owner of USC Supply, Inc. The Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise, based in Auburn, joined the project in January 2016 after attending several outreach events. “At first, we thought we might be wasting our time,” Rossovich admitted. “But persistence paid off and now we have multiple contracts on high-speed rail.” Two contracts with Construction Package 1 design-builder Tutor Perini/Zachry/Parsons are worth over $1.8 million and one contract with Construction Package 2-3 design-builder Dragados/Flatiron is worth about $30,000.
Rossovich said his firm is providing joint seals for construction of every bridge and viaduct currently underway. The firm is also supplying bearings, building materials, pipes and geofabric – the black woven material laid under dirt and train tracks.
Rossovich launched USC Supply in 2011 with his older brother, Ed, who was medically discharged from the military after being injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq.
The company went from $375,000 in the first year to $6.5 million in the second year. Since then, they’ve worked on the Oroville Dam, Folsom Dam, Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center and the Chase Center in San Francisco, the Golden State Warriors’ new home.
The firm employs eight people and has several locations. Rossovich believes high-speed rail work will allow for more growth. “We’re in negotiations for new contracts. Whatever we get, we’ll plow back into the business and buy a couple of new delivery trucks.”
At age 47, Rossovich also spends time thinking of ways he and his 53-year old brother can retire. “We would like to have another disabled vet come work with us, learn the business and take over,” he said. “Integrity will have to be their guiding force. If they do that, they’ll have a successful business they can enjoy.”
11/9/2017 - For three and a half years, Edgar Velasquez was in the U.S. Army, where he served as an M1 Armor Crewman. He worked aboard a tank handling target detection and loading and firing the tank’s guns.
Following a military tour to Africa, Velasquez returned home to Los Banos, where he had difficulty finding steady work. Then he heard about Helmets to Hardhats, a national program that helps veterans transition from military to civilian life. According to Western Regional Representative Nick Weathers, “Helmets to Hardhats connects National Guard, Reserve, retired and transitioning active-duty military service members to a nine-week program which includes free pre-apprenticeship courses in building and construction trades. Participants take classes such as construction math, financial management and welding.” While working, some participants use the Montgomery G.I. Bill or the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill to collect benefits for housing.
Velasquez, 24, enrolled in Helmets to Hardhats in Fresno. “I was accepted on-the-spot and started going to carpenter classes immediately,” he said.
Six months later, after passing a test and joining the carpenters’ union, Velasquez was an apprentice working on the Fresno River Viaduct, a high-speed rail structure outside Madera. The job paid $25 per hour. “It’s really hot, but it’s worth it,” Velasquez declared. “It makes me feel a lot better to have some money in my pocket.”
Velasquez is among 25,000 veterans who have successfully transitioned into apprenticeships and other careers in the construction industry through Helmets to Hardhats. Weathers added, “We want to expand our registrations for the military and spread the word about Helmets to Hardhats’ pathway to valuable construction careers.”
9/20/2017 - At first sight, Xica Sarai is indistinguishable from her art. The side of her striking face is painted with elegant blue designs, and long feather earrings, cranberry-red beaded necklace and sculpted hair make a statement about who she is and how she thinks.
Xica is a cultural artist in Downtown Los Angeles whose philosophical journey to Mexiko, the Aztec word for Mexico, is displayed in her art. Toltec wisdom and Mayan creation theory are illuminated like stained glass in Xica’s layered, bright geometric designs. Mayan gods and symbolism drenched in bold colors dominate her riveting paintings and murals.
“Thunder and rain, the energy of the flow – speaks to me. I see it and work with it. People are amazed and happy watching me create a mural. The outline comes first then I fill it in with color like a puzzle and it feels good to make people happy.”
Xica enjoyed puzzles as a child and realized her calling as an artist when her father bought her art supplies, and her artwork won awards throughout elementary school. Later, she was drawn toward cultural art after being mesmerized by Aztec dancers and drumming.
After her father’s death in 2014, Xica dove into the study of Aztec beliefs and language to allay her grief. Her quest steered her to study Nahuatl, the Aztec language of Mexiko, and choose a Nahuatl name, Ilhuicacihuatl, or ‘sky woman’.
Xica’s art has been recognized by the City of Los Angeles and Echo Park, and is exhibited in galleries across Los Angeles, previously at CityWalk and Graph Lab, and in private collections.
As a frequent rail passenger in Los Angeles, she has carried her artwork many miles on the train. “When I first came to Los Angeles four years ago, I started taking the train. It took me from one end of town to the other. With high-speed rail, I could take my artwork from Los Angeles to San Francisco and share it with people there.”
9/1/2017 - Sean Reed, owner and operator of DAVE Trucking and Sweeping (DAVE stands for “Disabled American Veteran Enterprises), has only been involved with high-speed rail since October 2016, but he has already seen his company grow as a result.
Reed, who has spent most of his career in the construction industry, has Native American heritage and is a military veteran who was injured while on active duty. He knew there were business opportunities to be had as a Disabled Veteran Owned Company and Disadvantaged Business. Those two programs are usually included in large, federally funded construction projects, including the high-speed rail program, and help small businesses get started.
Three years ago, Reed started DAVE Trucking and Sweeping and began bidding on work for Caltrans and other large construction projects. “I bought a used street sweeper and two older water trucks,” Reed said. “Then things happened fast. I hired some guys and we have a little job trailer that we work out of, but mostly I work out of my truck. I’m so busy I’m only in my office a couple days a week.”
From his start doing sweeping and driving a water truck (used on construction sites to spray water on dirt to reduce dust), Reed relied on his contacts in the construction industry to branch out into trucking when he acquired some dump trucks. Combining forces with several other independent operators, he began to take on high-speed rail work.
“We didn’t want companies coming from Los Angeles and getting the work when we’re right here,” Reed said. “We’ve been hauling all the fill dirt for Avenue 8, Avenue 12 and all the other worksites between Madera and Fresno.”
Reed says his company has grown 150 percent in the past year, growing to 21 full and part-time employees. Thanks to the business he’s received from high-speed rail, Reed has leased five more trucks and hired drivers to operate them.
“It’s about putting out a good product. I don’t want to go out on a limb, trying to get bigger and then not be able to perform,” Reed said. “These companies know me and know my work ethic.”
8/31/2017 - If persistence is the key to success in most every small business endeavor, then Bernard Johnson is a case study on how dogged perseverance eventually pays off.
Johnson is President and CEO of The Bernard Johnson Group, Inc. – a San Diego-based firm that specializes in real estate acquisition, right-of-way services, relocation assistance and various other real estate services. Five years ago, he remembers seeing the California High-Speed Rail Program as the perfect opportunity for his firm.
Securing work on the project took a lot of effort for Johnson. After submitting several bids to work on the project as a prime contractor, he shifted his strategy. Johnson certified his firm as a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) and was selected to provide land-acquisition support services in the Central Valley as a subcontractor to Universal Field Services. His firm was already performing land and easement acquisition in the area as a contractor for PG&E.
“That’s my bailiwick. I’m a land guy,” Johnson said of his desire to support the largest infrastructure project in the nation. “I’m in the real estate business. I’ve been doing it for over 30 years.
“I am happy to be where I am, to be legitimately making money on the project.”
Johnson’s firm is tasked with supporting easement acquisition in the Madera to Fresno area. Johnson said his firm is also providing real estate agents acquiring property in the Bakersfield to Fresno region.
“Whether it’s a house, business, cemetery, grocery store or rail property, it’s our job to negotiate in good faith and make sure the owner receives fair market value for their land,” Johnson said.
Depending on the scope of work, Johnson said he has had as many as 10 members of his team working on the program. However, he presently has two employees dispatched to the project and is looking forward to increasing staffing levels as work picks up.
“Certainly, I’m looking forward to getting more people on the project.”
8/30/2017 - Fresno native Tim Williamson started Central Valley Environmental and CVE Demolition in 2007 to be able to perform two important tasks needed on large construction projects including high-speed rail.
Traditionally, demolition crews would knock down a building and haul away the debris, then new construction would start. Today, buildings must be surveyed and tested for hazardous materials prior to demolition. Materials found in older structures, such as asbestos, lead, and mold, require special handling and specially trained workers to safely remove and dispose of them.
Williamson started CVE Demolition to tear down buildings, and created Central Valley Environmental soon after to remove and dispose of hazardous materials from properties targeted for demolition, a process known as abatement.
“We were taking down buildings and subcontracting out the abatement,” Williamson said. “It made more sense for us to handle both sides of it so we can control the quality of work and the schedule for our clients.”
A graduate of Fresno State and 12-year veteran of the California Air National Guard, Williamson has seen his company grow quickly, even though he started it during one of the worst economic downturns the country has ever seen. “Everybody thought I was crazy starting a business then, but when you’re starting out you keep things extremely lean,” Williamson said. “We actually grew during a time when everything was crashing. A lot of larger companies with more overhead had a hard time managing. It wasn’t easy.”
Starting with just a handful of employees, the company has grown to as many as 25 on the heavy demolition side, with up to 70 in the more labor-intensive environmental division, with both branches working on Construction Package 4.
Business has been so good that Williamson has expanded to four locations in California, with much of its current demolition work occurring in the Bay Area. With the high-speed rail project continuing in the Central Valley, he looks forward to being a part of a project that’s so important to the place where he grew up.
8/29/2017 - When it comes to building the nation’s first high-speed rail system, the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s design-build contractors must make sure that they do not significantly impact or interrupt the everyday business of California while they make history. JMA Civil, an engineering, design and consulting firm, is designing temporary routes known as shooflies, so major freight railroads adjacent to high-speed rail can continue carrying their trains on time and without service disruptions.
“Anywhere a new grade separation needs to go in, we design the plans to divert that freight traffic while the structures are under construction,” said Jon Marshall, JMA Civil’s Principal Engineer and CEO. “Our primary goal is to make sure freight and passenger trains keep rolling throughout the entire project.”
The work represents a major stepping stone for the certified Microbusiness, which signed onto the high-speed rail project in 2014. Based out of Benicia and with a smaller office in Pleasanton, the company is led by Jon Marshall and his husband Ethan Hartsell, President of JMA Civil.
The pair first crossed paths in 2004 when they worked in the same building. Eventually, they agreed to go into business together, and in 2011, they launched JMA Civil. Marshall had worked for a national transportation firm for more than a decade on large scale projects and had experience managing teams of 10 or more as a project manager. Hartsell had worked for several high-tech manufacturing companies and had a background in accounting and operations.
Marshall and Hartsell believe high-speed rail will have a positive impact on California. “It has helped our business diversify and grow,” said Marshall. “I’m proud that our company’s technical drawings are going to be part of the historical record of the nation’s first high-speed rail program.”
“I have a nephew who lives in Bakersfield and I would love to be able to go visit him and have him come visit us in the Bay Area without the tedious drive down Interstate 5,” said Hartsell. “High-speed rail will make that happen.”
8/2/2017 - Transportation and parking has been an integral part of Abraham Boche’s life starting at Ontario Airport, near his hometown, where he worked as a parking attendant. At one point, starting a rickshaw company sounded like a good idea. This was followed by a stint managing reggae artist, Jah Faith, then briefly working for a mortuary service taking deceased persons from home to their last destination. Abraham talks about his past jobs with amusement, but this Project Manager of Parking and Janitorial at Los Angeles Union Station, who is a stand-up comic on his off hours, is not laughing at the idea of riding high-speed rail from club to club across California.
Prior to his current position at Los Angeles Union Station, he was a key parking manager at the newly opened Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center (ARTIC), the location of a future California high-speed rail station. At ARTIC, he managed parking and enjoyed giving station tours to dignitaries, officials and the public. Abraham can currently be seen traversing the LA Union Station as Project Manager of Parking and Janitorial, making sure every detail is in place, from ropes that guide pedestrians to staff leading school tours and handling janitorial details. “Parking services at rail stations requires a combination of safety awareness, logistics and customer service,” says Boche. “I really enjoy the people I work with and meeting the public.”
It’s no surprise that a high point for Abraham was meeting comedian Eddie Murphy while managing parking services for a Black Entertainment Awards reception at LA Union Station. He credits his drama achievements in high school for receiving the Bill Clinton Lifetime Achievement Award and his interest in comedy. He says, “Give me a mic and I’m ready!” Audiences enjoy his social commentary and edgy style at clubs in Fresno, Madera, Modesto and San Francisco. Getting to the clubs requires an arduous drive from Southern California to the Central Valley. Abraham states, “We comedians have a long drive that puts miles on our vehicles. High-speed rail will be a dream come true for me and other entertainers.”
7/25/2017 - 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.”
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.
“We bring companies to the table and help them get into the system,” Hernandez said. “You can’t win the race if your horse isn’t in it.”
For more information about upcoming meetings, contact John Hernandez at 559-721-7097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
7/10/2017 - 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.
6/27/2017 - 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.
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.
6/20/2017 - 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.
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.
6/12/2017 - 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
6/8/2017 - 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.”
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.
6/7/2017 - 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.
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.
6/6/2017 - 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.
“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.
6/5/2017 - “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.
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.
5/30/2017 - 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.
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.
5/22/2017 - 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.
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.”
5/8/2017 - 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."
4/26/2017 - 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.
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.
4/3/2017 - 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.
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.”