Gina Nguyen

Scholarship Status: Awarded 1st Place
Scholarship Awarded: Best Transportation Vision Scholarship
University: California State University, Long Beach
Date of Graduation: December 2015


Civil Engineering is a special profession because it is a calling that takes specialized knowledge and intensive licensing. The nature of the works that a Civil Engineer does is building infrastructure. The high standard and prestige of the profession is depicted by its achievement and conduct. I want to become an engineer that uses her knowledge and skill for the enhancement of societal safety, health, and welfare because society is the aggregates of individuals who shares common interest in life improvement and development. Engineers should also comply with the sustainability development principles through environmental studies. My undergraduate study focuses on the technicality of engineering including transportation, geotechnical, environmental, and structural. I have learned the intricacy relationship between these emphases that helps created a well-developed infrastructure in the states. My involvement with student organizations such as the American Society of Civil Engineering and the Honor Society Chi Epsilon also strengthen my communication and teamwork skills. I am currently interning at the Orange County Transportation Authority. During my internship at OCTA, I have the advantage of having the opportunity to see Transportation at the management, planning, and operational level of the Highway Program. My internship is designed for me to familiarize with OCTA highway project management procedures by shadowing Program Managers. Learning from leaderships with average twenty year experiences in Transportation exposes me to different facets of the transportation industry. Within the transportation field, I learned of management, finance, operations and planning, as well as engineering, construction management and public involvement principals. I was able to assist with conducting field surveys, attending project planning meetings that allows me to deeply understand how Highway Program works for public sector. I have a strong believe that the segment in public transportation industry that best fit my experience and interest is Highway Development and Planning. My interests in Transportation developed from the urge of solving many transportation problems that I encountered. The vision project below is currently a prevalent problem to the transportation system. The Inland Empire covers over 27,000 square miles over Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. Its freeway system, however, is not sufficient not only for intra-region transportation but also for connection to the Los Angeles and Orange County metropolitan area. My career goal is an improved freeway network to better meet the region’s logistic demands with emphasis on the IE – OC connectivity bottleneck. By sheer number, the freeway system is overloaded. There are six freeways in the Inland Empire. Major East/West corridors are the 10, 60 and 91. Major North/South corridors are the 15, 71 and 215. The Los Angeles area has 10 freeways, 105, 110, 10, 60, 405, 5, 101, 210, 710 and 91. The Orange County area has the 5, 22, 710, 605, 91, 55, 57 and 405; 7 freeways. It is notable that the LA area covers less than 5000 square miles and the OC area less than 1000 square miles. Freeway choices in the IE are very limited. Corona residents can only use the 15 or the 91; even though Corona is a heavily residential neighborhood with commuters to both LA and OC areas, and to the Palm Springs area. Riverside residents are limited to the 215, 60, 10 and 91, all of which connect to LA but only the 91 connects to OC. This fact, combined with the high volume of vehicles entering and exiting the 91 through Corona city, makes commute between OC and Riverside severely congested. The OC – Riverside problem is 2 problems in 1. First, the 91 alone is not enough to connect OC and Riverside; and second, the Corona bottleneck. The second problem is partly solved by the 91 Express Lanes. The Express Lanes are 2 tolled lanes that start at the 55/91 interchange and end just outside of Corona. The costs are affordable, on average $100 dollars per year individually or less/free for carpools of 3 people or more. These are under management by the OCTA and are very effective to relieve the OC – Corona commute problem. During rush hours, the entrances to the express lanes are mildly congested but most of the main 10 miles stretch is free-flowing while the outside lanes are a parking lot. This is because the express lanes are tolled and without exits. OCTA and the Riverside Transport Authority (RTA) are cooperating to expand the Express Lanes to the 15, which is roughly the center of Corona; this is called the 91 Project. Construction began early this year 2014 and the lanes are expected to be opened in 2017. However, this will not solve the Corona bottleneck completely. The simplest ways to solve both problems is to extend the 91 Express Lanes pass the whole of Corona city and widen the section through Riverside. If the Express Lanes extended pass Corona, it would be a dedicated limited entrance freeway with exits at the county line, the 15 and the Corona west perimeter. The 91 freeway section through Riverside currently has 3 lanes with no carpool lanes. To meet demands, there should be at least 5 lanes with 1 carpool lane. Other solutions, for example, building a new freeway, are not likely due to the geography between OC and Riverside. The funding and effort to make the proposed solution possible is immense. Therefore, I am pursuing Transportation Management as my career that will allow me to work for and coordinate both OCTA and RTA to solve the commuting problem. As mentioned above, my interest and vision is toward highway development in engineering planning. The America Society of Civil Engineering was always there to support me along my undergraduate years. This ASCE Scholarship will provide invaluable support to me in my senior year. The scholarship will allow me to find an opportunity to participate in OCTA’s highway program.

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