Top 40 Under 40 2013: Luke Olson, PE

In his relatively short career, Lucas Olson, PE, is already recognized within the transit industry as a leading expert and resource on transit engineering, design and program management, with special expertise in streetcars.

He has a wide range of transit project design and management experience, including conceptual planning, final design and construction. Drawing from his well-rounded experiences from other projects around the country, Olson continues to works with clients to develop cost-effective design alternatives and generate innovative solutions that fit their needs and unique constraints. HDR’s clients, public agency staff and elected officials consistently give Olson high ratings as a project manager and technical expert. He has gained a reputation for effectively communicating technical and engineering information with stakeholders and the public.

In addition to providing superior client service, Olson is active on committees for trade and advocacy organizations. He is frequently invited to participate as a speaker at conferences held by those organizations and is widely recognized as a technical expert on emerging rail transit technologies.

Earlier this year Olson was accepted into the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) 2013 Young Executive Development Program. The intensive four-day introduction to the federal legislative and regulatory processes that affect the industry in Washington helps develop the next generation of industry leaders who will shape transportation policy for the future.

HDR senior management and project staff also praise Olson for his technical ability, management skills and communications style. He was promoted last year to central region streetcar director for HDR, responsible for client services and marketing for some of the most active streetcar and rail transit markets in the country.

At the project level, Olson is HDR’s project manager for the Dallas streetcar design-build project, the Kansas City downtown streetcar, the St. Paul streetcar and the Milwaukee streetcar. He is leading or supporting engineering efforts on projects in Tacoma, Salt Lake City and other locations. Prior to joining HDR, Olson was involved in the design and planning of more than a dozen streetcar projects across the United States, including the Portland Streetcar Loop Project final design where he was part of the design management team and one of the engineers of record for the project.

Olson, who has a Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Colorado Boulder, was named a professional associate of HDR in 2012. Becoming a professional associate identifies him as a companywide technical and management resource for staff and clients. The program recognizes a limited number of employees who have distinguished themselves as technical and creative experts in their fields and as leaders in specific areas of expertise.

“I enjoy working with a variety of clients on challenging projects that have positive impacts within the communities where they are being implemented. I particularly enjoy engaging with stakeholders throughout the decision-making process and developing cost-effective design solutions that satisfies their needs.

“By living and working in several cities over the course of my career, I have developed a broad perspective on ways to approach complex issues. It makes it easier to relate to a diverse range of clients and have a variety of example solutions from other cities. I have lived in Denver, Colo., Portland, Ore., Austin, Texas and Minneapolis, Minn., during my career.

“Transit projects are typically extensive, high-profile and have a lasting impact on the communities they touch and usually involve many different groups, agencies, stakeholders and the public that doesn’t always share the same vision. I enjoy working with them all to find common ground and move a project through the various stages of implementation.

“I think public transit is critical to the economic growth and vitality of cities. As our roads reach their maximum capacity, public transit is going to be a key factor for continued mobility and economic growth in our communities.

“My ‘hobby’ right now is being a dad. All kids want to do is have fun and I just enjoy being a part of it all … whether we’re on a bike ride, at the beach or ‘rough housing’ in the living room we are constantly having fun making memories together as a family. At this point in my life, my family is my hobby because I don’t want to give up time with them for anything else. I have a wonderful wife of 10 years and two boys, one 4 and the other turns 8 this September.”