Top 40 Under 40 2017: Charlie M. Hetland

Sept. 15, 2017
Charlie M. Hetland, Transportation Planner/Engineer, CH2M

It was a high school football coach that sparked the interest of infrastructure in Charlie Hetland. The coach would come in suit and tie with a CH2M badge and talked about working on things like high-speed rail, the Panama Canal, a variety of major projects. Through college Hetland maintained that relationship and when he was a senior, he was offered an internship in the Los Angeles office and has been there ever since.

Hetland is part of the CH2M's Los Angeles leadership team to help with business development, client relations, and community involvement. He also was a brand ambassador for the Los Angeles office during the corporate rebranding. He possesses outstanding interpersonal and communication skills and the ability to work in coordination with clients and stakeholders. Due to the demanding and political landscape of the projects he's worked on, Hetland has a strong understanding of the implications of politics and policy decisions have on transportation projects.

Coupling transit planning and engineering safety skills with a passion for pushing the industry forward, he has become a valuable resource to CH2M’s transportation team in California. He has tackled responsibilities with alternative analysis, conceptual engineering and environmental clearance for Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (Metro) West Santa Ana Branch (WSAB) Transit Corridor, California high-speed rail Los Angeles to San Diego project section, and the SR 710 bus rapid transit alternative.

As project engineer and an environmental task lead for the WSAB environmental study, he’s helped with the conceptual engineering for the southern segment of the proposed 20-mile light rail corridor. He’s also the task lead for the safety and security report to address impacts and mitigation measures for the prevention of accidents by evaluating the configuration of the alignment, safety features and security enhancements, as well as supporting with the traffic, geotechnical and economic/fiscal impact analysis for the corridor. In the transit-dependent, low-income area, he’s helping Metro analyzing the economic benefits impact, as well.

Hetland is the planning lead for the California High Speed Rail Los Angeles to San Diego Planning Study, involved in identifying early building blocks for high-speed rail service and explored partnering strategies between the California High Speed Rail Authority and regional agencies to collaborative plan, sequence and implement projects. The early action projects evaluated as part of this study include bus rapid transit, fixed guideway, and express commuter rail corridors to improve the regional transportation network and complement high-speed rail service. As part of the study, he conducted station area studies for the identified CHSR station by evaluating land use, connecting services, and station locations.

In 2014, he helped to create an employee network group within CH2M called “Junior & Mid-level Professionals” (JuMP) to help promote staff retention, mentoring and professional development. In his role as the strategic initiatives chair (2014-2016), Hetland helped junior and mid-level staff connect with senior leaders within the company through business development activities, technology transfer presentations and mentorships circles. They also did a business proposal competition, which engaged junior-level staff in processes they wouldn’t normally be involved with, working with an actual client.

Due to the demanding and political landscape of the projects he's worked on, Hetland has a strong understanding of the implications of politics and policy decisions have on transportation projects. His on-the job experience allows him to visualize and articulate complex problems and trends in a way that's accessible to a general audience. This skill was instrumental during the campaign for Metro’s Measure M campaign. He was an active volunteer for the campaign that ultimately succeeding in passing and generating $120 billion for transportation funding over the next 40 years. As the government affairs chair for ASCE Metro Los Angeles Branch, he gave presentations to local universities to educate students about what it would mean for them in hopes of encouraging new votes to pass the ballot measure. He also led a group of 15 transportation advocates to Los Angeles City Hall to meet with each of the 15 council members to advocate support for Measure M. The day before the election, he passed out m&ms alongside Mayor Eric Garcetti at Union Station, advocating for support of Measure M.

Actively seeking out opportunities to build his knowledge of the transportation industry, he continues to position himself as a leader in the industry. He is participating in the American Public Transportation Association's Early Career Program, earning selection as one of 25 individuals who represent the rich diversity of the public transportation industry. At the end of the program, Hetland presented at the APTA Bus Conference on his group presentation on Public-Private Partnerships.

Hetland was also selected into the American Road & Transportation Builders Association "Industry Leader Development Program". The program provided Hetland, as a rising leader in the transportation industry, with a solid understanding of industry economics, how transportation work in the U.S. is funded and financed, how actions by the federal government impact the industry, and how he-and CH2M-can become politically engaged to help shape transportation policy. Charlie had the opportunity during the program to meet face-to-face with members of Congress and their staffs about pending federal transportation policy.

Charlie has made several legislative trips to both Sacramento, CA and Washington D.C. with various coalitions, such as Mobility 21, ARTBA, and ASCE, to advocate for transportation funding. In October 2015, he hosted an event called "Infrastructure Funding in the 21st Century: The Path Forward". For the event, Charlie personally invited Congressman Tony Cardenas and Congresswoman Grace Napolitano to be the keynote speakers. Both Cardenas and Napolitano addressed the 100+ transportation advocates at the event about the need to pass a long-term surface transportation bill and pledged to whip up the votes by the end of the year and ultimately helped to pass the FAST Act in December 2015.

Charlie has a deep passion for transportation and is fascinated to see how the future of transportation will be significantly influenced by the current global trends and technology. Global trends such as migratory shifts into urban cores, demographics changes, generational preferences, climate change, and technology intrigue him. These trends, combined with financing shortfalls and deferred maintenance, help him imagine the major challenges ahead for future transportation leaders. As a result, Charlie helped LA Metro plan for these global trends and technology by providing his expertise for LA Metro's Regional Short Range Transit Plan.

Hetland was awarded CH2M’s 2016 CEO Excellence Award, the 2016 ASCE National Outstanding Civil Engineer Advocate of the Year, selected into 2016 APTA Emerging Leader Program, selected into 2016 ARTBA Industry Leader Development Program, and awarded 2015 ASCE Metro Los Angeles Outstanding Engineer of the Year in Legislative Activities.

Hetland serves on the ASCE Metro Los Angeles Government Affairs Chair and ASCE Region 9 Government Relations Committee and serves on the advisory board for Infinite Flow, a non-profit for inclusion of disabilities.

“What I find really fascinating is how public transportation industry is the intersection with the current global trends that are happening whether it’s climate change, migratory shift, technology. We’ve got these global issues related to these trends and public transit is a potential solution to some of these problems. We’ve got a bright future and it’s helping address these issues.”

“My mentor, who brought me on, before I started he asked me, what kind of business are we in? I had just come out of engineering school, I thought we’re in the engineering business. He said, you’re wrong, it’s a relationship business. What we design is for people. Our clients are people and understanding people and relationships is what matters most. I’m seeing that now with our projects. Getting the community involved is critical to making sure your project is successful.”

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Jacobs Associates

Sept. 7, 2012