2020 40 Under 40: Sarah Hersom, P.E., LEED AP

Aug. 18, 2020
Sarah Hersom, P.E., LEED AP, Senior Project Manager, AVP, HNTB Corporation
  • One word to describe yourself: Dedicated 
  • Alma Mater: Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo
  • Favorite hobby(s): Running and playing with my 2-year-old daughter
  • Fun fact about yourself: Five-time marathoner
  • Favorite station or stop that you have ever visited or frequent (and why): Grand Central Station, NYC – the architecture, history, operational complexity, and the engineering innovations that accompanied not only the original construction, but the future East Side Access.

Sarah Hersom earned a Bachelor of Science in civil (transportation) engineering in 2006, gained her professional engineering license in 2010 and a Master of Science in civil engineering in 2013. She serves as one of HNTB Corporation’s youngest officers and, as her nomination form describes, “the challenge of complex transportation engineering motivates her. Improving mobility in communities inspires her. And, on project after project, her ideas, focus and character bring colleagues with her.”

Hersom rises to meet the challenging environment design-build delivery presents by coordinating teams of HNTB experts from across the country and a variety of subconsultants to meet aggressive deadlines. She and her team delivered the design of L.A. Metro’s Crenshaw light-rail extension nine months earlier than planned when the schedule was accelerated and she currently serves as the engineering manager for the Program Management Team on the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority’s (VTA) BART Silicon Valley Phase II project in San Jose, Calif.

Phase II of this project has risen to national importance as it has become the first project accepted into the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Expedited Project Delivery pilot program. The project originally included a twin-bore tunnel before economic conditions forced the project to pause. When activity began again, Hersom was a leader on the Single Bore Technical Study for the project, which ultimately was selected as the path forward for the project and a key element in it being accepted into FTA’s program.

“Sarah sees the whole project and applies calm, sensible, expertise that imparts confidence and inspires her team to stay focused on a clear vision of that success,” said Dennis Ratcliffe, program director for Santa Clara VTA.

The projects she has worked on have been recipients of multiple regional, state and national awards. Hersom also finds time to lend her talents to professional groups, sharing knowledge, building networks and showing others what’s possible.

Is there a specific experience that led you to where you are today?

I have been fortunate to work on many large, transformative infrastructure and transit projects. Much of my design and project management experience has been in design-build delivery environments, which are fast-paced and demand personal accountability. My commitment and dedication to project delivery has continually opened up new opportunities, each more exciting than the last.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

In program and project delivery, each day brings a new challenge and problem to solve. Working through complex technical, multi-disciplinary issues and bringing the right team together to develop coordinated, innovative solutions is extremely rewarding. The fact that I am able to work with such a high caliber team in terms of technical breadth and depth makes the process that much more enjoyable.

Accomplishment you’re most proud of and why?

To be a leader on the nation’s first transit application of a large diameter single bore tunnel in San Jose, Calif. The project is also the first to be accepted by the Federal Transit Administration’s Expedited Project Delivery pilot program.

Why do you like being a part of the public transit industry?

Being able to bring together some of the best engineering minds in the industry to collaborate and deliver innovative transit solutions for the benefit of the communities in which we live and work is what brings me to work every day. Seeing these projects come to fruition after years of hard work is extremely rewarding.