2021 40 Under 40: Teri M. Marsh, PE, VMA

Nov. 23, 2021
Teri M. Marsh, PE, VMA, Rail/Transit Project Manager, HNTB
  • One word to describe yourself: Passionate
  • Alma Mater: University of Arizona
  • Fun fact about yourself: I have ridden transit with one of my cats, which I’m fairly confident is much more of a fun fact for me than for her.
  • Favorite station or stop that you have ever visited or frequent (and why): Svanemøllen station, part of the S-train rail system in Copenhagen. It was my commute station while I studied abroad in college and was my first exposure to international transit.
  • Favorite route you have ever ridden or frequent (and why): Sound Transit Sounder to Everett or Amtrak Cascades to Vancouver along the waterfront of Puget Sound, for the incredible views while relaxing and letting someone else take the wheel. Runner-up: sitting next to the operator on the Seattle Monorail and seeing the dashboard displaying the 1,000,000-plus miles it has operated since 1962.

Teri Marsh’s 14-year career has been wholly dedicated to transit, a pursuit she describes as “an immutable passion.” Marsh’s diverse project experience encompasses design, program management and construction management of light rail and streetcar projects, from conceptual engineering through construction.

Her areas of engineering expertise are rail design, systems design and integration and utilities engineering. Marsh also emphasizes value engineering, program controls, sustainability and design criteria development in her work. Together, these areas of practice speak to her desire to understand all aspects of capital projects to best deliver for her clients and community.

In particular, Marsh is committed to ensuring that projects she leads serve the community, providing options that align with transportation needs and benefit underserved populations. By understanding how patrons will engage with the service provided by each capital project, she ensures that each one goes beyond infrastructure building and, instead, is designed to fit into its surrounding community and deliver the results that best fit the needs of those who will use it. This includes exploring flexibility in design and concept, areas that will be especially important in coming years.

During her internship and early career, when Marsh wasn’t yet designing, she was already soaking up best practices by reviewing other professionals’ work. As a mid-level engineer, she had latitude to explore different design disciplines related to utilities, stormwater and track design, among others. In the last few years, she has begun serving as a task lead on capital projects for L.A. Metro and Sound Transit, providing management-level design support and gaining experience in team communications, design development and decision making related to final design. Her passion for effective communication and design integration consistently leads her to seek increasingly responsible project management opportunities.

In 2020, Marsh was appointed deputy client service leader for HNTB client Sound Transit. This responsibility involves developing, implementing and updating the five-year client strategic plan and building and strengthening client relationships to best define what Sound Transit values.

Marsh also serves as HNTB’s project manager for the Sound Transit NE 130th Street Infill Station project, an aerial light-rail station currently in final design. In this role, she coordinates work across multiple stakeholders to advance the project under an expedited schedule to meet the goal of Sound Transit and the community to provide increased regional mobility for the transit-dependent residents of North Seattle as soon as possible.

As a certified Value Methodology Associate, Marsh is working toward further certification in value engineering facilitation, one of her prominent career passions. She is a staunch believer that the investment of public transit funds should provide the public best value and she approaches value engineering through this lens. Rather than viewing it as simply a cost-savings exercise, Marsh uses a structured value engineering process to define the purpose and goals of a project which, when combined with cost-savings ideas, increases the project’s value.

Marsh has implemented this value engineering approach in studies ranging from transit capital project design review to design-build procurement documents and from proposal concept validation to process and infrastructure maintenance improvement. She has participated in value engineering workshops that have identified more than $100 million in potential cost savings and significantly reduced project delivery risk for Sound Transit. Further underscoring her role as an ambassador for value engineering, she presented on the subject at the 2017 APTA Rail conference.

Marsh is a 2016 graduate of APTA’s Emerging Leaders Program, serves as secretary of the executive board on the Women’s Transportation Seminar Puget Sound Chapter and is co-chair of HNTB’s Bellevue office Participate Committee, which focuses on encouraging colleagues to get involved in the community through volunteering, professional organizations, lunch-and-learns and other activities. She has also served as the inaugural co-chair of HNTB’s Bellevue, Washington, office mentoring program and served as a mentor and coordinator of HNTB SPARK LA after-school program.

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

A flyer I received while I was a college student studying engineering at [University of Arizona] for an open house for the Tucson Streetcar project. I had just changed majors from architecture to civil engineering and attending that open house led to me becoming part of the project team, which brought my career and life passion into focus.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Showing up day after day to solve challenges with a high-performing project and client team. The people really make the difference. Knowing we are working towards the same mission of expanding services and opportunities for community transportation choices.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

As a young engineer, I felt torn between honing my technical engineering skills and doing more to cultivate my expertise in communications, coordination and management. I still feel this division today but appreciate being part of a supportive company and project teams to enhance my team coordination skills for capital project delivery.

Accomplishment you’re most proud of and why?

I am proud of expanding my skillset beyond technical work into value engineering to support my clients’ programs in a focused way. I participated in my first VE study in 2015 and have been fortunate to explore many capital projects since then as the part of the facilitation team in week-long workshops to identify the project function and the best value the design can provide for the users, the agency and its operational needs and the community. Through these workshops, my VE teams have been able to identify millions of dollars of savings in projects while still staying true to the value and function of the project.

Best advice/tip/best practice to share from your area of expertise?

From a value engineering mentor – the importance of reframing your thoughts in decision-making from “no, because…” to “yes, if…”