2018 Top 40 Under 40: Kristen P. Bergassi, ENV SP, NCICS

Sept. 14, 2018
Kristen P. Bergassi, ENV SP, NCICS, Senior Environmental Planner, VHB
  • One word to describe yourself: Dedicated
  • Alma Mater: University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • Favorite book: “The Outlander” series by Diana Gabaldon
  • Favorite TV show: “Game of Thrones”
  • Favorite movie: “It’s a Wonderful Life”
  • Favorite hobby(s): "Any outdoor activity with my family, scuba diving, sailing, camping, and baking."
  • Fun fact about yourself: "I spent a summer sailing the Atlantic Ocean as crew on board a tall ship research vessel." 
  • Favorite station or stop that you have ever visited or frequent (and why): "My favorite station is the historic Washington Union Station in Washington, D.C. I try to visit this architecturally significant transportation hub whenever I can for work or pleasure."
  • Favorite route you have ever ridden or frequent (and why): "My favorite route is the TGV (France’s intercity high-speed rail service) from Paris to Reims. I have fond memories traveling this route to explore cathedrals, museums, and champagne houses with my foreign exchange family."

Kristen Bergassi specializes in environmental planning and navigating the regulatory process for transit and rail projects. She has prepared Environmental Impact Statements (EISs), Environmental Assessments (EAs), and permitting applications for the region’s most important transportation projects, including Boston’s South Station Expansion; the Green Line Extension in Cambridge, Somerville, and Medford Massachusetts; the award-winning Burlington Downtown Transit Center (DTC) in Vermont; and West Haven Commuter Rail Station in Connecticut. Bergassi’s environmental permitting strategy helped to make these projects successful by improving mobility, connectivity, and accessibility for these communities.   

Bergassi is loyal to the industry and VHB. During her 17 years at VHB, she has dedicated her time to teaching and learning from her peers to further their depth of knowledge and expand the company’s environmental practice. Learning and development are VHB’s core values and beliefs, and the company is committed to sustaining an environment of continuous learning and improvement.

Last fall, Bergassi organized an Advanced National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Training course, which drew more than 40 VHB team members from across 14 offices. The course offered a platform for an interactive and focused session to build relationships among NEPA practitioners, develop more in-depth knowledge of NEPA procedures, identify best practices, and improve the quality of NEPA documents. “As a long-time NEPA practitioner, this was one of the most useful classes I have taken in my career,” said Regional Aviation Director Carol Lurie.

Serving as VHB’s Deputy Project Manager and Environmental Lead for Boston’s South Station Expansion, a critical transportation need for the region, Bergassi played a key role in assisting the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) with clearing the state environmental process and setting a path for completion of the federal environmental review process — a critical project milestone. 

The expansion of South Station, the most heavily used passenger rail facility in New England, will improve service delivery along the Northeast Corridor (NEC) and enable growth in the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) commuter rail and Amtrak high-speed and regional intercity rail service. The expansion will also improve pedestrian and bicycle circulation and amenities, and vehicular circulation and multimodal connections, as well as support regional and local economic development. In turn, the expansion will incorporate sustainable design measures, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve stormwater management, increase public open space, and restore public waterfront access.

As environmental task manager for the Burlington DTC in Vermont, Bergassi provided environmental services and planning support for the alternatives analysis and preparation of environmental review documents necessary to satisfy Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) NEPA guidelines for a new transit center at the hub of the Green Mountain Transit’s bus service network. Her integrated skills and collaborative approach helped deliver comprehensive services to take the DTC project seamlessly from planning and design through successful completion and transform transit in Vermont. The new DTC, recognized with the 2017 ACEC/VT Engineering Excellence Grand Award, provides the region with a first-class transit facility and aims to enhance and stimulate economic development in downtown Burlington. In 2017, Engineering News-Record named the project on their annual Best Projects in New England list.

As environmental task manager for the Green Line Extension, Bergassi provided environmental services and planning support for the alternatives analysis, public involvement process, and preparation of environmental review documents necessary to satisfy FTA’s NEPA and Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) guidelines for a new light rail transit service for MassDOT and the MBTA. This project, once completed, will serve one of the region’s most densely populated urban corridors passing through three metro-Boston municipalities.

Bergassi served as environmental planner on the $103 million-dollar West Haven Commuter Rail Station project in Connecticut — the first new station built along the main line in Connecticut since the route was established a century ago. In this role, she provided environmental services, public outreach, and planning support for the preparation of an Environmental Assessment/Environmental Impact Evaluation (EA/EIE), as required by the FTA NEPA guidelines and Connecticut Environmental Policy Act (CEPA) regulations. This project was honored with a 2014 People’s Choice Award from the American Institute of Architects Connecticut Chapter (AIA-CT).

Bergassi has played a key role in testing and implementing new tools to assist VHB’s clients with managing stakeholder comments, as well as making applicable NEPA documentation accessible to people with disabilities, in accordance with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 U.S.C. § 794 (d)). 

Bergassi is consistently searching for the best ways to streamline state and federal environmental documentation and review schedules. She played a key role in the preparation of the first Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) EIS designated by the Secretary of Transportation for fast-tracking under Executive Order 13274: Environmental Stewardship and Transportation Infrastructure Project Reviews. VHB developed an innovative streamlining process for the EIS completing it in 18 months, two months ahead of schedule and 10 percent under budget. The process included a landmark Streamlining Agreement among FAA and 16 federal and state environmental and cultural resources agencies in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. Because of this streamlining process, the FAA Harrisburg District Office received the Partnering for Excellence Award from the U.S. Secretary of Transportation.

Bergassi is a member of the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure, Women in Transportation Seminar (WTS), Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA), and the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). Bergassi served on the Special Projects Committee for the WTS Boston Chapter, which included planning and logistical support for annual Chapter-wide events. She is a certified Envision Sustainability Professional, a NCI Charrette Planner from the National Charrette Institute and certified in Public Participation from the International Association for Public Participation.

"What I enjoy most about my job is the opportunity to work with such a dedicated and passionate team every day. All our projects are so diverse, with their own unique set of challenges. VHB fosters a fun and friendly collaborative atmosphere, which allows us to be adaptable, flexible, and innovative in solving problems. I interact with people from all levels of the organization and across all technical disciplines. This environment makes the long hours and challenging work of consulting in our industry rewarding."

"Balancing regulatory requirements with client and stakeholder expectations can be very challenging. I’ve learned there is “no one size fits all” approach when it comes to stakeholder management. One strategy, although it works for one project, may not work for the next. I believe strongly in engaging interested parties early and often, as well as being as transparent as possible. These relationships can foster collaboration and build trust for a successful outcome. We may not always reach uniform consensus, so it requires us to work collectively to identify how we can successfully move forward."

"I am most proud of our team’s efforts with MassDOT, the MBTA, and the FTA to complete the state and federal environmental review for the Green Line Extension project. This project, currently under construction, will improve corridor mobility, transit ridership, air quality, and provide equitable distribution of transit services for the region’s most densely populated communities that today are underserved by fixed-guideway transit. This project will substantially improve the quality of life in these communities as well as access to jobs, schools, and healthcare facilities. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with a talented team on this great project."

"My best advice is to be proactive, not reactive when it comes to environmental planning. Early identification and planning for project challenges and environmental resource issues can help to avoid surprise impacts to project scopes, schedules, and budgets. I believe this is critical to achieving project success, particularly for large, complex projects with numerous stakeholders."

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July 20, 2009