Have you ever wondered what it’s like to work in transportation? Every year, the Orange County Chapter of Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS-OC) offers a two-week immersion into different facets of the transportation industry for undergraduate and graduate college students of various majors called the Transportation Academy. During the two weeks, students experience transportation first-hand through seminars and onsite tours.
TCA has participated in the WTS Transportation Academy since the program’s inception in 2009. This year 25 students came to TCA for the third day of the academy. This year’s program’s theme? Innovation. On August 1, we kicked off the day with a presentation, sharing how TCA is no stranger to innovation. When new roads were needed, and the State of California lacked funding, toll revenue bonds were sold as the major funding source to build the 73, 133, 241 and 261 Toll Roads. TCA has also pioneered environmental stewardship programs that use innovative strategies, design, management and conservation measures to protect the natural resources of more than 2,000 acres of habitat and open space in Orange County.
The student’s visit included a tour of the Tomato Springs toll point along the 241 Toll Road. Transcore, the company that manages TCA’s toll collection technology, gave a behind the scenes look at where and how tolls are collected electronically. The students watched cars drive by on the 241 Toll Road, while learning how the technology behind transponders and license plate imaging. License plate tolling cameras take photos of vehicle license plates when a FasTrak transponder is not detected. The photo is then connected to an ExpressAccount or becomes a violation notice.
The next stop on the tour was the site of the Oso Parkway Bridge Project. TCA is partnering with the County of Orange to construct a bridge to support safe connection between the southern end of the 241 Toll Road to the newly constructed Los Patrones Parkway. Students heard from civil engineers how they plan to construct the bridge without significantly disrupting traffic.
The last stop before heading back to the office, a quick drive by of TCA’s largest mitigation site, the Upper Chiquita Canyon Conservation Area. At 1,158 acres, environmental planning staff shared with the students how the area was saved from becoming homes and a golf course. The conservation area provides habitat for the federally-listed California gnatcatcher and coastal cactus wren and maintains wildlife connectivity between O’Neill Regional Park and Chiquita Ridge.
The day was capped off with a moderated career panel, allowing the students to learn how employees from different departments contribute to running the roads and ask their own questions. Employees from the Contracts, Toll Operations, Marketing, Engineering, Environmental, and Strategic departments explained how they got their start in the transportation industry, shared college course insights and discussed how they implement innovation within their department or throughout their careers.
Being a part of the Transportation Academy is a great way to see the future of transportation. And that future isn’t just engineers and planners, it’s also people in public policy, communications, environmental studies and geology, just to name a few. One thing is clear, when it comes to working in transportation, it takes a village.