Alumni Spotlight: Rashed Tanvir Islam
Name: Rashed Tanvir Islam
Hometown: Dhaka, Bangladesh
Currently residing: Austin, Texas
Current job: Vice President at HDR, Inc. (formerly WHM Transportation Engineering) + Managing Principal for the downtown office. Leader of HDR’s traffic program for Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma
Graduated from UT/CTR: 1996
Hobbies outside of work: Cricket (I played minor league back home) and golf
What projects did you work on while you were at CTR?
I worked on the traffic circulation study and long-range plans for Eagle Pass and Del Rio, examining the traffic operational issues at those border cities. I also conducted research on choosing appropriate highway intersection types, which helped form my graduate thesis.
How did your time here prepare you for your career?
My time at CTR has had a tremendous impact on my career. I learned a lot about industry standards and how the industry works, such as the mechanics of funding, which impacts me daily in professional life. I also learned the nitty-gritty about traffic engineering fundamentals and what’s behind traffic analysis work, which I use daily. CTR gave me a strong foundation that has helped me excel in my professional career. One thing I appreciated about the environment was that I was able to bring in own ideas and explore them with my advisor; I was given leeway from professors and advisors to contribute my ideas to the research project. Also, working in team environment was a crucial skill I learned at CTR that has continued to serve me well.
What CTR relationships have proved the most significant?
I am forever indebted to Dr. Randy Machemehl and Dr. Mike Walton for their roles in my academic and professional life. In fact, my 17-year career actually began with WHM Transportation Engineering Consultants, Inc. in 1997—the W and M in the title stand for Walton and Machemehl. HDR acquired WHM in 2006.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy the different kinds of transportation engineering and planning work, including traffic impact analyses and mitigating impacts on transportation systems. Coming up with new concepts that can be implemented for less money is rewarding, and I’m proud of my contributions to improving mobility in Central Texas. I’ve been involved with transportation master planning for communities such as Cedar Park and in corridor studies, such as East Riverside Drive. We recently started on the South Lamar corridor study. I also enjoyed my work on Austin’s Mueller Redevelopment Project, an award-winning community designed to provide multimodal transportation infrastructure—I was the transportation consultant. The last 5 to 6 years we’ve all experienced the economic downturn and the constraints of inadequate transportation funding, and I was able to bring innovative cost-effective congestion relief ideas to communities, TxDOT, Williamson County, the city of Austin, Round Rock, and Cedar Park, and see those ideas implemented. Some of these ideas are already under construction, such as the continuous flow intersections (CFI) on US 290 in Oakhill (near the 290/71 and the 290/ William Cannon intersections) and at Parmer Lane and RM 1431 in Cedar Park, and the diverging diamond interchange (DDI) at I35 & 1431 near Ikea. Solving congestion problems under budget constraints requires thinking outside the box, which presents an enjoyable challenge.
What got you interested in transportation?
My dad was a civil engineer in water resources, which originally got me interested in engineering. Where I come from, transportation infrastructure is not advanced, which sparked my interest in transportation specifically. In fact, I spent almost 6 months working on a transportation master plan for Bangladesh, which I provided to officials there. It’s a cool area of expertise because you directly impact everyone’s life every day; if you can do meaningful projects that impact commutes and congestion, you can enhance everyone’s quality of life. The industry is moving at a fast pace, so you get to innovate and bring in new ideas while working under the continuing financial constraints, so you have to get creative. The industry is set to change dramatically given the advent of automated vehicles and smart highways, which will bring the field to a whole new level that’s exciting.
What is one of the most interesting areas of discussion in your specific field of expertise today?
Automated vehicles and smart roadways are where the industry is going, because we have to maximize the funds we have. We don’t have billions to spend on infrastructure, so over next 5 to 10 years the field will be focusing on how we manage our demand, using ridesharing and other tech-based developments. How can we automate to better use our existing transportation system, gain capacity, and minimize accidents? Technology moves so fast these days, and it will have great impact on our industry. Services such as Uber and Lyft can enhance capacity, and appeal to the younger generation, who are less interested in getting their own cars and more interested in leveraging technology. I can see our industry being reshaped, repurposed, and reused via both technology and changing attitudes. Mass transit is the next frontier, and it is app dependent. The future is not just building roads—it will be how best we can make all the modes co-exist and be creative to manage peak period congestion. We have to collectively decide what we want for our community and consider how to incorporate multimodal facilities and other traffic demand strategies. For example, if we staggered office hours in downtown and the capitol complex (from the standard 8 to 5) and explored compressed work week opportunities, we could decrease demands during peak periods significantly.
What advice do you have for students considering a career in transportation engineering?
Being in grad school is great, but also prepare yourself for your professional life. Don’t focus just on research. Consider investing time to learn industry-related software and other elements of a professional life. Students generally have more time than money, so use that time and the resources available at the university to explore and learn things not directly related to coursework but that will pay dividends in your professional life. And remember that we have a community of alumni to connect with, so reach out to that community.
What achievement in your professional life are you proudest of?
I’d say bringing in new ideas and collectively working with communities (including neighborhood associations, stakeholders, and officials) to implement new, complex ideas, particularly when some of those implementations are the first of their kind in Texas.