If you want to be a transportation engineer in Southern California, your chances improve dramatically when you have Xudong Jia as your professor. At California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Cal Poly Pomona), Jia teaches in the Civil Engineering Department with classes of students who want to build the roadways of the future. Several years ago, Jia formed a partnership with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to give his students real-world experience. It has turned into a relationship with unexpected benefits for both parties.
“We started the partnership seven years ago,” said Jia. “From our early conversations, we realized they couldn’t donate cash towards the program, but they said they could donate engineers’ time to come down and give us help. Every year, Caltrans gives us a project that they are working on. They want to get some alternative views, so they get our students to work on it.”
The students in Jia’s CE 222 Highway Engineering class and CE 499 Senior Project class use Transoft Solutions’ AutoTURN to check their designs. They create modifications to an existing roadway or intersection and provide alternatives that Caltrans had not considered.
“We always make sure we are matching the Caltrans practices, because Caltrans uses AutoTURN as well to perform those checks. We want to teach our students to follow those practices. The students learn all the uses of AutoTURN, and they also understand the way that Caltrans does business.” Because AutoTURN is based on the AASHTO standards, there is virtually no guesswork when it comes to final designs.
It is a common practice for one of Jia’s classes to influence or change one of Caltrans’ big freeway or interchange projects. “It happens all the time,” said Jia. “This quarter, I have 10 students working on a project on I-15 at Cajalco Road [in Southern California] and we are working on the design of one of the interchanges. We are involved in modifying the interchanges and we do this to increase the capacity or to reduce the congestion of traffic. This usually involves realigning the existing interchange,” Jia explained.
Future freeways, off-ramps and intersections throughout the state of California are in good hands, with Xudong Jia’s classes at Cal Poly Pomona turning out successful graduates. As Jia said, “The relationship wouldn’t work if it was only them donating their time to us. We give them some insightful ideas. We learn from Caltrans but Caltrans also learns from us too.”
Johns is with Transoft Solutions.