Olsson Elevates Rail Traffic and Public Project Expertise

June 06, 2023

Olsson has added a group of recognized experts in railroad traffic and public projects engineering, expanding the firm’s capacity to serve railway clients and governmental agencies. The new group of employees is led by Karen Hankinson and Lance Kippen.

“We have been committed to serving our rail partners for more than 25 years, including in the areas of public projects and rail traffic engineering,” said Ryan Kosola, leader of Olsson’s Rail program. “We are delighted to welcome Karen, Lance and their staff to Olsson. They have deepened our expertise and strengthened our capacity to deliver these critical services to our clients.”

Karen Hankinson is a leading authority in rail traffic engineering, which is a specialty discipline dedicated to roadway-to-railroad intersections commonly known as grade crossings. Our rail traffic engineering group delivers multiple services for grade crossing projects, including traffic signal preemption timing, traffic signals, signing/striping, temporary traffic control, controller testing, queuing analysis and more.

Olsson’s rail traffic engineering staff members work alongside agencies to take grade crossing projects from conception through construction. Maintaining meticulous involvement is critical to ensuring the safe, efficient function of complex systems that operate interconnected grade crossings.

“We want to make sure everything gets set up as our designs specify so the motoring public has a clear understanding of what to do at a grade crossing,” Karen said. The group’s project portfolio includes implementing a quiet zone in the downtown of a major West Coast city that required safety improvements for 12 multi-track grade crossings.

The rail traffic engineering staff members also provide specialized training and consulting to public agencies and railroads, which includes leading training seminars for state departments of transportation, other consulting engineers and railroad corporations. Several of the new staff members also serve on the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (NCUTCD) and the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-way Association (AREMA) Committee 36. Additionally, Hankinson serves as chair of the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) Grade Crossing Committee.

Lance Kippen’s public projects staff members come to Olsson with decades of collective experience serving as a liaison between public agency staff and railroads. The public projects team processes, reviews and manages projects, delivering services for the agency-facing project manager on any public project that involves a railroad.

They also serve as a committed resource, seeing agency projects through the railroad approval process from inception through construction. Many projects involve unique elements. For example, the team coordinated the installation of a pedestrian bridge over a 12-track railyard that had to be completed within an 8-hour window.

“We get involved in some very interesting and challenging projects,” Lance said. “We just never know what’s going to walk in the door. It’s one of the reasons we love our work.”