Women In Transportation: Cathy Strombom

Posted on September 9, 2010 by Brittany Swanson, Assistant Editor

Strombom works for the planning, engineering and management organization Parsons Brinckerhoff as a project manager, transportation planner and business manager.
Strombom works for the planning, engineering and management organization Parsons Brinckerhoff as a project manager, transportation planner and business manager.

Shortly after receiving her mathematics degree from Whitman College in 1972, Cathy Strombom joined the Peace Corps to serve in Morocco. Before her departure, Strombom had envisioned herself eventually becoming a mathematics teacher, but her experience in Morocco led her to develop an interest in city and regional planning.

When her service was over, Strombom decided to spend time living and working in developing countries. Her passion led her to Iran, India, Turkey and Pakistan. After receiving a master's degree in city and regional planning from the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 1977, Strombom began working for the Harvard Institute for International Development in Tehran, Iran.

"My very first position after graduate school was on a project to develop a metropolitan transportation plan for Tehran," says Strombom. "Working on metropolitan transportation plans for Tehran, and also for Istanbul, Turkey, were highlights of my early career."

Today, Strombom works for the planning, engineering and management organization Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) as a project manager, transportation planner and business manager.

Strombom led the consultant team effort working with Sound Transit to develop the agency's 15-year plan to expand Seattle's light rail, commuter rail and regional express bus systems. The Sound Transit Regional Transit System Plan (ST2) will add 36 miles of light rail to the region's rail system, and significantly reduce travel time, increase ridership, and eventually reduce pollution and freeway congestion.

"Last year the Sound Transit Regional Transit System Plan (ST2) won a PB Project of the Year award, among four such projects recognized internationally. This project also won a Washington State ACEC Engineering Excellence Award in 2009 on the national track," Strombom says.

In addition to managing multidisciplinary transportation projects like ST2, Strombom is also responsible for 55 transportation and urban planners in 13 offices as the west planning manager. Additionally, Strombom acts as the deputy area manager for PB's Seattle office.

"My goal at PB has been to pursue three career tracks simultaneously," Strombom says. "I wanted to be a technical expert in my field - transportation planning - a project manager and a business manager. PB has given me the opportunity to meet these career goals."

Strombom finds her workload both challenging and rewarding. She enjoys fostering the career development of others in the transportation profession and working on projects she knows will benefit the communities they serve. Strombom says her analytical and people skills, as well as her sense of humor, have helped her to succeed.

Currently, Strombom is serving as business manager on the North Corridor High Capacity Transit Project, — also for Sound Transit — which will extend the region's high capacity transit system into South Snohomish County. The project calls for an alternatives analysis, environmental documentation and preliminary engineering in compliance with FTA New Starts guidelines.

Furthermore, Strombom is currently the project manager for PB's role on the SR 520 Bridge Replacement and HOV (High-Occupancy Vehicle) project.

PB has recognized Strombom as a principal professional associate for her achievements in transportation planning, and she has also been certified by the company as a principal project manager.

"The most challenging thing about my job is balancing conflicting priorities given the range of my responsibilities," Strombom admits. "However, this is exactly why I love my current positions and why I am excited to go to work every day."



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