Inside Seven
Current Issue: September 2014
Employee Spotlight
District Director Douglas R. Failing (left) presents Bob Masuda with a letter of congratulations from President George Bush.

by  Jeanne Bonfilio
Issue Date: 09/2007

Bob Masuda's colleagues -- veterans and new employees alike -- have garnered him with much admiration and respect for his leadership, dedication, strong work ethic and diligence in his craft.” -- Kenneth C. Young

Associate Transportation Engineer Bob Masuda has retired after a 42-year dedicated career of outstanding service to the people of the State of California – leaving behind him numerous notable accomplishments – and a large contingent of friends and co-workers who will miss him.

Masuda began his long and memorable Caltrans career in 1965 working in the Materials Lab as Engineering Aide I and II.  He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1966 where he remained until 1969.  When he returned to Caltrans in 1969, he worked in the Route Planning section (a precursor to Transportation Planning).  His classifications at that time included Engineering Aide II, Highway Engineering Technician I and Assistant Highway Engineer.  His primary work involved detailed preliminary studies for proposed freeways.  He also assisted in some of the public information sessions for construction of the Century Freeway (I-105).  From 1974 to 1976, he worked in Design Branch A as an Assistant Highway Engineer.  During this time, he graduated from California State University at Los Angeles in 1974 where he received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Engineering.

When asked what led him to Caltrans, Masuda said he took drafting classes in junior and senior high schools where he enjoyed the accuracy and details necessary in preparing plans.  This led to engineering classes at the community college.  “A serendipitous occasion in which a classmate’s brother that was working for Caltrans (then called the Division of Highways) told him about the Engineering Aide testing.  He in turn told others including me. So I applied and was hired!”

He said that the classes were also interesting, but after beginning work with Caltrans, he quit community college.  Later, after working for Caltrans, he returned to college at Cal State University at Los Angeles through the GI bill to obtain an engineering degree. 

In 1976, Masuda was laid off.  During this time, he worked for the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Justice and the City of Irvine.  After returning to Caltrans in 1977 in Traffic, his classifications then and through his retirement included Assistant Highway Engineer, Assistant Transportation Engineer and Associate Transportation Engineer.  Some of his assignments involved ramp metering (both initial planning, implementation and surveillance), operational and safety investigations, PS&E preparation, project report preparations and other work assignments.

The highlights of his career include:

• Working as a helicopter observer during the 1984 Olympics when he flew about 100 hours during the two-week period observing the freeways for congestion and major incidents.  During the entire two weeks, he said he only found one major incident (a California Highway Patrol helicopter that crash landed on Route 110 on the next to last day) to report.

• Working in City of Los Angeles’ Department of Transportation (LADOT) Operations Center during the Northridge Earthquake as part of the emergency operations.  He also assisted in the preparation of detour plans necessary for the emergency repair of the Santa Monica Freeway (I-10) at La Cienega Boulevard.

• In the early 1970’s, he worked on some of the first ramp metering systems to be implemented in District 7.  This included preparing ramp metering plans by hand (before the automated programs developed by Professor Mays at Berkeley), programming the controllers and conducting surveillance after the meters became operational. 

• He was assigned the “SMART Corridor” project on the Santa Monica Freeway (I-10) in 1990, which included the first connector metering in District 7, and close coordination with LADOT and the Metropolitan Transportation  Authority (Metro). 

• In the early 1970s, he worked on the restriping of the northbound San Diego Freeway (I-405) from Wilshire Boulevard to Route 101, using hand-drawn plans implemented by Maintenance.

• He worked on the the Angeles Crest Highway (SR-2) Safety Corridor, which was extended to two years.  Mitigation measures resulted in significant decrease in accidents.  Due to these efforts, the Department was presented with a National Highway Safety Award in 2003 by the Federal Highway Administration.  This award recognized the “initiatives that save lives by improving roadside design, operations and overall planning.”

• He applied for and received two safety grants from Office of Traffic Safety.

• He proposed two overhead electronic Changeable Message Signs for state highway use (first in this District at non-freeway locations on SR-2). 

• He proposed and installed speed feedback signs on a state highway (believed first in this District).

According to Kenneth C. Young, Office Chief and Masuda’s supervisor, “Bob’s influence within the Department for the last 42 years has been without boundaries.”  Young went on to say that Masuda's colleagues, veterans and new employees alike have garnered him with much admiration and respect for his leadership, dedication, strong work ethic and diligence in his craft.

“He was one of the few employees with the Department with 'institutional knowledge' as it applied to the combination of technical expertise in his field and a near historical perspective of the evolution of our agency,” Young added.
Masuda said his long stint in Traffic was possible because it is very satisfying for him to identify problems and complete mitigation measures in a relatively short period of time.   “Traffic for me, also provides the right blend of office work and interesting field work,” he added.  And at Caltrans, you can always find a position where you enjoy the assignments, the people you work with and the location (anywhere in this state). 

Young also said that Masuda’s calming influence had a special way of brining many employees together, which made their jobs much more enjoyable.  “Each person who has crossed Bob’s path has become a better person and employee as a result," Young explained.  "I am confident that he will continue to embrace retirement with the same zeal that he exhibited throughout his career, and he will have great success stories to tell in the near future.”

In his retirement, Masuda looks forward to spending more time with his wife of 30 years and enjoying his favorite pastimes, which include fly fishing, fly tying, snow skiing, reading, computer chess, gardening and traveling.  He also takes pride in sending his daughter to college later this year.  

At a special retirement celebration, Office Chief Kenneth C. Young (left) and staff, celebrate with Bob. Frank Quon, Deputy District Director for 
Traffic Operations (right) presents Bob Masuda with a special certificate. Co-workers wish Bob Masuda a long and happy retirement.  Left to right:  Kenneth C. Young, Manish Patel, Bob Masuda and Fekade Mesfin.