Inside Seven
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Delegation members and Caltrans staff pose after touring the TMC's theater.

Caltrans Attracts Vietnam’s Transportation Ministry
by  Patrick Chandler
Issue Date: 09/2009

Transportation experts from Vietnam meet with Caltrans to discuss highway management

Because of the growth of Vietnam’s transportation infrastructure, the country’s Ministry of Transportation (MOT) and the Vietnam Expressway Corporation (VEC) wanted to meet with Caltrans to learn the best practices in transportation management.

MOT and VEC representatives selected Caltrans because of its history of being on the leading edge in transportation innovation and managing some of the most severe congestion in the United States, if not the world. Many of Caltrans’ innovations have sparked, encouraged, and supported California’s and the nation’s economy.

Vietnam has made highway system infrastructure a priority to achieve several national goals. Although Vietnam’s economy has grown, the increasing population has strained their highway system and created severe congestion. Additionally, Vietnam’s current transportation system has limited capacity and inefficient management; routine highway flooding has increased transportation costs and commuter time and hindered the movement of goods.

To remedy Vietnam’s transportation problems, the Prime Minister has initiated the multi-billion dollar Highway Network Plan to build over 3,000 miles of highway roads to connect major development regions and border gateways.

Sponsored by the United States Trade and Development Agency and facilitated by their contractor, the Business Council for International Understanding, officials from MOT and VEC began their 8-day visit to the United States in Los Angeles. The purpose of this visit was to learn how Caltrans finances, builds, designs, maintains and plans freeways and highways, and to build an international relationship geared toward improving the economies of both California and Vietnam.

Leading the Ministry’s delegation was Permanent Vice Minister of Transportation, Ngo Thinh Duc and the General Director of the Vietnam Expressway Corporation, Tran Xuan Sanh.

The District 7 visit hosted by engineering and public affairs staff was held on August 18 at the Los Angeles Regional Transportation Management Center (TMC) located in Los Angeles, near Glendale.

Caltrans presenters included, Senior Transportation Engineer Chan Kuoch on Highway Financing, Senior Transportation Engineer Shafiq Islam on Maintenance Engineering, Senior Transportation Electrical Engineer Allen Chen on the TMC, Chief of the Office for Freeway Operations Marco Ruano on ITS Operations, and TMC Program Manager Osama Assaad on TMC Operations.

“Caltrans has already addressed many of the obstacles that Vietnam has just begun to experience,” said Senior Transportation Electrical Engineer Allen Chen, explaining why countries like Vietnam seek Caltrans’ expertise. “How to finance projects, how to meet and curb demand without increasing capacity, and how to integrate and coordinate with other public or private agencies are many of the aspects of public transportation that Vietnam will need to know in order to progress.”

“Caltrans has been very creative and innovative in finding ways to finance projects,” said John Yang, Chief of the Office for District Traffic Management. “Although we would like to receive more funding from the federal government, we are implementing congestion pricing, and we are using bonds and measures to maintain and increase capacity.”

As part the orientation, representatives were given a tour of the TMC, led by Assaad.

“The representatives were interested in how Caltrans and the CHP work together to manage freeways, enforce laws, and warn the public of dangers,” said Assad.

The tour of the TMC’s theater (where the freeway monitors are located) was not only to demonstrate how it operates as the never center of District 7, it was an opportunity for the visitors to learn about the different vendors servicing the TMC. It is hoped that MOT and VEC will seek services from the vendors as a benefit to California’s economy.

At the end of the day, the Vietnamese representatives were very thankful that Caltrans hosted their first stop in the United States and that the event was the beginning of a very fruitful relationship.

Senior Tranportation Engineer Chan Kuoch speaking about the various ways Caltrans finances transportation projects. Senior Transportation Engineer Shafiq Islam and his “interpreter,” Transportation Engineer Charlie Truong, speaking about Caltrans maintenance engineering. As an integral part of the tour, TMC Program Manager Osama Asaad briefs the visitors about the TMC’s operations. The delegation expressed their gratitude for the tour by presenting Caltrans with a painting.