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Employee Spotlight

Yunus Ghausi: Caltrans Can-Do Man Can


by  Judy Gish
Issue Date: 04/2011

Traffic investigator is dedicated to ensuring public safety.

One of the first things Senior Transportation Engineer Yunus Ghausi was told by his manager after joining Caltrans in 1982 was to always answer “Yes, I can do it” to everything the Department asked of him.

Nearly 28 years later, his answer is still the same.

Ghausi, now handling southeast and southwest Los Angeles County for the Traffic Investigations Unit, does everything in his power to resolve issues with the public, elected officials and other agencies.

“The most important part of my job is to make sure safety concerns are investigated and solutions programmed,” he said. “My main responsibility is to prevent accidents, so we have to make sure we understand what causes them.”

Cities in southwest L.A. County in particular often request a Caltrans representative to attend meetings and work with them directly. “As often as needed I make myself available to attend,” Ghausi said.

For example, he recently attended a meeting at Los Angeles City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl’s office at which newly-elected Assemblymember Betsey Butler (D-53) also was present, along with representatives from Los Angeles World Airports and various City of Los Angeles agencies. They were all assembled to discuss the highly problematic Sepulveda Boulevard ramp and tunnel leading from the Century Freeway (I-105) to the airport.

Ghausi was able to report that a project to repave and restripe the ramp was poised to begin. Caltrans had made the ramp one lane in response to safety concerns in wet weather. The project will restore the two-lane configuration after repaving with a high-friction surface treatment that will enhance tire grip.

Within the next couple of years, Caltrans plans a project to widen the outside shoulder and embankment, install new overhead signs, improve drainage and implement ramp metering during rainy days.

The Sepulveda Tunnel is a somewhat trickier issue in that, while Caltrans maintains the road, the city is responsible for lighting and other maintenance tasks and the airport also has a piece. This meeting had a very positive outcome with each agency pledging to cooperate for the benefit of tunnel users and both elected officials expressed gratitude that Ghausi took such an active role.

“I think 99 percent of the public is right when they point out issues,” he said. “We need to take their complaints seriously and do everything we can to accommodate them.”

Ghausi has a long history of service, both before and after joining Caltrans. Born in Kabul, Afghanistan, he was educated at the Afghan Institute of Technology and then received a BS in Civil Engineering from Kabul University, whose engineering program was affiliated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology until the country was invaded by the Soviet Union.

He then performed mandatory military service with the Afghan Army and between 1973 and 1979 worked for the Afghan Department of Public Works as a highway engineer, designing and building bridges, roadways, culverts, dams and spillways in the war-torn provinces of Qandahar, Julalabad, and Mazar-i-sharif, among several others. "We would build them by day and by night the Soviets would destroy them," he said. “It was one of my toughest times.”

After that, he worked for an engineering consultant in Germany and then came to the U.S. in June, 1980.

Ghausi’s Caltrans career (all in District 7) started in Design and Construction, where his accomplishments include work as principal engineer on the horizontal and vertical alignment of the I-105/SR-110 freeway-to-freeway connectors, where a tie-back retaining wall (between 120th Street and Figueroa Street) he designed saved the Department millions of dollars in potential right-of-way costs. He moved to Operations in 1990 and has been there ever since.

"Throughout the good and bad State budgetary times, Yunus has distinguished himself as a peak performer who consistently delivered his projects with admirable efficiency and expertise," said Traffic Investigations Office Chief Sameer Haddadeen. "He is a confirmed believer that no task is impossible to handle if you have the knowledge, expertise and, above all, the will and commitment to do it. His ability to work closely with the locals on establishing team solutions to address numerous safety and operations issues has made him a good will ambassador for the district."

When not at work, Ghausi likes to read, jog, play soccer, and watch soccer, basketball and baseball. He has one daughter and a granddaughter.

“I am very fortunate and very pleased to be working with this wonderful organization,” he said, adding that “Yes I can” is still his first response.