SBCTA Director of Project Delivery and Toll Operations, Paula Beauchamp, will be retiring on March 1st after more than 13 years with the agency. Paula served nearly 10 years with Caltrans District 8 before moving to the private sector and then joining SBCTA as a consultant in 2008. She not only has made a significant impact on major projects in the Inland Empire with projects such as State Route 71, Interstate-215, Tippecanoe Interchange, Barton Road Interchange, Citrus and Cherry Interchanges, and the Devore Interchange Project to name a few, but also has significantly advanced the reputation and credibility of women in transportation as an outstanding role model. In 2017, Paula was recognized by the Inland Empire Chapter of the Women in Transportation Symposium as their Woman of the Year.
We sat down with Paula to have a conversation about her career and what’s next for her.
Any particular memories in your career that stand out?
“Having completed Tippecanoe and attending that groundbreaking was such an accomplishment. It was such a difficult job with re-locations of people and businesses. There was contamination in the soil and water that we had to work through and other poor quality soil that could not be re-used under the ramps.
With the Devore Interchange Project, we actually had to go to bat for the community. We were supposed to get rid of one of the connector ramps but were told we were not going to be able to do that safely. We ended up writing a White Paper about how this community is adjacent to mountains, subject to fires and mudslides, and only has two exits to use in emergencies to safely egress themselves and animals in vehicles and trailers, respectively. We took the issue to Federal Highway Administration representatives in Sacramento, who involved Washington D.C. and made it happen for our community.”
Was it harder when you were younger being a woman in Transportation?
“Absolutely, particularly in construction. It was harder because women were viewed as having less knowledge and experience as men. I spent most of my time after hours studying and learning specifications, requirements, and understanding the plans and material testing requirements. I studied so that I was able to answer any question and prove myself in the industry.
Is there a message to people that are just starting out their career?
“Perseverance. Never give up especially if this is your dream. Defend your reputation because you only have one. And don’t be afraid of failure because it’s really just an opportunity to learn more or try something different.”
What’s next for you?
“The first year, I am going to be traveling a lot to see out-of-state family and I am scheduling a trip to Europe. I come from a big family locally, so it will be nice to visit them more often, too. I also have some volunteer ideas along with spending time with my horse, Missy.”
Do you feel like you are leaving the agency in good hands?
“I do. The SBCTA Board allowed me to reorganize my department by separating the team into two departments – Toll Operations and Project Delivery. I worked last year with my team and other departments to implement the organizational staffing approved by the Board by hiring in-house staff with expertise in these departments to support the change. Presently, we have built a team that can function long term and flexibly as SBCTA shifts into Express Lane Operations.”
Last year, the SBCTA Board approved converting the Project Delivery and Construction Department into Toll Operations and Project Delivery. Tim Byrne has been named Director of Toll Operations and Henry Stultz as Director of Project Delivery.
We thank you Paula for your service to SBCTA and to the people of San Bernardino County.