Engineers Week Spotlight: Sagar Onta

Welcome to Engineers Week 2020! We’re excited the spend the week highlighting some of our top-notch engineers, their most memorable projects, and what they’re excited about for the future of active transportation. These passionate, talented engineers – at all stages in their careers – are what makes Toole Design so successful. Inspired to join them? Check out our job board – we have several positions open now, all across the country.

Q&A with Sagar Onta, P.E., PTOE | Director of Engineering, Denver

Tell us about your job here at Toole Design. What kind of projects do you work on, and what is your role?

My role is to help develop the engineering practice in our Denver office as Director of Engineering. I work closely with our Office Director, Jessica Fields, to strategize about upcoming pursuits and put together a winning team. I work on a variety of projects from streetscape design, bicycle facility design, and traffic analyses.

Why did you become an engineer?

I believe that engineers have a lasting impact on our society and how we interact with the built environment. I became an engineer to make a positive impact in my community, and focusing on multimodal transportation is the best way to do that.

What made you want to work at Toole Design?

As I gained more experience as a transportation engineer in my career, I strongly felt the need to bring together my personal values and my career goals. Hence, I started to align my work with multimodal transportation projects. Toole Design’s focus on multimodal transportation planning and engineering was a perfect match.

Tell us about a project you’ve worked on here that you’ve found particularly exciting, interesting, or innovative.

One of the most exciting projects is the Young Circle Redesign in Hollywood, FL. With Ian Lockwood, we have completely re-imagined the circle and converted it from a three lane one-way circle to a two-lane, two-way circle with roundabouts at major intersections. It’s a visionary project and will transform the area from a high-speed, motor vehicle-oriented area to a calm and place-making area that will encourage more activation. I am really excited about the project and looking forward to help it make a reality.

What is the most exciting trend you see with active transit right now?

More and more engineers and planners are realizing that business as usual in the transportation engineering sector is not going to cut it. Whether it’s the impact on perpetuating auto dependency, air pollution, or historic inequality, the transportation profession must change as we have a major role in how we design and build our community. I am excited to know that many young engineers and planners realize that and are pushing our industry in the right direction.

How have the New Es factored into your work at Toole Design?

In several of our pursuits, we have highlighted our focus on equity, which I believe has helped us win work. For example, in our Denver Community Network Design on-call interview, we explicitly showed the impact of redlining in our project area and addressed the issue head-on. We also addressed the need to explicitly reach-out to vulnerable communities in our project area. These initiatives may lead to difficult conversations, but it’s something we have to take on as responsible professionals.

What makes Toole Design different than other engineering firms?

I think our mission and vision aligns more closely with our work. Our sole focus on multimodal transportation is the main difference. While other firms may have a few individuals who focus on multimodal transportation, this is all we do. We don’t work on highway widening projects, or even if we are brought on, our role is to make it better for vulnerable users of the facility. This laser focus on multimodal transportation is our key difference.

Tell us about your experience mentoring newer employees.

Mentoring is very important for personal growth. For staff that I supervise, we have a monthly check-in meeting or lunch, where we not only discuss projects, but also career goals and other activities. I have gone on weekend bike rides with co-workers to spend some time outside of work. These activities have helped build relationships.

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