NMSU branding

New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

News Center


Search News Center Articles





NMSU engineering grads are helping build the nation?s first bullet train

The interstate highway system revolutionized travel in the United States in the 1950s, allowing people and cargo to reach their destinations far more efficiently than ever before. Now, more than 60 years later, three New Mexico State University alums are working on a project to help change the face of travel in the country once again.


Three men stand beside a backhoe.
For left, New Mexico State University graduates Jorge Granados, David Vallejos and Terry Ogle are helping build a high-speed rail system in California. (Courtesy photo)

Jorge Granados, Terry Ogle and David Vallejos, three of the eight members of NMSU?s civil engineering graduating class of 1987, are working on the California High-Speed Rail project. This initiative will build the country?s first high-speed rail system, which is the largest infrastructure project currently underway in the United States.

The 520-mile, $68 billion California High-Speed Rail project will connect the major cities in the state. The San Francisco-Los Angeles route is expected to be in operation by 2029, and will travel through Merced, Fresno, Bakersfield and Palmdale. The trip will last less than three hours.

Eventually, the plan is to extend the project to Sacramento and San Diego, spanning 800 miles with 24 stations. In 2022, the initial section of service is expected to begin operations from Merced to the San Fernando Valley.

?This project is important on a national, statewide and local scale,? said Ogle, director of design and construction. ?California needs another transportation alternative. California?s population is expected to grow by 25 percent over the next 30 years. That means by 2050, 50 million people will live in California. Anyone living or visiting L.A. or the Bay Area knows how congested the traffic is now; imagine what it?ll be like with 50 million people trying to get around.?

Granados, the design and construction manager for a 65-mile design-build contract for the project, agreed.

?We are becoming a society that wants to have the quality of life that the rural areas have to offer, and will commute through congested roads for hours to work in major cities,? Granados said. ?High-speed rail will provide the opportunity for individuals to live in rural areas and commute into major cities on the train in half the time it would take to drive, without the stresses involved in traveling congested freeways, and reduce the pollution of our air by replacing the automobile with nonpolluting electric trains.?

Heavy construction work started in mid-June on the 29-mile stretch between Madera and Fresno counties.

?The project will relieve traffic congestion, reduce emissions, protect the environment for the future and reduce stress,? Vallejos, a project construction engineer, said. ?This will change California forever.?

So how do three Aggies end up working together on the largest infrastructure project the country has seen in the last 60 years? After graduation, the trio was hired by the California Department of Transportation. While at NMSU, the three attended many of the same classes.

In addition to their friendship that has spanned nearly 30 years, Granados, Ogle and Vallejos recall the relationships they built in the College of Engineering.

Ogle, a Thoreau, New Mexico, native, reminisced about the time spent working on homework in the civil engineering student lounge in Jett Hall just hours before it was due. He added that William C. McCarthy, Samuel P. Maggard, Ken White, Jesse Lunsford and Conrad Keyes were some of his favorite professors.

Vallejos, who is a Las Cruces native, said his favorite memories from NMSU included the friends he made and the relationship he cultivated with his professor and adviser, Lunsford, who was a driving force in his becoming an engineer.

While most of the NMSU community isn?t affected by the daily traffic problems in California, the work of three Aggies will have an impact on how people travel ? not only in the Golden State, but maybe also across the country.