How a traffic engineer from the Monterey Peninsula began a new phase of his early career by launching a successful firm to address an under-served market.by Austin S. Lin, CSPE
Keith Higgins, PE
BS, Transportation Engineering
California Polytechnic State University
LAYING THE TRACKS
When some people hear “engineer,” locomotive cars and railroad tracks are the first things that come to mind. For Keith Higgins, his childhood interests in railroads began with that same image, but his career would lead him to another context of the word: professional engineering.
Growing up in a family of railroad enthusiasts exposed Higgins to the fascinating convergence of engineering, people and machines. These interests at the intersection of transportation and technology are part of what inspired Higgins to graduate from Cal Poly with a degree in transportation engineering. During his senior year there in San Luis Obispo, he earned his EIT, paved the way to his eventual PE license, and never looked back.
After further developing his career at a firm in Monterey County and working in the traffic, land development and structural engineering space, the demand for specific forms of those types of services began shaping up as their own standalone markets.
And that’s when Higgins’s entrepreneurial leanings kicked in.
FOUNDING A NEW BUSINESS
He founded his own engineering company, Higgins Associates, to address the growing demands of the market: small projects including the design and integration of traffic signals as well as specialty work like channelization, where side roads are developed to disperse the flow of traffic from main thoroughfares.
Higgins started as a one-engineer show, contracting with partner engineering teams where he could, and later grew his firm to a group of twenty people. The business demands continued to expand and Higgins soon recognized that it would take a larger team to best support the growing public needs.
Higgins’s strong track record didn’t go unnoticed and a solution to his resourcing challenges emerged when engineering mega-firm, Hatch Mott McDonald, acquired his company in 2008.
Now with nearly three decades of experience developing projects and taking on clients like California's municipal transportation agencies including BART, Higgins, who also serves as the current President of the CSPE Monterey Bay Chapter, continues his enthusiasm in transportation ever more completely.