Fremont’s new city engineer talks about Warm Springs, BART, Downtown Fremont, and his philosophy for a connected City
With long-time City Engineer Norm Hughes now serving as public works director, Fremont looks to Hans Larsen from the City of San Jose to lead engineering efforts here in Fremont. Here he discusses his new role, future projects, and what Fremont residents and businesses can expect in the coming years.
Fremont: What is the role of the city engineer? (Unlike most engineers in Silicon Valley, we know you aren’t developing apps or writing code!)
Hans Larsen: I work with a great team responsible for managing the planning, design, and construction of Fremont’s public infrastructure, primarily related to the street system and public buildings. We also manage the City’s property transactions and the day-to-day traffic operations of the local street system.
Fremont: What are Fremont’s highest transportation priorities in the next few years, and how do they link to Fremont’s economic development efforts?
HL: The biggest transportation priority is to capitalize on Fremont’s increasing access to the BART system, the core of the Bay Area’s transit network and used by about 450,000 people daily, which interestingly, is double the Fremont population. The new South Fremont/Warm Springs BART Station will open soon and will be the catalyst for a whole new urban community surrounding the station. At the same time, the existing Fremont BART station is being transformed into a gateway for the emerging Downtown Fremont area. The connectivity between BART and Downtown Fremont will be enhanced with a convenient and attractive network of walking paths and bikeways.
Fremont: What project(s) are you most looking forward to working on?
HL: The public infrastructure and private development projects in the Downtown and Warm Springs areas will certainly be highlights, but I also like taking care of the basics. With the leadership support of Fremont’s mayor and city council, we have resources to improve citywide pavement conditions and upgrade our aging traffic signal systems. For our public buildings, like the animal shelter, community centers, and historic buildings, we are moving forward with investments to replace roofs, upgrade aging mechanical systems, and improve functionality. As much as we all enjoy the ribbon-cuttings for new facilities, it is equally rewarding to see that our existing infrastructure is well maintained and preserved.
Fremont: How do you see Fremont’s move to strategic urbanism changing the way we get around?
HL: In addition to more walking and biking, there is a new generation of other transportation systems that will likely change how we get around. This includes car sharing, bike sharing, transportation network companies (like Uber and Lyft), and sometime in the near future we will have self-driving transit shuttles and cars. It is going to be very interesting to see how the future of transportation evolves. The new urban areas of Fremont could be ideal proving grounds for transportation technology, given our stature as one of the largest cities in SiliconValley.
Fremont: Since you’ve been hired, what has surprised you the most about the City of Fremont?
HL: There have been several pleasant surprises, including the very strong camaraderie among Fremont employees, commitment to quality public service, the number of great ethnic restaurants, and the incredibly efficient city council meetings.
Fremont: What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
HL: Spending quality time with family is what I enjoy most these days. I love bicycling, and my vision for how this can be a key element of a sustainable and healthy community has been shaped by opportunities to travel by two wheels in some of the world’s best bicycling cities like Amsterdam, Berlin, and Copenhagen.