New city transportation engineer gets behind the wheel

Henry Servin

The City of Gilroy has big plans this year to improve the overall mobility of its streets, and a new face in town will play a big roll in that vision.

Henry Servin, Gilroy’s recently-hired city transportation engineer whose sights are set on nabbing several grants to improve the Garlic Capital’s traffic flow, officially joined city staff Dec. 14 and brings a personable energy to his position. He’s rolling up his sleeves and diving into projects surrounding energy reduction strategies, ongoing work related to California High Speed Rail, a way-finding sign system and new bike/walking trails.

At his new post, Servin – most recently a senior engineer for the City of San Jose for 14 years – will be responsible for the safety and well-being of all those who travel on Gilroy roads, as well as promoting the city’s economic development by facilitating orderly, safe and expeditious mobility for citizens.

Servin, a San Jose State alumnus and married family man of 27 years with two children in college, was one of myriad candidates who went through a statewide recruitment process that lasted almost 90 days.

“Henry has demonstrated exceptional qualifications and dedication in his career in transportation, bringing to us transportation expertise in all areas,” said City Manager Tom Haglund, who gave Servin the final stamp of approval. “He is a very personable individual and has been doing a good job.”

The spot opened up in fall of 2012 when Don Dey, the city’s previous transportation engineer of more than 8 years, retired Nov. 8.

Dey’s salary was $127,200 annually; Servin will start at $120,000 per year.

In his post, Servin will carry out crucial responsibilities that include the overseeing of city transportation networks and planning efforts for new streets.

Servin says he enjoys “working with the public and partnering with them to arrive at lasting solutions,” a crucial quality, since he’ll be helping to break down complicated jargon and explaining it to people in laymen terms while working in the circulation element transportation network plan (contained within the city’s general plan of how people get around the city).

He calls his new position “a rare opportunity to help provide a variety of transportation services in a community environment.

Outside the office, Servin enjoys spending time outdoors walking, biking, hiking local trails and sometimes sitting in on jazz jam sessions (he plays the saxophone) when the opportunity arises. He can speak, read and write in Spanish and has traveled to all 50 states as well as other countries.

When it comes to Gilroy’s best and worst traffic qualities, Servin is quick to start with the good.

He says Gilroy City Council has been “great” at promoting leverage of funds with grants to provide more city infrastructure improvements in a timely manner. These range from child and adult pedestrian safety improvements; safety improvement studies along Welburn and along Church Street; 10th Street and Monterey Road signal coordination studies; the resurfacing of Eigleberry Street; and new sidewalks and American Disability Act-compliant ramps citywide.

As for areas that need improvement, “gosh, I haven’t been here long enough to answer that one intelligently,” he laughed. “I guess I’ll have to find out, won’t I? Anytime we have a safety issue, that should be a priority, but I’m looking forward to exploring those.”

Servin came highly regarded by other transportation professionals, according to Haglund, who also pointed out that Servin is well versed in the Valley Transportation Authority. That’s another plus, since the City often relies on the VTA for funding to help carry out projects.

Servin began his new position in December but has more than 22 years in the traffic, transportation engineering and planning field. He earned a degree in civil engineering with an emphasis in transportation and construction engineering and is certified as a state licensed traffic engineer and civil engineer.  

A self-described jazz music hound, Servin grew up in the Midwest, spent some time in Chicago and then moved to California to go to school in San Jose, where he currently lives. When asked if he would ever consider moving to Gilroy, Servin noted, “it’s not out of the realm of possibility.”

Before he got started with the City of Gilroy, Servin worked for the City of San Jose for more than 14 years as a senior engineer and regional transportation projects manager. He had a hand in numerous highway and transit construction projects that benefited South County and Bay Area locals alike, including the BART extension to San Jose, the construction of a new freeway interchange that San Jose is planning to build at U.S. 101 and Mayberry Lane, and the widening of U.S. 101.

Servin says he will strive to understand customer needs and offer solutions that are safe, sustainable in the long-term and fiscally responsible. He will conduct several important functions for Gilroy under the direction of the public works director and city administrator, including traffic engineering, transportation planning, traffic studies and operations, travel forecasting, pedestrian bicycle studies and design, as well as street lighting and energy reduction strategies.

One of the street lighting and energy reduction strategies Servin is currently studying is the use of LED streetlights to provide better night illumination and energy cost savings. The City of Gilroy currently has more than 20,000 street lights, according to Servin, who said Council is “keen on looking at saving money through energy reductions, so I’m looking at ways of bringing that about effectively.”

Servin said he would like to consider a pilot demonstration where Gilroyans can come and observe the LED streetlights at night.

“It might be a good idea to seek public input on it,” he noted.

Servin will also serve as a key contributor for work related to the never-ending behemoth project that is California High Speed Rail.

This year, he is seeking several VTA-sponsored grants to improve mobility in Gilroy. These types of grants involve copious preparation and are awarded to the most competitively viable projects.

“Grants do help us to create better safe routes to school, signal timing, signal coordination, bicycle and pedestrian improvements,” he explained.

Another goal of Servin’s is to coordinate with the city’s community development staff and the Downtown Association to promote downtown as a safe and fun place to visit through a way-finding sign system. He’ll also be involved with the forthcoming Ronan Creek Channel bicycle trail project, which is in the design phase.

“It looks like a really nice east-west connector for the city,” he said. “It’s going to be important to try and get that trail built.”

Servin says he is looking forward to partnering with Gilroy residents and businesses in finding solutions for their mobility challenges.

“I am tremendously grateful and very excited about the opportunity to serve Gilroy and its residents,” he said.

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