Way Recognized as Railroad Industry Rising Star

Cecily Way, a senior planning manager for WSP USA in Los Angeles, has been recognized as a Rising Star by Progressive Railroad magazine for her contributions to the railroad industry.

Her work on the California High-Speed Rail project was a key reason she was selected for this honor. Way has been working on the project since joining WSP in 2008.

“The most exciting thing about the California High-Speed Rail project is the huge positive impact it can make on local communities, the state and the country more broadly,” Way said. “To be able to contribute to such a transformational project is a unique and exciting experience.”

When Way joined the project, she developed design criteria for the program—including stations and station areas—and policies regarding sea level rise and sustainability. Eventually, she served as the task manager for network integration, working with other passenger rail owners and operators across California to plan coordinated infrastructure and services.


Cecily Way, pictured with Japan’s Shinkansen High-Speed Rail trains in Tokyo, has been working to bring a similar transportation system to California.

High-Speed Rail Way

Her role continued to grow and for the past few years, Way has served as the Southern California regional director of projects for the California High-Speed Rail project, where she works with a team of project managers and technical experts.

Currently, her team is overseeing preliminary engineering and environmental approvals for more than 150 miles of high-speed rail in Southern California. She is also managing the delivery of early investments in the region.

“Through these projects, the California High-Speed Rail Authority is working with local partners to see immediate benefits for existing systems while accommodating high-speed rail in the future,” she said.

Over the past decade, Way has enjoyed the opportunity to participate in the project’s development from concept to construction.

“From a day-to-day perspective, I love solving complex, interdisciplinary problems and there is no shortage of them on high-speed rail,” Way said.


WSP USA is the rail delivery partner to the California High-Speed Rail Authority for the first high-speed rail system planned for the U.S. When completed, it will provide service between Los Angeles and San Francisco in under three hours.

Keeping Perspective

Way grew up in the Seattle suburb of Sammamish, Washington, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and two master’s degrees from the University of California-Berkeley.

Moving from suburban Seattle to urban Boston for college had a major influence on her decision to pursue a career in transportation engineering.

“While I never used public transit growing up, Boston’s system—its history and how it brought together so many different types of people—fascinated me,” Way said. “A freshman seminar on planning Boston’s next major transit investment led me to major in civil engineering and on my career path.”

That interest led to an internship in London with the largest bus company in the UK, where her manager’s leadership skills made a lasting impression.

“My boss was responsible for bus systems and tens of thousands of employees across the country, yet she still wanted to know if a customer saw a piece of litter on a specific bus,” she said. “That perspective of needing to understand the big picture, but not forget about the details, stuck with me.”

Way, a member of the American Planning Association and Project Management Institute, saw the wide range of projects as one of the things that attracted her to a career with WSP.

“I love the diversity of projects that WSP is leading and the positive benefits each is making on its community,” she said. “It is exciting to work with people who are committed to developing solutions and making the places we live and work better.”


Cecily Way shared her experiences in transportation and engineering with students at GALA, an all-girls STEM-focused school in Los Angeles.

Shaping the Future

Way hopes to achieve more than just shaping transportation for the future; she also wants to inspire young minds to continue to making engineering advances.

“One thing that I am really passionate about is STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics] education,” she said. “I frequently speak about the California High-Speed Rail project or engineering as a career to students of all ages. The projects we work on are exciting for everyone, and it is incredibly invigorating to see that fascination on the faces of students.”

She believes there should be more encouragement to help students understand how they can chart a path to an engineering career.

“To build the next generation of engineers, planners and infrastructure professionals, it is critical that today’s students understand the opportunities that are available to them to build the cities and communities of the future,” Way said.

Her community involvement and professional achievements are what make Way a Rising Star.

“It is a huge honor to be nominated, let alone selected,” she said. “What struck me about this award is the broad base of honorees. While all are involved in railroading in some way, honorees come from across government, private freight railroads, rail suppliers, academia and other elements of the industry.”

Way will receive the award at the 2018 Rising Stars Recognition Dinner on July 22 in Chicago.

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