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Kerry Pihlstrom holds a microphone while standing in the Sound Transit board room.
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Kerry Pihlstrom speaks at a Sound Transit event in 2018.

Sound Transit’s new Chief Engineer is building bridges and breaking barriers

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Kerry Pihlstrom has never backed down from a challenge.

As a top engineer for Sound Transit, she has helped not only to deliver transit projects, but also to break down barriers at work and serve as a mentor to others.

I was well aware of the challenges I would face as a woman in this industry, and I love a good challenge.

Her leadership and her commitment to effective, equitable and data-driven decision making will certainly help as she takes on a new prestigious position at the agency – Sound Transit Chief Engineer.  

"I am truly honored to represent Sound Transit as the first Chief Engineer," Pihlstrom said. "As a young child, I was fortunate to learn about engineering through my father and can tell you every bridge he was part of in this region."

She will lead four distinct divisions and hundreds of engineering professionals and consultants to support Sound Transit's capital expansion program and existing system, which includes light rail, bus rapid transit and commuter rail.

"I embrace this role, where I uphold the highest integrity to help ensure we deliver safe and reliable transit that meets our passengers' needs," she said.

Pihlstrom joined Sound Transit’s department of Design, Engineering and Construction Management (DECM) in 2016 as Deputy Director of Civil and Structural Design.

Since then, she has served in many roles in DECM, including acting Deputy Executive Director.

Pihlstrom earned her degree in Civil Engineering from Washington State University and started her career at Jacobs Engineering Group.

She then worked as an engineering and project manager for the Washington State Department of Transportation on an impressive list of major projects, including the State Route 520 bridge replacement mega project and the Mukilteo Multimodal Ferry Terminal overhaul.

"I wanted to show my son, my nieces and nephew how my work contributes to our community and how as an engineer, I solve difficult problems with a bunch of very smart people," she said. "I am incredibly grateful for all of the industry partners who have supported me throughout my career."

She is also active in the Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) Puget Sound Chapter, and was Member of the Year in 2017.

"With only 20 percent of women graduating with an engineering degree and 11 percent who stay in the industry, I was well aware of the challenges I would face as a woman in this industry, and I love a good challenge," she said.

March is Womxn’s Month, and March 8 is International Women’s Day, where we are all invited to choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequity. Learn more here and about how you can join #ChooseToChallenge.

"As a woman engineer in a male dominated field, I find this month important to highlight a woman’s perspective of the work place and offer opportunities to better understand a woman’s point of view," she said. "It is an opportunity to learn and grow by embracing Sound Transit’s value of inclusion and respect."

Kerry Pihlstrom and her son smile for a selfie while sitting on a ride at an amusement park.
""I wanted to show my son, my nieces and nephew how my work contributes to our community," Pihlstrom says.

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