Get to Know Mike Eidlin, JD - Vice President
Getting to know Mike Eidlin, JD
We had a virtual sit down with Vice President Mike Eidlin, JD, a valuable family member and a team player at KKCS.
Read on to learn more about Mike's experiences and highlights!
What are some highlights on the projects that you are currently working on?
Most of my time since I joined KKCS in 2015 focused on the Caltrain Electrification Project in the San Francisco Bay area. Caltrain is a commuter rail operator between San Francisco and Gilroy running in a corridor that has served rail passengers since 1863. Caltrain received a Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grant to electrify 51 miles of the railroad between San Francisco and San Jose and buy a new fleet of electric multiple unit rail cars.
KKCS is the FTA's Project Management Oversight Contractor (PMOC) assigned to provide oversight on the $1.93 billion electrification project and help protect the federal investment. I've also done a lot of work for FTA Headquarters. One of the most interesting projects was a 2018 study of Buy America compliance by battery-electric bus manufacturers, which included visits to three manufacturing plants and their battery production facilities. The most interesting battery plant was Xalt in Midland, Michigan, where we had to dress in clean suits to inspect the battery production area. The level of automation and A.I. guidance was amazing. Xalt builds from scratch, starting with raw mineral materials shipped in from overseas. Their cells look like an oversized one-gallon freezer storage baggie filled with multiple very thin coated metal plates.
What do you enjoy most about the work that you do?
I enjoy what I do. I enjoy working with people and solving problems. I enjoy the travel and the variety of assignments I've been able to work on. What a treat to be able to work on interesting and challenging work, with good people, and make things better for the community. I have a pretty diverse background, and Project Management Oversight for FTA is like management consulting on complex projects. I get to draw on virtually everything I've learned throughout my career. I've had a lot of training opportunities, and I'm committed to lifelong learning. I try and learn something new every day.
What are some notable projects you have worked on (at KKCS and before)?
My first major assignment after grad school was working on a cost-benefit study of what is now called the LandSat system. The study looked at the results from principal investigators around the world who had contracts with NASA and the U.S. Department of Interior to use data from the first Earth Resources Technology Satellite (ERTS-1). It was fascinating because remote sensing was a fairly new field, and most of the investigators had very little idea what they could learn from the data, which was much less detailed than is now common. I went from remote sensing to building surface coal mines for a pacific northwest electric utility. The company was the third-largest holder of federal coal leases in the U.S., and I managed the planning and development of two large mines, one in southcentral Montana and one in eastern Wyoming. The projects included access road, railroad spur, coal processing and storage plant, offices, shops, and the enormous earthmoving equipment. Both mines were still in operation a few months ago. The first one opened in December 1980, 40 years ago. The coal is 82 feet thick.
I also managed the renovation of a 7000 ft deep underground gold mine in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada. I decided to go back to law school mid-career, and after passing the bar exam, I started my transit career as Assistant General Counsel at TriMet in Portland, Oregon working on construction contracts. When the legal work ran out, they offered me a project manager's job at double the pay, so I took it. I led the design and construction of a 6.2-mile light rail line that opened for service in 1998.
I left TriMet in 1999 and joined a major U.S. consulting firm where I did a mix of legal and project management work. KKCS is the fourth consulting firm I've worked for. I've worked as a PMO since 2004, including assignments in Lower Manhattan after 9-11 and on the Columbia River Crossing, a $2.8 billion combination roadway and light rail bridge crossing the Columbia River between Portland, OR and Vancouver, WA. Unfortunately, that project was canceled in 2013 when Washington and Oregon could not agree on a local funding plan. I was assigned as PMO to another very large (11-mile, $3 billion) TriMet light rail project late last summer (2020). Still, voters defeated a local funding measure in the November 2020 election, and the project is now on hold, and PMO work has been halted.
What do you like about working at KKCS?
It's really like working together in a family. Everyone seems to care about each other, and that's not all that common in business. KKCS was one of my sub-contractors at two previous firms, so I got to know the company and its culture from working with its people. When the opportunity came along to join KKCS, it was an easy decision. In addition to my regular job, I'm able to contribute in many different areas that help the company be successful; that feels very good.
What do you like to do outside of work?
My wife and I live on the Olympic Peninsula a bit north and west of Seattle. It's about 35 miles as the crow flies, but it takes two hours, either by car or car and ferry, to get there from Seattle. Our home has a view of Puget Sound, Mt. Baker, and the Cascade Mountains, and as I write this, there is a bald eagle perched in a tree across the street. We have five children spread out from Texas to Alaska to Oregon to California, and we try and see them all a couple of times a year.
My wife and I enjoy traveling, and I enjoy mainly reading history and other non-fiction books (no e-readers) these days, photography, and a bit of astronomy when we get clear nights. I was lucky to view the solar eclipse down in Oregon in 2017 and capture this image of the "diamond ring" that occurs during totality. It was quite an experience. One of my long-time hobbies is amateur sports car racing, although I haven't been able to do it as much as I'd like the last couple of years because of conflicting travel schedules. I also learned to SCUBA dive when I was a kid growing up in Florida and enjoy doing that whenever I can dive in warmer waters than the Pacific NW.