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March 2, 2004 > Who Is Frank Rosenblum? What Is He Doing At Fremont Schools?

Who Is Frank Rosenblum? What Is He Doing At Fremont Schools?

A buzzer goes off signaling the beginning of another school day. In classrooms, teachers and students begin to explore a variety of disciplines, pushing aside thoughts of their trek to reach the school grounds. Actually, if they are being safely dropped off at school with smooth traffic flow it is the result of much planning. [NOTE: Many schools are still going through the changes, so they will not yet see the impact.]

Many schools of the Fremont Unified School District (FUSD) are going through physical changes courtesy of Proposition B bond funds. Some of the approved work is designed to allow children and parents to be safely dropped off to and picked up from school. At the center of these changes is local resident, Frank Rosenblum, PE, PLS, who is President and Principal Engineer of the firm Underwood & Rosenblum, Inc. (U&R) civil engineers and surveyors. His 9-Step School Traffic Safety Solution planning process, first implemented in Fremont, has been featured in national and statewide journals.

Many people outside the building trades concentrate on the finished product of a building project without realizing the intricate "dance" of partnerships vital to its successful completion. Contractors, who prepare a site and erect a structure or perform other visible onsite activities, are often given full credit (or blame) for the project. In reality, much of the preparation is done prior to any project and involves specialties, some which can be readily identified and others, while performing vital functions, are hidden from view.

Planning is crucial for any project, but especially when it involves public entities that house children, such as schools. Frank explains that some of the current Measure B work at Fremont schools involves rehabilitating and modernizing older buildings and, in addition, planning for new structures. Architects, in cooperation with structural, civil, electrical, mechanical, geotechnical engineers and other specialists such as landscape designers, create the plans which are then carried out by contractors.

As a Civil Engineer, Frank uses his analytical ability and knowledge of the physical world to design and/or figure out how to build things. He also coordinates the requirements of architects, city planners, utility companies, and property owners so that construction will work.

Among other areas, he concentrates on the land surface where the project will be constructed. "Buildings are level; land isn't," says Frank. "You have to grade a site to create a level pad for building. That will have an impact on how drainage works and stability of the soil. We (Civil Engineers) also work on providing utility services. You have to provide for water, sewer, storm drains and gas lines using engineering and physical properties."

Some civil engineering firms such as U&R are licensed to survey lands providing data to create a three dimensional model of the site. Frank is licensed as both a civil engineer and surveyor. He and his firm provide services for both the private and public sector. He says, "It feels like artwork - sculpting - since no two grading plans are alike. You have to use your professional judgment of what is an acceptable slope for a project." Legislative requirements can be strict and must be followed for a successful conclusion of the project. "We help determine how things are laid out to match the existing features of the site in an economical way."

So what does this have to do with a safe arrival at and departure from school? Frank Rosenblum is an unusual guy. Unlike many engineering firms, content to remain in the background of building and grading projects, he has become proactive in school traffic safety issues. As the father of a school age child and by observing the changing traffic patterns around schools, Frank has developed a "9-Step School Traffic Safety Solution" that reduces the risk for students at "drop-off" zones and eases traffic flow problems. This process can custom-design cost-effective solutions while encouraging participation and generating consensus among school personnel, city representatives and parents. The planning process can be completed in as little as nine weeks.

Frank says that most schools were designed and built over thirty years ago for a smaller student population and in decades when most young children walked to school. Times have changed. Today, many children are dropped off and picked up at school by busy parents in automobiles much different from those of the 1950's. How can schools adapt? Mr. Rosenblum has been working with many parent groups and school districts to solve these issues.

The 9-Step School Traffic Safety Solution works to meet the needs of parents, school administrators and city planners. The steps are as follows:

  1. Visit the school and solicit involvement
  2. Collect school input
  3. Observe cars, children during peak traffic
  4. Review observations and input
  5. Develop proposed solutions
  6. Review and revise plan with school team
  7. Prepare multicolor maps of traffic plan
  8. Present to school groups for input
  9. Prepare final exhibit, cost estimate

Developing an understandable, common sense approach is his goal although he recognizes that "many complex factors need to be considered to create a real school traffic safety solution." He adds that "through my experience, there is no obvious way to solve these problems. What I have found is that I cannot just take a solid engineering approach since social acceptance is a key. You can build it, but if people are not going to use it the way it was designed, what good is it?" In April, Frank will be presenting his school safety program to a state-wide conference in Sacramento.

Why trust a civil engineer with school safety transportation issues? Although the State of California does not require a civil engineer's stamp on school projects - it is controlled by the Division of State Architects (DSA) - Frank says, "When it comes to a parking lot or drop-off zone, no one knows better how to do those things than a civil engineer." Besides working with FUSD to create safer drop-off and pick-up for students, Frank will be helping to design the new surface for Tak Stadium at Fremont's Washington High School. His past local school projects include site planning for local schools (where buildings are placed can impact grading, paving and utility costs), an all-weather track & field surface at Newark Memorial High School and the large parking lot at James Logan High School in Union City. [NOTE: Frank has also worked on 50 school districts throughout Northern California with thousands of school projects]

Volunteering time and expertise to the community is an integral part of Frank Rosenblum. He volunteered extensive professional services for daughter's former elementary school in Fremont. He addressed interested groups such as conferences, PTA, and other parent and civic organizations with his slide presentation entitled "Reduce Child Pedestrian Crashes at Schools by Using Creative Civil Engineering and Surveying" on an unpaid basis and continues to do so. His volunteerism is contagious. Employees of U&R have given their time and expertise to help at several national parks such as survey work at Yosemite for an Indian Cultural Center and on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. U&R pays for the other half of the time. An innovative "mobile survey office van" developed by the firm has been used to create plans on site!

The term, "land planning" has become a popular phrase for identifying expertise in adapting populations to their geographic surroundings and vice versa. Frank says that he offers his civil engineering background as an advantage in land planning. "I see a project for what it costs - what are the cost differences in the placement of a building, for instance - while others may not. The big variable cost is the site work." Cost can be measured in many terms, not the least of which is safety. Frank Rosenblum is aware of this and has put his professional expertise to work for our community, especially our children.

To contact Frank Rosenblum and hear more about the 9-Step School Traffic Safety Solution:

Underwood & Rosenblum, Inc.
1630 Oakland Rd., San Jose
(408) 453-1222
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