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President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the Federal Highway Administration is scheduled to address this month the U.S. Senate committee on transportation policy.
Shailen Bhatt, an executive at AECOM who was recently picked for the top post at the highway agency, will meet Sept. 14 with the Environment and Public Works Committee. The hearing will be an opportunity for members of the panel to press Bhatt about his qualifications.
Since the enactment of the $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the agency has taken a central role in managing the distribution of newly approved federal funds. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the EPW committee’s chairman, emphasized FHWA’s role in overseeing the country’s surface transportation landscape. Carper was among the IIJA’s authors. The law prioritizes highway-centric operations.
Soon after Bhatt’s nomination was announced, the senator said: “Bhatt’s resume is nearly perfect for leading a transportation agency with such a critical infrastructure mission.”
Carper went on: “I have a long history of working with Shailen, and he is an outstanding choice.”
Before his stint at AECOM, Bhatt was executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation and Cabinet secretary of the Delaware Department of Transportation. According to background the White House released, the nominee held a leadership post at the Intelligent Transportation Society of America. He is a graduate of Western Kentucky University. “In these roles, Bhatt spearheaded innovative solutions, collaborations and partnerships to support the delivery of safe, sustainable and cost-effective transportation systems for the 21st century,” per the White House.
If confirmed for the role of FHWA administrator, Bhatt would serve in a team at the U.S. Department of Transportation led by Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
Prominent stakeholders came out in support of Bhatt’s nomination. Jim Tymon, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, said: “His leadership roles at both the Delaware and Colorado departments of transportation, as well as his time at the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Intelligent Transportation Society of America and AECOM, demonstrate his ability to bring people together to ensure we have a safe, sustainable, equitable and multimodal transportation system that enables mobility for everyone.”
“The breadth of experience he brings to the role as the former leader of two state departments of transportation, CEO of ITS America, and senior vice president at AECOM will strengthen our nation’s highway system,” added Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, president of the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association. Gutierrez-Scaccetti is commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Transportation.
Meanwhile, Robin Hutcheson, Biden’s choice to lead the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, continues to wait for the Senate to schedule a vote on her nomination. Hutcheson, acting chief at FMCSA, garnered bipartisan approval from the Senate Commerce Committee. She told the panel earlier this year she would continue to commit resources for programs that promote safety initiatives, reduce supply chain bottlenecks and pave the way for new technologies.
Hutcheson also put a spotlight on truck drivers’ contributions to highway safety and the economy. As she put it: “Now, more than ever, Americans are acutely tuned in to how our goods get to our homes — from the flour for the bread we eat, the clothes we wear, the bed we sleep in — we all have a better understanding that it probably came on a truck.”
In a statement soon after her nomination, American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear observed, “Since her appointment as acting administrator in January, Ms. Hutcheson has worked closely with the trucking industry to confront supply chain, workforce and safety challenges, while pressing forward with the implementation of vital programs included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.”
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