The US Department of Transportation announced last week that the Senate had confirmed the new FHWA administrator. President Biden nominated Shailen Bhatt, a longtime person of interest in the transportation world, in July of this year. On December 8th, the Senate floor confirmed Bhatt as the administration’s 21st administrator.
Officially, Bhatt will succeed Nicole Nason, the FHWA’s most recent official administrator. Nason last served in the administrator role in 2021. Since then, Deputy Administrator Stephanie Pollack has been running the show. Now, Bhatt will take over Pollack’s role in a more official capacity.
Bhatt’s confirmation comes on the heels of the appointment of Gloria Shepherd to the FHWA’s Executive Director position. The two are expected to form a potent duo atop the FHWA.
The New FHWA Administrator Has a Serious Resume
Shailen Bhatt will become the first person of Indian descent to lead the Federal Highway Administration. He’s a long-time veteran of the transportation industry in many capacities. In fact, his record is so extensive that one senator called his resume “near-perfect.”
What makes Bhatt such a compelling candidate for the FHWA administrator position? He worked in multiple states’ transportation departments, starting as the executive director of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet in the late 2000s. Bhatt has also worked for the states of Delaware and Colorado. For the last few years, Bhatt served as the president and CEO of a transportation lobby group, ITS America, and then as a senior vice president for global transportation innovation and alternative delivery at AECOM.
Bhatt even worked for the FHWA before as its associate administrator for policy and government affairs from 2009-2011. All of this experience will hopefully allow Bhatt to effectively administer an agency that needs to address many concerns. The FHWA’s biggest challenge ahead is definitely dealing with the troubling rise in traffic deaths in the US over the last few years. National data estimates that 43,000 people died on American roads last year, so the FHWA has a ways to go to reach its goal of zero traffic deaths. Hopefully, Mr. Bhatt can help it achieve that goal.