By Mark Holan, editorial director, ARTBA
The Biden administration nominated Polly Trottenberg as deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) and signaled new leadership at several of its modal agencies, including the Federal Highway Administration.
If confirmed by the Senate, Trottenberg will function as the de facto chief operating officer or “number two” for the department. Most recently, she served seven years as commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation. During the Obama administration, Trottenberg was a senior policymaker at U.S. DOT, including service as undersecretary for policy, considered its “number three” position.
Trottenberg also has experience on Capitol Hill, where she spent 12 years as a senior aide in the Senate, working with now Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and former Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who chaired the Environment & Public Works Committee. In all of her DC roles, Trottenberg met with ARTBA members and staff on numerous occasions, addressing issues such as surface transportation reauthorization and the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program.
The new administration also released a list of 40 other names on its U.S. DOT leadership team. These individuals are taking political positions at the department that are not subject to Senate confirmation. Most notable is the appointment of Massachusetts DOT Secretary Stephanie Pollack as deputy administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). However, it is expected that the White House will also nominate Pollack to serve as the agency’s administrator, which is a Senate-confirmed position. The advantage of this approach is that Pollack can begin working at FHWA in a management position immediately, then eventually move up to administrator.
Pollack has run MassDOT since 2015 under Gov. Charlie Baker (R). Previously, she held policy, legal and academic positions with Northeastern University and the Conservation Law Foundation. Pollack earned both a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering and a Bachelor of Science in Public Policy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School
Other notable names include Laura Schiller as the department’s chief of staff. She previously worked in a similar position for former Sen. Boxer. Nuria Fernandez, general manager and CEO of the Santa Clara Valley (Calif.) Transportation Authority, will be deputy administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, with an expected nomination as administrator to follow. Amit Bose, an executive with ARTBA-member firm HNTB, will go to the Federal Railroad Administration under a similar scenario.
All these officials will serve under Pete Buttigieg, the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor, who is nominated as U.S. DOT secretary. Read ARTBA’s story on his Senate confirmation hearing. U.S. DOT Deputy Assistant Secretary for Budget & Programs Lana Hurdle, a career official, is serving as the acting secretary until Buttigieg’s expected confirmation.
“President Biden has been clear: stronger infrastructure is a key to building our country back better than it was before,” the administration said in its personnel announcement.