Breaking The Status Quo
January 22, 2021
Biden, Buttigieg Move Quickly To Install Potentially Transformative DOT Team
by Jim Mathews / President & CEO
The incoming Biden team wasted no time getting its key transportation appointments underway, sending former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg before the Senate for confirmation as DOT Secretary less than 24 hours after the President and Vice President took to the Capitol balcony to be sworn in.
But the Administration also named a raft of transportation appointees on the same day, and the breadth and expertise of the group suggest a lot of promise for a transformational and less auto-centered period in U.S. transportation policy.
Many of the names made public on Thursday will serve as deputies or assistants, and this is by design. In those roles they don’t require Senate confirmation and can therefore hit the ground running. The more senior roles will be named later. And given the political reality of a very short window of action – perhaps as short as 18 months, ahead of 2022 elections – moving quickly to make real and visible progress on projects that make ordinary Americans’ lives better will be at a premium. It’s a smart decision by the incoming team and it speaks to how serious they are about making rapid gains.
There are many familiar and solid names that have emerged. Among them are Amit Bose, most recently of consultants HNTB, who will return to the Federal Railroad Administration as Deputy Administrator. Bose has been in that role before, as well as a stint in the chief counsel’s office, and boasts 16 years of public-sector experience ranging from FRA and the U.S. DOT to New Jersey’s DOT and New Jersey Transit. Bose spent time involved in the Northeast Corridor Gateway Program, California High Speed Rail Project, Northeast Corridor Future, Southeast Passenger Rail and the Build America Bureau, so we know we will have someone with a strong passenger-rail background in a key role at FRA.
Another important appointment that might not make national news is the installation of Christopher Coes, from SmartGrowth America, at DOT as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy. He will bring SmartGrowth ideas on land-use and equity to the role of helping to define surface-transportation policy for DOT. It’s more confirmation that the incoming Biden Administration is serious at the working level about moving beyond just laying asphalt as the answer to any surface-transportation problem.
We were also pleased to see Surface Transportation Board Member Martin Oberman designated as the new Chair of the STB. His tenure in local Chicago politics gives him a practical viewpoint on how regulatory decisions affect communities, and as former Chair of Chicago’s Metra commuter rail system he will also have a keen appreciation for the role of passenger rail as an economic lifeline for communities it serves.
Up and down the list, we see strong and serious appointments of folks who we believe will make a real difference in setting a new course for our country’s transportation future. And we look forward to seeing more smart appointments to important roles in the coming weeks.
The names made public on Thursday are:
- Amit Bose, Deputy Administrator, Federal Railroad Administration
- Ann Carlson, Chief Counsel, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
- Florence Chen, Special Assistant for Policy
- Casey Clemmons, Special Assistant, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration
- Steve Cliff, Deputy Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
- Christopher Coes, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy
- Nuria Fernandez, Deputy Administrator, Federal Transit Administration
- Robert Hampshire, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology
- Maurice Henderson, Senior Advisor
- Danielle Hirshberg, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations
- Justine Hong, Director of Executive Secretariat
- Robin Hutcheson, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Safety Policy
- Subash Iyer, Chief Counsel, Federal Transit Administration
- Meera Joshi, Deputy Administrator, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
- Tatjana Kunz, Special Assistant for Policy
- Lucinda Lessley, Deputy Administrator, Maritime Administration
- Diana Lopez, Senior Advisor to the Administrator, Federal Railroad Administration
- Irene Marion, Director, Departmental Office of Civil Rights
- Edward McGlone, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Congressional Affairs (House)
- Philip A. McNamara, Assistant Secretary for Administration
- A. Bradley Mims, Deputy Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration
- Carlos Monje Jr., Senior Advisor and Acting Chief of Staff
- Allie Panther, White House Liaison
- Alex A. Peña, Special Assistant to the General Counsel
- Carol A. (Annie) Petsonk, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs
- Stephanie Pollack, Deputy Administrator, Federal Highway Administration
- John Putnam, Deputy General Counsel
- Will Rasky, Special Assistant for Governmental Affairs
- Courtenay Raymond, Director of Scheduling and Advance
- Andrew Rogers, Chief Counsel, Federal Highway Administration
- Laura Schiller, Chief of Staff
- Michael Shapiro, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy
- Sophie Shulman, Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy
- Dani Simons, Assistant to the Secretary and Director of Public Affairs
- Charles Small, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs
- Mohsin Syed, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Congressional Affairs (Senate)
- Charlene Wang, Special Assistant, Federal Highway Administration
- Victoria Baecher Wassmer, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Finance and Budget
- Vinn White, Senior Advisor for Implementation
- Laurence Wildgoose, Assistant Administrator for Policy, International Affairs, and Environment, Federal Aviation Administration
"I wish to extend my appreciation to members of the Rail Passengers Association for their steadfast advocacy to protect not only the Southwest Chief, but all rail transportation which plays such an important role in our economy and local communities. I look forward to continuing this close partnership, both with America’s rail passengers and our bipartisan group of senators, to ensure a bright future for the Southwest Chief route."
Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS)
April 2, 2019, on receiving the Association's Golden Spike Award for his work to protect the Southwest Chief