By voice vote on December 8 the Senate confirmed Shailen Bhatt as the 21st administrator of the Federal Highway Administration. He is the first person of Indian descent to lead the agency, FHWA noted in a statement.
[Above photo by AASHTO]
The Biden administration nominated Bhatt on July 21 to be FHWA administrator. A former state department of transportation executive and longtime mobility industry advocate, Bhatt most recently served as senior vice president of global transportation innovation and alternative delivery for global consulting firm AECOM.
He previously served as the executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation, secretary of the Delaware Department of Transportation, and as associate administrator for policy and government affairs at the FHWA.
Married with two daughters, Bhatt graduated summa cum laude from Western Kentucky University with a degree in economics.
Jim Tymon, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, applauded Bhatt’s nomination and subsequent confirmation to lead FHWA.
“Shailen Bhatt has been a tireless transportation advocate for decades, especially in the areas of safety and technology, and he makes an excellent choice by the Biden administration to lead FHWA,” Tymon said in a statement in July upon Bhatt’s nomination.
He noted Bhatt’s leadership roles at both the Colorado DOT and Delaware DOT – as well as his time at AECOM, FHWA, and ITS America – demonstrate his “ability to bring people together” to ensure the nation maintains a “safe, sustainable, equitable, and multimodal transportation system” that enables mobility for everyone.
Bhatt noted in a Senate committee hearing on September 14 that he intends to focus on highway safety, economic growth, and climate change as key priorities should he win confirmation as the agency’s next leader.
“There are many challenges we face as a nation with our transportation system,” he explained during testimony before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
“The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration projected that an estimated 42,915 people died in traffic crashes in 2021 – a 10.5 percent increase from the previous year,” he said. “We must deploy every tool to immediately reverse this trend.”
Bhatt added that the nation’s transportation system are critical to restoring U.S. “economic strength” yet need to be hardened against the impacts of climate change.
“The interstate system that helped America emerge triumphant in the last century requires investment and innovation so we keep our competitive advantage for the 21st century,” he stressed.
“We must ensure equity in transportation because we are stronger as a nation when we remove barriers so that everyone can share in the prosperity. We must address the challenges of the climate crisis so that we do not put at further risk the trillions of dollars invested in our transportation network,” Bhatt noted.