Lots of big changes this week, not on the project front but personnel in both the public and private sectors.
Biggest of all, Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development’s Shawn Wilson announced that he was going to be stepping down “with a heavy heart” after seven years as Secretary.
Under his reign, the department has become one of the industry’s leaders, particularly known for his ability to get major projects unstuck and delivered. Few others can claim to have had such an influence on the industry at large.
Louisiana isn't the only heavyweight DOT to have seen changes up top too. Virginia DOT has appointed a new permanent director of its office of P3s.
Faizan Habib, previously a senior program manager, will now guide the influential unit as it looks to continue its impressive P3 track record.
Habib takes over from acting-director Thomas Sherman, who will be joining the Association for the Improvement of American Infrastructure (AIAI) as its new director of public sector initiatives and programming.
In the private sector, some big figures are transitioning too.
Aecom’s transportation chief executive Jennifer Aument has announced plans to leave the firm after a successful health battle. She’ll be continuing to work at a board level in the industry, but said: “It’s the right time for me to put away my well-worn suitcase and spend less time on airplanes, and more time getting back to full health.”
Meanwhile, HNTB confirmed that ex-LA Metro and Fengate P3 stalwart Colin Peppard has joined its advisory team.
People news aside, there’s been some interesting project news coming forward, at various different levels.
Most significantly, perhaps, was a Colorado judge’s ruling on the long-standing dispute over the Denver Eagle P3 project.
Centered on the cost of covering some major signalling technology failures, the private consortium running the deal had sought around $111m from Colorado's Regional Transportation District (RTD), arguing that a federal and state review had resulted in a law change and force majeure event. In response, the RTD countersued and sought to terminate the project.
The judge ultimately denied both claims, in effect locking in the risk transfer of the P3 but also locking the parties together, along with the potential issues that may arise from two sides that have been facing each other across a courtroom.
The move has sparked some interesting debate in the industry, with some saying this ruling puts more fuel under the fire of the collaborative models movement, arguing that issues such as these could have been prevented, or at least the risk shared, if the parties were closer together from the off.
More positively, the EV charging sector took a big step forward this week, with the White House unveiling its new EV standards program. As P3 formed a critical part of states’ applications for federal funding via the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) last year, structural pieces such as this - together with a finalized Build America, Buy America implementation plan for EV charging - is a welcome step.