Chairman Carper’s Opening Statement: Hearing on FHWA Nomination

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On September 14, 2022, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold a hearing to consider the nomination of Shailen P. Bhatt to be Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

Below is the opening statement of Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery:

“Let me start by offering a few words on our especially well-qualified nominee. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Shailen since 2011 when he assumed the role of Secretary of the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT). 

“As Secretary of DelDOT, Shailen helped the department integrate performance management measures to improve accountability. He also embraced innovative practices to improve service and outcomes and helped to reduce the agency’s debt.

“As a Delawarean, I am deeply grateful for Shailen’s four years of service, during which he delivered critical transportation projects up and down the First State. As chairman of this committee, I am delighted that he is again willing to serve our country—this time in the role of Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration.

“Shailen is no stranger to this committee. He’s been called to testify twice previously for hearings: once in which the committee was considering innovative transportation mobility and a second time to testify about cybersecurity threats to our physical infrastructure. Throughout his interactions with our committee, he’s demonstrated a commitment to being responsive.

“Shailen also brings a wealth of experience to this role. In addition to serving as a state-level transportation executive in Delaware and Colorado, he has served in the federal government as the Associate Administrator for Policy and Government Affairs at the Federal Highway Administration. In addition, he has experience at the local level and with transportation non-profit advocacy organizations, as well as in the private sector, in his role as Senior Vice President at AECOM, a multinational infrastructure consulting firm.

“There is no doubt that this is why his nomination has been welcomed by numerous transportation stakeholder associations. They include the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, which awarded Shailen their President’s Special Award of Merit in 2020 for his outstanding and exemplary contributions to the transportation field.

“Outside of his qualifications and accolades, it’s important to note that Shailen’s nomination comes at a pivotal time for the Federal Highway Administration.

“Last year, our committee led the way in drafting the surface transportation legislation that became the foundation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. As you will recall, this historic law provides more than $350 billion of investment in our nation’s highway programs. This includes a significant increase in funding for competitive grants to be administered by Federal Highway Administration.

“As we know, last month, Congress also passed the Inflation Reduction Act, providing more than five billion dollars in funding for grants to improve equity and access and to reduce emissions from cement, steel, and other roadway construction materials. The Inflation Reduction Act also includes additional funding to facilitate timely environmental reviews of transportation projects, ensuring that the American people feel the benefits of these investments without delay.

“From day one, this administration set a goal of partnering with Congress to rebuild and enhance critical infrastructure while improving climate and equity outcomes. Less than two years later, I’m proud to say we’ve accomplished that goal legislatively.

“Now, the work of implementing these historic investments could not be more urgent. We know that far too many Americans continue to lack access to safe walkways and reliable public transportation. Traffic crashes and fatalities, which were already far too high, have risen sharply since the start of the pandemic more than two years ago.

“And, as the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, drastic changes are needed to reduce emissions from the transportation sector. We must do so while also protecting the American people and our critical infrastructure from the effects of extreme heat, flooding, and other climate disasters.

“Addressing these goals of safety, equity, and climate mitigation have been priorities in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. I am confident that Shailen will be able to pick this ball up and run with it, as he has done time and time again.

“I hope that the Senate will move expeditiously to confirm him for this important role. It has been left vacant for far too long. From our years of working together, I know Shailen to be hard-working, intelligent, fair, and open-minded. If confirmed, I’m confident that he will be committed to working with all fifty states and territories and every Senator to address the transportation priorities in their communities.”