Shailen Bhatt Named New CDOT Executive Director
Shailen Bhatt will be the next executive director for the Colorado Dept. of Transportation. He will begin at CDOT in mid-February. The announcement was made by the governor’s office on Jan. 5.
Bhatt most recently served as cabinet secretary for the Delaware Dept. of Transportation (DelDOT), where he directed nearly a billion-dollar budget and managed 2,800 employees in the state’s transportation system. During his term, Bhatt delivered $2 billion in infrastructure investments, managed the disaster recovery of two hurricanes and strengthened the financial stewardship of the department by reducing agency debt by nearly 40% and increasing funds available for infrastructure.
Before serving at DelDOT, Bhatt was an associate administrator at the Federal Highway Administration. There he helped establish the Every Day Counts initiative, focused on accelerating project delivery and deploying innovation. He also served as a deputy executive director with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. He currently serves as chair of the I-95 Corridor Coalition, on the Executive Committee of AASHTO and is the current president of the Northeast Association of State Transportation Officials.
“Shailen not only brings incredible transportation experience to CDOT. He is a known consensus builder who can continue to build the alliances and the transportation system Colorado needs to support our state’s economy and people’s lives,” said Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. “His experience in disaster recovery, transportation planning and innovative project delivery will help build on the successes that Don Hunt has led to improve safety and congestion on our roadways.”
“I’m thrilled to have the chance to work for Gov. Hickenlooper, be part of this cabinet and lead CDOT,” said Bhatt. “For me, CDOT represents an exciting and important opportunity to continue my public service. Colorado clearly has a dynamic transportation department and a set of transportation challenges that I look forward to tackling.”
Don Hunt’s Achievements
Outgoing CDOT leader Don Hunt will return to the private sector. Under Hunt’s leadership, CDOT:
• Improved business processes to get more money to construction. He launched the Responsible Acceleration of Maintenance and Partnerships (RAMP) program, which is using more effective cash management to increase construction and improvements to Colorado’s roadways by $300 million a year for the next five years. In the first year of the RAMP program (FY 14), construction spending increased by 33%.
• Implemented business processes to improve customer service and efficiency. Hunt launched the Officer of Process Improvement, which initiated processes which reduced hiring time by 17%, issued oversize/overweight trucking permits 30% faster and reimbursed transit project grantees 75% quicker. The new Excellence in Safety approach and training reduced injuries to CDOT employees by 11% in 2013–14.
• Got more out of the system by improving options for travel. Hunt also set the stage for providing more choice for the traveling public and improved congestion management with the expansion of Express Lanes, including the U.S. 36 multi-modal project and I-70 peak-period shoulder lanes.
• Got more out of the system by addressing how people use the roads. Hunt created the one of the first dedicated operations divisions in the country to focus on how to use technology and travel management to improve the reliability of the state’s roadways.
• Drove more accountability and transparency in CDOT activities. Hunt issued a public-friendly budget that helped people better understand CDOT finances and where funds are spent and launched an interactive tool. Called “Your CDOT Dollar,” it detailed CDOT’s performance and how much each customer pays for transportation. Customer service methods have also broadened, with increased information on social media, resulting in Facebook and Twitter user growth of 50% from 2012–14.
• Spearheaded the first improvements on I-70 in the mountains in 30 years. Hunt promised in 2011 to gain approval for and complete the widening of the I-70 Idaho Springs eastbound Twin (Veterans Memorial) Tunnel by the end of 2013. The tunnel and a widened eastbound I-70 opened to traffic on December 9, 2013, and the widened westbound tunnel opened on December 13, 2014. The project improved a segment of I-70 originally built in 1961.
• Guided recovery efforts after September 2013 floods. After floods destroyed or damaged 225 miles of state highways in northeastern Colorado, Hunt said that roads would reopen and communities would be reconnected by December 1. All highways were at least temporarily open by November 26, 2013, just 69 days later.
February Transition Planned
Hunt will remain at CDOT through the end of February to transition with Bhatt and then return to his project development and advisory firm, The Antero Co. Based on his national leadership role in transportation operations, he will continue his involvement in emerging technologies that will change how people travel, including big data, connected vehicles and automation. Hunt will also join the Buechner Institute for Governance, School of Public Affairs, CU-Denver as a senior fellow and lecturer in transportation and infrastructure.
“Don Hunt has been a remarkably executive director for the Colorado Dept. of Transportation. His ability to galvanize the Herculean efforts that so swiftly reopened the state’s bridges and the hundreds of miles of roads damaged by the floods is but one example of how he has served this state and enhanced the lives of Coloradans and our visitors,” Hickenlooper said. “Another of his many noteworthy accomplishments is his flawless management of the widening of the Twin Tunnels. Don did all of this and more, despite budgetary constraints, indicative of his innovation and resourceful leadership.”
“Leading CDOT for the last four years has been the highlight of my career,” said Hunt. “Transportation is the backbone that helps to drive our state’s economy and the quality of life for Coloradans. Our success over the last four years is a result of the vision set out by Gov. Hickenlooper as well as the incredible dedication of CDOT’s employees and our local community partners to the people of Colorado. It has been a privilege working with them and Gov. Hickenlooper,” he said.