Nominee’s Withdrawal a Reminder DOT Operating Without Permanent Heads

Paul Trombino, the White House’s nominee to head the Federal Highway Administration, withdrew from consideration prior to confirmation to address family matters, a DOT spokesperson said Dec. 12. Does that deal a blow to the FHWA? Yes and no. 

The Department of Transportation has thus far muddled along despite the absence of many of its permanent administrators, but as the White House prepares to unveil its infrastructure proposal in January the fear is those agencies could start to feel the pinch.

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Several US DOT sub-agencies are operating without a permanent administrator: FHWA, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the Federal Railroad Administration, and the Federal Transit Administration.

“I'm not sure that at least as far as [the infrastructure] initiative is concerned, not having the Federal Highway Administrator in place is necessarily a huge setback for the administration’s overall plans,” Bud Wright, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), said to Bloomberg Government. 

Trombino previously served as president at AASHTO, so his decision was a loss, but not one to be second-guessed, Wright said. 

The acting administrator Brandy Hendrickson also comes from a state Department of Transportation background and has been leading “effectively” noted Wright. 

“You want to have your whole team there. It’s a big agency and there’s a lot of responsibility, but I will say she’s not the only acting administrator in US DOT right now and things are continuing to happen,” Wright said.

“Obviously, you want to have the whole team there as we’re about to turn the page and start to talk about the infrastructure initiative,” he said. “I also think it would be fair to observe that a lot of the activity associated with the infrastructure initiative is coming from the White House rather than from US DOT.”