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WSP hires see new transportation P3 opportunities

Three recent hires at advisory firm WSP say their experience at state transportation departments will give them an advantage in an ever-changing environment that can present challenges, but also may yield substantial public-private partnership (P3) opportunities.

WSP’s recent additions are Roger Boothe, senior vice president, program and construction management; Patty Rubstello, national transportation strategic advisor; and Shawn Wilson, senior vice president, national coordination leader for transportation and infrastructure.

Boothe served as the former project manager and contracts manager, Northern Virginia, mega projects, at the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Wilson served as secretary of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (LADOTD) from 2016 to 2023, establishing the Office of Innovative Procurement. He advanced two P3 transportation projects: the Belle Chasse Bridge and Tunnel Replacement and the I-10 Calcasieu River Bridge Replacement P3 during his time at the agency.

Rubstello served more than 33 years with the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) in a variety of roles. Before joining WSP, she was assistant secretary of Washington State Ferries, part of the state Transportation Department, where she oversaw a 21-vessel fleet and a 2,000-person workforce.

Expanding P3 prospects

P3 opportunities could originate from established programs at state DOTs, and from states that are new to the P3 arena, Boothe said.

“I feel like there is a log jam of projects, and there’s a dam about to break when the interest rate environment becomes more conducive to financing projects,” Boothe said in an interview.

Among the states worth tracking, “Georgia has a robust major mobility investment program (MMIP), with a queue of projects that are moving forward.” Virginia has plenty of experience with P3s, while North Carolina and Tennessee are states of focus as well as New Mexico in the early stages of “spinning up a program,” he said.

The new hires’ experience in various facets of project management and delivery will complement each other in pursuing opportunities.

“Shawn, Patty and myself are all DOT veterans. Shawn has experience at the institutional and political level. Patty brings a focus on technology, bringing technology to market, and how that technology relates to P3s, and I bring program and project delivery experience,” Boothe said. “Some advisors have sat in offices, they can evaluate things from a desk perspective. But have they ever designed, built and deployed stuff, or have they ever been on the floor of a statehouse and argued for funding? We can say yes to all of those things.”

“I think there is a real opportunity for us in the technical advisory space, both sell and buy side, which is a space that I’m quite familiar with, and where there are few competitors and none with the resources of WSP,” Boothe added. “WSP’s assets and strengths position us very well to make a major move into that market in North America, both the US and Canada.”

Based in WSP’s Seattle office, Rubstello reports to Jeff Heilstedt, senior vice president and national highway, bridge and tolling market leader. Wilson is based in Baton Rouge, and reports to Jerry Jannetti, WSP’s business line executive for transportation. Boothe is based in WSP’s Herndon, Virginia, office and reports to Garry Nunes, a senior vice president and sector leader for program construction management.

“Given my background as a state transportation secretary and president of AASHTO, I’ll be working with industry associations, organizations and state DOTs on behalf of WSP to be a strategic thinker, advocate and thought leader in terms of how we can better serve our clients,” Wilson said. “It’s not just about what we do well at WSP, it’s about what the entire industry does well, and I have an opportunity to influence that from within WSP.”

Rubstello’s focus is primarily on areas such as intelligent transportation and congestion pricing through tolling.

“I also have experience in advising organizations on how they may need to change when adopting new technology or creating new organizations with an agency,” she said.

Going beyond transportation

While all of them have experience in DOTs, the opportunities could extend beyond transportation, Boothe said.

“I think we are going to see a lot of activity in big water projects, big civil works like the Fargo Moorhead Flood Diversion project,” Boothe said. “The Army Corps of Engineers is advancing a project on the Platte River in Colorado that I think will look similar to that.”

Rubstello wonders, however, if the US has the workforce to get these major projects to the finish line.

“Is the workforce there and available on all fronts to deliver these large programs, huge infrastructure, even the tech on the technology side,” Rubstello said. “I’d say what keeps me up at night is the question of whether the industry has the workforce to actually deliver these projects.”

Wilson said the effects of the bipartisan infrastructure law are being felt.

“I think there’s still a very robust market in terms of traditional infrastructure when you think about the bipartisan infrastructure law and being at year three – we are actually allocating resources not just in Louisiana, but all across the country,” he said.

P3 projects may be hurt by a perception that the government has all the money it needs to get projects completed, he said.

“I think one of the biggest inhibitors to P3 is the public perception around the need for that procurement methodology based on the assumption that the bipartisan infrastructure law gave us all the resources that we need,” Wilson said. “And, quite honestly, it really didn’t. It was the tip of the iceberg, an essential investment given the economic crisis we found ourselves in.”