Florida appoints new DOT secretary

Ananth Prasad, an engineer who worked on some of the state's big-ticket PPPs, will take over the role previously filled by Stephanie Kopelousos.

Republican Florida Governor Rick Scott has chosen an engineer with experience in public-private partnerships to head up the state's Department of Transportation (DOT), promoting Ananth Prasad to the post.

Prasad has worked with the Florida DOT for 18 years, and has been “responsible for implementing various innovative contracting techniques, including public-private partnerships”, according to a statement from the governor’s office.

Prasad succeeds Stephanie Kopelousos, who oversaw major public-private partnerships including the $1.68 billion I-595 corridor improvement project in Broward County and the challenging $903 million Port of Miami Tunnel, which closed in October 2009.

Prasad said in an email that he chaired the management steering committee responsible for establishing policy on the I-595 concession and I-95 managed lanes project, as well as the I-75 iRox road expansion.

He has alsos spoken publicly about the need to use public-private partnerships to advance major projects. In a recent US House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Prasad said Florida’s eight existing public-private partnerships, together valued at $3 billion, could serve as models for transferring risk and “leveraging scarce dollars”.  Public-private partnerships can “deliver massive infrastructure improvement ahead of what traditional techniques would have done”, Prasad said.

Prasad previously served as assistant secretary for engineering and operations at the Florida DOT but has also worked in the private sector. In 2008 he left the Florida DOT and joined construction firm HNTB as a vice president overseeing construction, management and engineering of projects across the state of Florida. He returned to the DOT in 2010 at Kopelousos’ request, according to an executive at HNTB.

Kopelousos left the DOT when Scott took office earlier this year. She then briefly joined the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee as a senior adviser to Republican Chairman John Mica, and has since become manager for Clay County, Florida.