Shailen Bhatt stepping down as CDOT director to run national organization

Author: Joey Bunch - October 26, 2017 - Updated: October 27, 2017

Shailen BhattShailen Bhatt, right, speaks at a Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC event in May with the organization’s president and CEO, Dirk Draper. (Photo by Joey Bunch/Colorado Politics)

State transportation director Shailen Bhatt is stepping down next month to become president and CEO of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America.

Mike Lewis, the Colorado Department of Transportation’s deputy executive director and chief operating officer, will be the interim director, the governor’s office said Thursday morning.

Gov. John Hickenlooper appointed Bhatt to the position at the beginning of the governor’s second term in February 2015.

“Shailen’s innovation and drive has pushed the Department of Transportation to work tirelessly to stand up a transportation network that can meet the needs of Colorado,” Hickenlooper said in a statement. “We wish him the best and can only say ‘watch out’ as he brings his expertise and creativity to a new set of challenges.”

The governor, himself, is a short-timer. He is term-limited and is replacement will take office in January 2019, bringing in his or her own cabinet.

Bhatt came to Colorado after leadership roles with the Delaware Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration and Kentucky transportation department.

The governor’s office provided a list of his accomplishments in his two and a half years in Colorado, even though Bhatt himself has a been a chief spokesman for the state’s unmet long-term transportation needs.

The list includes:

  • Opening the U.S. 36, the Interstate 70 mountain corridor and I-25 North to 120th express lanes.
  • Funding and accelerating planning for future improvements on North I-25 from Fort Collins to Johnston and I-25 South from Castle Rock to Monument.
  • Launching Bustang bus service connecting Fort Collins, Glenwood Springs and Colorado Springs to Denver.
  • Creating the RoadX program and “making Colorado a national innovation leader.”
  • Being selected as one of 10 global finalists for Hyperloop, a proposed high-speed transit system.
  • Working with OTTO/Uber Trucking to complete the world’s first commercial delivery by a self-driving truck.
  • Deploying the world’s first Autonomous Impact Protection Vehicle to protect work zones from distracted drivers.
  • Partnering with Panasonic to build the world’s first commercial grade, licensable, Connected Vehicle Ecosystem (CV Ecosystem) and with HERE to enable vehicle to everything communications.

“It has been a privilege to drive Colorado’s and Gov. Hickenlooper’s transportation vision. While we can point to the many projects we have begun and successfully completed, my highest regards are for the people and relationships we have built,” Bhatt stated. “I always say that a DOT exists to save lives and make people’s lives better. It has been an honor to work with the CDOT team and the very many stakeholders whose dedication to live up to that sacred charge is shown every single day on behalf of the people of Colorado.”

At ITS America, Bhatt will take over for David St. Amant, the interim president and CEO. Regina Hooper stepped down from the position after two years in July.

The organization advocates for technological advances in transportation.

“Shailen Bhatt is uniquely positioned to drive the mission of ITS America forward as intelligent transportation and connected and autonomous vehicles are poised to dramatically alter the transportation landscape by increasing safety, equity, sustainability and economic opportunity in states and cities across the nation,” said ITS America Board chairman Chris Murray, CEO of Kapsch TraffiCom North America, stated. “The Board of Directors is pleased to welcome Shailen to ITS America.”

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.