The Impact of COVID-19 on Transportation and The Outlook for Recovery

Led by Kary Witt, Vice President, National Tolls Practice, HNTB

July 30, 2020 11:00 am – 12:30 pm EST |  Watch recorded session

Guest speakers:

Cherian George, Managing Director – Global Infrastructure and Project Finance, Fitch Ratings

Veronique “Ronnie” Hakim, Sr. Vice President – National Transit and Rail Market Sector Leader, HNTB

Timothy Papandreou, Founder and CEO, Emerging Transport Advisors

Transportation is key to economic vitality and quality of life.  The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on our transportation systems across all modes of travel.  Some transportation sectors appear to have hit bottom and be recovering while others remain at historically low levels.  What is the future of transportation in a post COVID environment?  How long will recovery take and what will the “new normal” look like?  Our experts will look at the impacts of the pandemic and share their views on recovery and long term impacts of this unprecedented event.

Reading materials:

George, C., 2020, Fitch Ratings Reviewing Infrastructure Issuers for Coronavirus Vulnerability

Fitch Ratings, 2020, Fitch Ratings Coronavirus Scenarios: Baseline and Downside Cases — Update

Papandreou, T., 2020, Is The Coronavirus The Transportation Industry’s Opportunity? Forbes.

Papandreou, T., 2020, Transportation Business Models Are Broken. It’s Time To Fix Them. Forbes

Speaker bios

Cherian George, Managing Director – Global Infrastructure and Project Finance, Fitch Ratings

Cherian George is the global head of Fitch Ratings’ infrastructure and project finance group.  He is based in New York and manages ratings and analysis on over 500 transactions globally, which includes transportation, energy and industrial, water, public and social infrastructure, public-private partnerships and sports sectors.

Cherian has 30 years of corporate, public sector, and project finance experience.  He was head of the Americas for the team through early 2019.  Until 2007, he was the head of transportation in Fitch’s U.S. public finance group.  Prior to joining Fitch in 1999, Cherian was an assistant comptroller and head of finance for The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s tunnels, bridges, and terminals business segment.  In the early 1980s, he was a purchase executive at Tea Manufacturing & Marketing Consultants, Private Ltd., Calcutta, India, with purchasing, materials management, and product costing responsibility for a new tea garden and two plants that manufactured tables and stands for Singer Sewing Machine Co.

Cherian earned a BA in economics from Madras Christian College in India. He received an MA in economics and an MS in management and policy from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Veronique “Ronnie” Hakim, Sr. Vice President – National Transit and Rail Market Sector Leader, HNTB

Having started as a young lawyer in MTA New York City Transit, I’ve spent over 33 years in transportation, serving as the EVP & General Counsel for MTA Capital Construction before becoming the Executive Director of the NJ Turnpike Authority, NJ Transit, and most recently retired as Managing Director, of New York’s MTA.

Timothy Papandreou, Founder and CEO, Emerging Transport Advisors

Timothy Papandreou is the founder and CEO of Emerging Transport Advisors providing strategic guidance to companies, investors, startups and governments on the emerging active, shared, electric, connected and automated transport transition. He is a trusted thought leader in both technology and government with extensive global experience in the movement of people and things. Previous roles include strategic partnerships at Google X and Waymo, where he collaborated with teams to prepare the company’s commercialization, set up first-in-kind partnerships to launch the world’s first highly automated mobility as a service, Chief Innovation Officer for San Francisco’s municipal transportation agency, where he lead cross-functional teams to deliver high profile initiatives including; the US Smart City Challenge; the Strategic Work Plan which met its 50% sustainable mode share goal 3 years early; major multimodal, shared mobility and mixed-use redevelopment public/private partnership projects; and the Mayor’s Vision Zero traffic safety program. His unique insights and thought leadership draw from his varied experience and strong track record to join the dots, lead teams, build partnerships and deliver innovation.

Kary Witt, Vice President, National Tolls Practice, HNTB

Kary Witt is well-known in the transportation industry, bringing 30 years of diverse experience, most recently as Vice President and National Toll Market Practice Leader with HNTB.  Kary helps direct growth and daily management of the toll practice, matching clients across the country with expert HNTB resources for financing, planning, operating, building and maintaining toll programs and facilities. His expertise in tolled infrastructure and all aspects of long-span bridge operations and maintenance is respected throughout the industry.

Prior to joining HNTB. Kary served for 18 years as the manager of San Francisco’s world famous Golden Gate Bridge, where he provided both technical and executive leadership. In that role, he oversaw all operation and maintenance activities on the world-famous span, including planning and execution of structural maintenance; facility and equipment maintenance; security; toll collection; traffic operations; and emergency response activities. He managed a diverse workforce of more than 200 employees in a complex 24/7 operating environment and developed and administered budgets exceeding $76 million annually.

Kary’s extensive industry involvement includes many years of leadership in the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association. He was President of IBTTA in 2009, served on the Board of Directors for 10 years, chaired several committees and led a number of industry-wide initiatives. He was the founding chancellor of the IBTTA Leadership Academy executive development program. He served on the board of directors of the Alliance for Toll Interoperability. He is a founding member and served on the executive committee of the California Toll Operators Committee. He is a graduate of the American Public Transportation Association’s Center for Transit Leadership. He served on AASHTO’s Subcommittee on Bridges and Structures and has gained significant recognition for his work in the area of transportation infrastructure security.

Witt earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and a professional certificate in management and supervision from Sonoma State University. He is a registered professional engineer in California.


HNTB is a ZPH SIAB member company.


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