Chris Ward, the former New York head of the Port Authority, is stepping into a new role, as an executive vice president of the large international construction company Dragados.
Mr. Ward, credited with helping to devise and implement plans that put the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site back on track, will be involved in helping the company identify and compete for major construction and infrastructure projects he said.
In an exclusive conversation with The Commercial Observer, Mr. Ward identified several high profile bids that he will likely be involved in helping the company make, including the expansion of Boston’s Green Line street car system, the replacement of Calaveras Dam in California and the replacement of the Tappen Zee Bridge in Westchester.
“There’s probably $36 billion of projects out there and we could honestly compete for probably $15 billion of that,” Mr. Ward said.
The company is a major construction firm that has handled complex projects in the city. It is currently building the East Side Access tunnel that will connect the Long Island Rail Road from Penn Station to Grand Central Terminal.
Public private partnerships will likely figure into the Dragados’s pipeline of business in the future, arrangements where private investors contribute funds to public infrastructure in return for a slice of the revenues that the infrastructure generates. Mr. Ward said the company had billions of dollars it could invest into such ventures and that the partnerships would be the way of the future for infrastructure development in the U.S.
“It’s the way governments do infrastructure in Europe,” said Mr. Ward. “It’s about selling creative solutions to government to get projects done. We need to be able to build roads and bridges and infastructure in a way that guarantees a reliable schedule and saves money. There’s not enough government resournces anymore to get projects done any other way.”
Mr. Ward’s first day at Dragados was yesterday, he said. Although his tenure as the Port Authority’s executive director was widely viewed as successful, Mr. Ward was replaced late last year by Governor Andrew Cuomo. Gov. Cuomo placed former Empire State Development Corporation head Patrick Foye in the executive director slot in what was viewed as a bid by the governor to put his own stamp on the agency and exert control by using his own appointee.
Daniel Geiger can be reached at DGeiger@Observer.com