And yet one can sense that Mr. Ward also misses the thrill of being one of the top transit and infrastructure officials in the country. During his time at the authority, Mr. Ward, wearing his trademark designer eyeglasses, excelled as a public speaker and face for the agency, always at ease in the limelight and a forceful presence during the authority’s tough talks at the WTC site that reassured the public its stake in the rebuilding effort would not be subjugated to Mr. Silverstein’s.
While perhaps out of the public eye, Mr. Ward’s new role places him closer to a pipeline of transit and infrastructure that is potentially bigger than the Port Authority’s. Last month, Mr. Ward took an executive level position in the U.S. operations of the large international construction company Dragados, and he has grand ambitions for the firm.
“It’s a big change,” said Mr. Ward. “Being executive director of the Port Authority is making 50 different public policy decisions every day; here the focus is bottom-line business development.”
In recent years, a pattern of ballooning construction costs has plagued more than just the Port Authority. The situation has transpired in so many instances, it has come to seem like an endemic outcome for public transit and infrastructure projects. It’s a story that Mr. Ward can tell more compellingly by virtue not only of his tenure at the Port Authority but, before that, his time at the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, where, as that agency’s commissioner, he presided over the planning and construction of a water filtration plant in Westchester County’s Croton, which also busted through preliminary cost estimates.
According to Mr. Ward, a new era could be dawning in the U.S. where government seeks to off load large civic construction projects onto private partners who take on not only oversight of the work but responsibility for its costs, guaranteeing that government is not on the hook for overruns. These public-private partnerships (PPP) have become popular in Europe but slower to catch on here. Mr. Ward has ambitious plans for Dragados. The company, he says, will be in contention for billions of dollars of construction work and has a war chest of billions more to invest alongside government partners who embrace the PPP concept.