Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) appoints its first Chief Equity and Engagement Officer. Also, a new Vice Chair has been elected for the Illinois High-Speed Rail Commission; the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) Secretary is stepping down; railroad tie recycling and repurposing company TiEnergy elevates a five-year sales veteran; and Infrastructure consulting firm AECOM hires a new Senior Program Management Director.
CTA has hired Denise W. Barreto to spearhead its ongoing efforts to deliver efficient and equitable transit services. In the newly created position of Chief Equity and Engagement Officer, she will expand CTA’s partnerships within the industry and the communities it serves to advance equity initiatives and opportunities.
Barreto, a native of south Cook County, Ill., has served as the Director of Equity and Inclusion at Cook County for the past three years and spent more than a decade as a private-sector consultant to local government, corporate and philanthropic entities. Her firm’s clients have extended into 45 Illinois government entities across six counties and close to 150 jurisdictions across the United States.
Barreto’s public service also includes being twice elected to the Board of Trustees for the Village of Lake in the Hills, Ill.—the first black person elected in that office and one of the first black women to win an election in McHenry County, Ill. In 2014, former Gov. Pat Quinn appointed her to the Illinois Business Enterprise Program Council, a state commission that implements, monitors and enforces goals of the Business Enterprise for Minorities, Females and Persons with Disabilities Act. She has also served on the Parks and Recreation Board for Evanston, Ill.
“Transit is about much more than getting from point A to point B—it’s about improving lives and communities by providing opportunities to everyone,” CTA President Dorval R. Carter Jr. said during the Aug. 29 announcement. “This new position will help achieve that goal, which has been my top priority since becoming CTA President. Denise Barreto has a long track record of championing equity and inclusion in Illinois, and we are thrilled to leverage her expertise to ensure the CTA’s efforts leading equity and diversity initiatives continue to advance and are institutionalized across the agency.”
According to CTA, Carter has advanced policies to reduce the racial gap in contracting by creating and facilitating more prime, joint venture and equity contracting opportunities for historically under-utilized businesses, and has worked to put programs in place that ensure CTA-served communities have access to training and job opportunities on major CTA capital contracts.
Tim Butler, President of the Illinois Railroad Association, has been elected as Vice Chair of the Illinois High-Speed Rail Commission, according to an Aug. 29 report by nprillinois.org.
The Commission was formed in 2021 following passage of Illinois’ High-Speed Railway Commission Act. It is charged with creating a statewide plan for a high-speed rail line and feeder network connecting St. Louis, Mo., and Chicago, Ill., that includes existing Amtrak intercity passenger rail and Metra commuter rail services; connects the cities of Rockford, Moline, Peoria and Decatur; and uses inter-city bus service to coordinate with the rail line. The Commission is also slated to conduct a ridership study and make recommendations concerning a governance structure, the frequency of service, and implementation of the plan. The inaugural Commission meeting was held earlier this year. The Commission is to report to the Illinois General Assembly and Governor no later than Dec. 31 of each year, and is slated to finish its work by year-end 2026, according to nprillinois.org. Metra CEO/Executive Director James M. Derwinski is Commission Chair.
Prior to his role at the Illinois Railroad Association, Butler served for nearly eight years as an Illinois State Representative (87th District).
“We are blessed to be the only state with all six Class I freight railroads,” Butler told nprillinois.org. “If we are going to move forward with true high-speed rail in Illinois, our freight railroads are going to be vital partners in this effort. That is why I put my name forward for Vice Chair. Working with Chair Derwinksi, we have representatives of the commuter/passenger rail perspective and the freight rail perspective to help do the work of this commission. We need to be inclusive and all-encompassing in our review and planning for this effort. Everyone who has a stake in high-speed rail should have the opportunity to be a part of this discussion for us to be successful. My hope is that we develop an aspirational plan which rises to our state’s legacy as a transportation leader; but also, a plan which is ultimately actionable and achievable.”
NBC10 Boston on Aug. 29 reported that MassDOT Secretary Gina Fiandaca will step down after eight months of service. She was appointed in January by Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey to oversee the Highway, Rail and Transit, Registry of Motor Vehicles, and Aeronautics divisions. A reason for the move was not provided, according to the media outlet, which said that Fiandaca will serve as an advisor to MassDOT through the end of this year.
“Lieutenant Governor Driscoll and I are grateful for Gina’s leadership at the Department of Transportation,” Healey said in a statement, according to NBC10 Boston. “She came to our administration with over four decades of experience in transportation and a proven track record of getting things done. She hit the ground running and has delivered on many of our key transportation priorities.”
According to NBC10 Boston, Undersecretary for Transportation Monica Tibbits-Nutt will become acting Transportation Secretary. She, too, began MassDOT service in January, and previously was a MassDOT Board Member and Vice Chair of the Fiscal Management and Control Board, which oversaw the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) from 2015 to 2021.
“I am grateful for the trust Governor Healey placed in me that led to significant progress in virtually every facet of transportation in the Commonwealth,” Fiandaca said in a statement, according to NBC10 Boston. “Together, we have hired new leadership at the MBTA, implemented the Work and Family Mobility Act, reached approximately the half-way point with the Sumner Tunnel Restoration Project and helped drivers ‘ditch the drive’, and led efforts to obtain more than 2 billion dollars in federal funding.”
Prior to working for the Commonwealth, Fiandaca served as Assistant City Manager in Austin, Tex., and as the Commissioner of the Boston (Mass.) Transportation Department under former Mayor Martin J. Walsh.
Chris McGill has been named Strategic Account Manager, Contractor Implementation at Hampshire, Ill.-based TiEnergy, a railroad tie recycling and repurposing company affiliate of Midwest Companies. For five years, McGill has managed accounts that range from small general contractors to large corporations, and he’ll take on additional account responsibilities in his expanded role. McGill’s responsibilities include developing relationships with customers and partner organizations, shepherding contractors through TiEnergy customized solutions, and acting as a liaison with railroad leadership teams.
“Chris will be an integral part of TiEnergy’s continued growth, and his positive energy, extensive business development experience, and ability to partner with people across the industry make him the ideal candidate for the Strategic Account position,” TiEnergy CEO and Founder Steve Berglund said. “As a family-owned company with a close-knit team, it’s imperative that our employees can take on the demands of a dynamic industry while also blending into our work culture, and Chris has become a key part of our work family.”
Brian Murray has been named Senior Program Management Director at AECOM. Based in Ontario, he will work with private- and public-sector clients to deliver transit and rail infrastructure programs. Murray has 42 years of international experience in railway infrastructure and has worked on programs ranging in value from C$2 billion to C$75 billion. His expertise spans alternative delivery financing and procurement models, including public-private partnerships and collaborative delivery approaches on complex multi-disciplinary infrastructure programs.
According to AECOM, Murray has been responsible for all program delivery aspects including land acquisitions, stakeholder relations, commercial strategy, procurement, contract negotiations, project governance, risk management and final delivery, and draws on global best practices and expertise gained from working on behalf of public sector agencies, contractors and consultants on multifaceted rail programs such as the London Underground Sub-Surface Upgrade Program and the Abu Dhabi Metro and Light Rail Transit network.
“We’re extremely pleased to have someone with Brian’s extensive background join our team,” AECOM Vice President, Transit and Rail John Warren said. “His collaborative leadership style and clear-cut decision-making capabilities are vital skills in today’s high-stakes construction environment, and his broad global expertise reinforces our existing program management service offering in Canada.”