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Vision of Florida Transportation Chief Changes the Game

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Public-private partnerships—such as Florida's nearly complete $1.8-billion Interstate 595 Express contract or its next, upcoming monster project, the $2.1-billion I-4 Ultimate in Orlando—have become nearly standard procedure in recent years in the Sunshine State's Dept. of Transportation.

Ananth Prasad, an India-born civil engineer who eventually rose to chief engineer at the agency

Prasad
after earning his master's degree from the University of Florida in 1991, is the leading voice for FDOT and its partners to embrace more innovative financing.

Since 2011, when he was named Florida DOT secretary, Prasad has leveraged his influence, driving the agency's district leaders to identify—and execute—a bevy of long-delayed projects that he calls "game-changers."

By finally addressing long-held environmental concerns and hammering out a funding plan, FDOT started construction last summer on the long-stalled $1.7-billion Wekiva Parkway tollway project.

In fact, says Prasad, every district-identified game-changer is now under contract.

This forward movement "would not have happened nearly as quickly without Ananth," says Robert Burleson, president of the Florida Transportation Builders Association and a longtime friend of Prasad's. "He understands how to get a job done."

The governor's emphasis on economic development has been key, says Prasad. "That has reshaped our thinking about the projects we should focus on and [how we can try] to be nimble in addressing those economic-development opportunities," he notes.

FDOT's penchant for trying new approaches goes beyond project delivery and includes, for example, updating infrastructure designs to accommodate autonomous cars.

Says Prasad, "We want to be a part of what the new world's going to be."

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