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CAMPO board taps Cantalupo for executive director

Tuesday, April 1, 2008 by Kimberly Reeves

The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Transportation Policy Board has authorized Chair Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) to begin contract negotiations with Joseph Cantalupo to assume the role of executive director of the planning organization.


The CAMPO board interviewed three finalists – Cantalupo, Erik Steavens and Bijan Yarjani – on Monday afternoon. After a brief executive session to discuss the process of landing on a final choice, the board met in open session. In the interest of keeping the process transparent, Watson asked board members to rank their choices in first, second and third preference, with the highest total of points going to the final choice.


Cantalupo, the current senior planning manager in Parsons Brinckerhoff’s office, was the final selection. Watson, who stressed the strong qualifications of all three candidates, said Cantalupo was the first or second choice of all board members who voted.


Cantalupo has spent only a year at Parsons Brinckerhoff, developing the company’s strategy to market planning services to the state’s metropolitan planning organizations. The bulk of his career was a 21-year progressive move up through the ranks of the Delaware Department of Transportation in the Planning Division.


DelDOT’s 30-year planning effort was one of Cantalupo’s duties at the transportation agency. As different as Delaware and the CAMPO region are – Delaware would fit inside the Central Texas region, with room to spare – both have faced similar challenges.


“The CAMPO area is rapidly growing, and Delaware also is growing very quickly,” Cantalupo said. “I also had the opportunity to deal with the diversity of needs in terms of both modes of transportation and geography.”


Nor is Cantalupo overly daunted by the Texas Department of Transportation’s budget woes. Delaware’s transportation department, too, has faced its own budget cuts.


“When I left Delaware, we were going through very similar issues with availability of funding. I wouldn’t claim the size of the problem was the same – maybe a couple of decimal places less – but the nature and the impact were the same,” Cantalupo said. “I’ve walked through the discussions. I don’t pretend to say the size of the process compares to the size of the problem in Delaware, but the basic nature of the problem is the same.”


Today, the Central Texas Air Force has scheduled a news conference to talk about the impending ozone season. No doubt the possibility of the Austin region’s non-attainment will be a topic of discussion, including the cumulative effect of impending coal-powered energy plants outside the region.


Cantalupo handled DelDOT’s ozone reduction strategy and noted cumulative impact continues to be major issue for the Eastern seaboard states. The Ozone Transportation Commission was created under the Clean Air Act to address the issue of downwind effects in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. Many of the Ozone Transportation Commission’s strategies will apply directly to Texas, Cantalupo said.


Watson and Cantalupo must negotiate terms to a contract before he officially is named the planning organization’s executive director. No timeline has been set for that process.


Yarjani and Steavens, who finished second and third, respectively, in the voting process last night, have degrees in engineering. Yarjani’s experience included stints in transportation planning in Reno, Nevada, and a 14-year stint as a principal planner and project manager for the Southern California Association of Governments. Yarjani, who lives on the West Coast, also taught transportation planning, advanced traffic engineering and urban planning at various universities.


Steavens, who was based in Atlanta, was senior program director at Earth Tech, developing transportation planning and transit practice for Georgia. His experience also included stints at the Georgia State Road and Tollway Authority, the Federal Highway Administration and three years as the administrator of a metropolitan planning organization in Albany, Georgia.

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