Top Hogan Aide Taking Job With Highway Concessionaire

Maryland Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) and Virginia Gov. Ralph S. Northam (D) are among state leaders dealing with dramatic drops in revenue. Photo by Bruce DePuyt

Amanda Allen, an original member of the Hogan administration, is leaving her state government post this week to take a position with Transurban, the transportation behemoth that recently signaled a renewed interest in a lucrative Maryland highway project, Maryland Matters has learned.

Allen will become Maryland Government Affairs Manager for Transurban starting next week, a company spokeswoman confirmed.

A former Hogan campaign aide, Allen was hired as an assistant to the governor in January, 2015, the month he was sworn in, according to her LinkedIn profile.

She was promoted to director of intergovernmental affairs in June.

Her last day with the state is Friday.

Allen’s hiring comes just days after Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) reached a compromise with Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot (D) on the governor’s plan to ease congestion in the Washington, D.C., suburbs.

The two men serve together on the Board of Public Works. In recent weeks, Franchot — an occasional swing vote on controversial issues — balked at a series of amendments sought by the state Department of Transportation, in part because the state’s tax collector felt the administration was attempting to renege on prior agreements.

After a tense standoff that lasted a couple of weeks, the two men reached agreement late last week on a compromise plan that prioritizes the reconstruction and widening of the American Legion Bridge. Hogan and Virginia Gov. Ralph S. Northam (D) announced a “Capital Beltway Accord” that includes an overhaul of the frequently overcrowded span.

Virginia, which has an established multibillion-dollar “managed lanes” contract with Transurban, is set to handle the Commonwealth’s share of that project.

The revised Maryland project also includes the widening of both the westernmost section of the Capital Beltway and the southernmost portion of Interstate 270.

Hogan wants to utilize a “public-private partnership” process in which a consortium of private firms finance and build new lanes in exchange for the right to charge tolls, of varying amounts, on the new lanes. (Existing lanes would remain free, and their maintenance would become the responsibility of the winning concessionaire.)

Transurban manages a 50-mile network of “managed lanes” in Northern Virginia, along the Capital Beltway, Interstate 95 and — as of last month — I-395.

Last month, in an interview with Maryland Matters, Jennifer Aument, the company’s head of North American operations, disclosed that the firm is again interested in bidding on the Maryland P3.

Previously, Aument had said the firm intended to “take a pass,” despite its proximity to Maryland, believing that the state’s approach under outgoing Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn was too rigid and didn’t include sufficient community engagement.

Although Allen did not have transportation policy in her Hogan administration portfolio, her hiring is certain to fuel speculation that Transurban has an inside track on the Maryland project when the state begins to solicit bids.

Aument was part of the delegation that Hogan took on his trade mission to Australia last year, and the firm donated money to his inaugural committee.

Tierra Bradford, policy manager at Maryland Common Cause, the government watchdog organization, said there should be a “cooling off period” before government workers take jobs with companies that intend to seek state contracts.

“There should be a delay when people who work in the executive branch lobby the government,” she said. “This sort of stuff shouldn’t be going on, because it’s a clear conflict of interest.”

Critics of the state’s proposed use of express toll lanes said the hiring calls into question whether the state truly intends a fair procurement.

“This stinks to high heaven,” said Benjamin Ross, chairman of the Maryland Transit Opportunities Coalition. “It’s clearer and clearer that this project is about generating toll revenue for private contractors and not about better transportation.”

Ross noted that Allen’s move to Transurban appears to mirror a hire the firm made in Virginia two years ago.

According to LinkedIn, Amanda Baxter, who served as Special Projects Development Manager for the Virginia Department of Transportation, became Development Director at North America Transurban in June 2019. She spent 15 months at a transportation engineering consulting firm between her state job and her Transurban position.

Transurban confirmed Allen’s hiring but declined to comment further.

Attempts to reach Allen were not successful, but Michael Ricci, Hogan’s communications director, lamented her departure.

“Amanda has been a very valued and dedicated member of Governor Hogan’s team since his campaign in 2014,” he said. “She will be deeply missed, but we certainly wish her all the best.”

[email protected]