Former MTA, Port Authority veterans team up with AECOM

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Two longtime transportation leaders are looking to spearhead major infrastructure needs facing the New York City region amid an uncertain federal funding climate.

AECOM, a Los Angeles-based engineering firm, tapped Tom Prendergast and Denise Berger to head its New York City leadership team. Prendergast, AECOM’s head of transit within the Design and Consulting Services Americas, spent more than 25 years at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, most recently as the agency’s chairman and CEO. Berger, COO of AECOM’s Northeast Region, spent 32 years at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, culminating in a chief of operations role with the authority’s engineering department.

"Joining AECOM enables me to continue serving the industry as part of the private sector with a company known for delivering some of New York’s most iconic projects," says Denise Berger.

“We are at a critical moment for the future of the transportation and transit strategies for New York City and the surrounding region, while Congress considers proposals to reauthorize and significantly expand the [Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act] Act,” said Steve Morriss, AECOM’s president of Design and Consulting Services Americas. “Denise and Tom are better equipped than anyone in the industry to help the tri-state area leverage those federal dollars to help solve our pressing transportation and infrastructure needs and make it a model for the future of mobility.”

Prendergast and Berger arrived at AECOM in late February, just before the aggressive March outbreak of COVID-19 led to emergency shutdowns in the New York region with staff adapting to working from home. The company’s business operations have followed Centers for Disease Control guidelines while also complying with specific client requests as an “essential” business.

The FAST Act was originally signed by President Barack Obama in December 2015 and is set to expire on Sept. 30. Prendergast, who headed the MTA from 2013 to 2017, said New York is well positioned to tackle infrastructure projects with or without congressional reauthorization of a federal surface transportation bill that is up in the air in an election year.

“New York probably does more than anybody in terms of bringing its own independent financing to the table whether it is at the state or city level,” Prendergast said. “There are plenty of funds to leverage, but we also want the new infrastructure bill to get approved.”

AECOM works with a number of transportation clients, including MTA, the Port Authority and New Jersey Transit, in helping agencies navigate various steps involved with completing capital projects. The New York area has a number of large ongoing transportation initiatives that AECOM is looking to assist on, such as adding Metro North access to Manhattan’s Penn Station, a planned Long Island Rail Road addition to Grand Central Terminal and the LIRR’s third- track project. Prendergast said he hopes to also be able to lend a hand with the Gateway project aimed at replacing a 110-year-old rail tunnel under the Hudson River.

Berger was on the front lines for the Port Authority’s 10-year, $32 billion capital plan that includes redevelopment of the agency’s three major airports, LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark Liberty. She led a department that made up more than 550 architects and engineers, with a $1.3 billion annual budget.

“I’m proud of the projects the Port Authority Engineering Department planned, designed and delivered for the people of New York and New Jersey,” Berger said. “Joining AECOM enables me to continue serving the industry as part of the private sector with a company known for delivering some of New York’s most iconic projects.”

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