Nuria Fernandez steps down from Santa Clara VTA role to join Biden-Harris Administration

Jan. 20, 2021
While SCVTA did not disclose what role Fernandez would fill, POLITICO reports she will be named to lead the FTA.

Nuria Fernandez has resigned from her position as general manager and CEO of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) to join the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) in the Biden-Harris Administration.  

Her final day was Jan. 19 and Evelynn Tran has been appointed to fill the general manager and CEO position on an interim basis while the transit authority conducts a national search.  

“As sad as I am to see Nuria go, I’m more thrilled for this great opportunity for her personally and professionally. There is truly no one better at this time, in this moment, to take on such a pivotal role in transportation,” said Santa Clara VTA Board Chair Glenn Hendricks. “The people of Santa Clara County were the beneficiaries of her nationally recognized leadership in transportation, policy, management and social equity. I’m extremely grateful for that and overjoyed for the people of the United States of America who will get to have this experience and benefit from it too.”

Santa Clara VTA said her role within USDOT would be announced “in the coming days.” However, POLITICO Transportation Reporter Tanya Snyder sent a tweet saying the administration intends to put Fernandez up for deputy administrator of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) that will allow her to begin work immediately. The plan, reports Snyder, is to eventually nominate Fernandez as FTA administrator, which would require a Senate confirmation hearing.

This would mark a return to FTA for Fernandez, who served in the Clinton Administration as acting administrator from 1999-2001.

Fernandez was born and raised in Panama City, Panama, immigrating to the U.S. to pursue her bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering and Master of Business Administration. 

Her 35-year career includes leadership positions at New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Chicago Transit Authority and Metropolitan Area Transit Authority before being named to her most recent role at Santa Clara VTA seven years ago.

“It has been pure joy to lead the VTA organization and see the early seeds of plans develop into programs and projects that will continue to transform mobility in this region for many years to come,” said Fernandez. “In my seven years, my team of talented public servants delivered great transportation accomplishments, of which I was humbly a part of in making our community better.” 

Additionally, Fernandez has served as chair of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) since 2019. The one-year post was extended for the first time in the association’s history as the transit industry contended with the COVID-19 health emergency. She has led the Mobility Recovery & Restoration Task Force, which launched in April 2020 to develop a path forward for public transportation's core functions and financial stability.

"I want to thank Nuria for her vision and leadership as chair of APTA. She has been exemplary in leading our industry during a time of unprecedented challenges and transformational change," said APTA President and CEO Paul P. Skoutelas. "We look forward to engaging with Nuria in her new role, as the industry stands ready to work with President Biden, his administration and the new Congress in a unified push to move our country forward and build the public transportation infrastructure of the future.” 

For more on Fernandez's accomplishments while at Santa Clara VTA, see a blog post the authority wrote by clicking here

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.