Lessons, Learnings, and Legacies: Eno Establishes Downey Fellowship

The Eno Center for Transportation is proud to announce the Mortimer L. Downey Legacy Fellows Program for former and outgoing United States Deputy Secretaries of Transportation. This new program is intended to document critical lessons learned and insights from the Deputy Secretary’s tenure in the department.


The fellowship honors the legacy of Mortimer L. Downey, the longest-serving person ever to hold the post, and a former member of Eno’s Board of Directors. The purpose is to highlight important reflections that may not otherwise be recorded, provide insights for incoming and future Deputy Secretaries, understand the needs and duties of the position, and to document the operations and management of the department.


“Despite the critical nature of the position, the experiences and lessons from outgoing Deputy Secretaries of Transportation are not always well-chronicled. This Eno initiative will capture these important perspectives for future appointees,” said Mort Downey. “It is meaningful not just for posterity, but to directly aid in the transition to Deputy Secretaries’ successors, better define the position, and suggest metrics of success.”


The United States Deputy Secretary of Transportation serves as the chief operating officer of the department, leads cross-department and other high-profile initiatives, and works in tandem with the Secretary. It is sometimes referred to as an “alter ego” position, given the necessarily close relationship with the secretary. The Deputy Secretary must be nominated by the President and appointed only after official Senate confirmation.


“I am pleased Eno’s Board of Directors is able to honor Mort in this way,” said former U.S. Transportation Secretary and current Eno Board chair, James H. Burnley IV. “His impact and legacy across the government is vast, as is his imprint on this organization.” Burnley also served as U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation from 1983 to 1987.


Eno will collaborate with other organizations focused on transportation policy and practice, as well as public administration experts, professors, researchers, and students. Eno regularly captures best practices, insights, and lessons learned from government leaders, but ultimately each fellow will have the latitude to formulate and share their insights in the format that suits them best.


“I am excited to participate in a program that will enrich and support all of us who have the honor of serving in the role of U.S DOT Deputy Secretary,” said current U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation, Polly Trottenberg. “And I am thrilled to be part of a lovely tribute to Mort Downey — who has been a mentor and role model for so many of us in transportation.”


Mortimer L. Downey served as the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation from 1993 to 2001 and as an Assistant Secretary of Transportation from 1977 to 1981. In 2008, he led the Obama transition agency review team for transportation. From 1981 to 1993, he was an officer of New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, serving for several years as its Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer. Since 2001, Mort worked as a transportation consultant on a wide variety of institutional, financial, and organizational issues. He was appointed by the federal government to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Board in 2010, and starting in 2015 served as its chair. Mort also worked at the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Budget, and at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. He served on the President’s Management Council, as Chairman of the National Science and Technology’s Committee on Technology, as a member of the Trade Promotion Coordinating Council and as a member of the Board of Directors of Amtrak. He holds a B.A. in political science from Yale University, a master’s degree in Public Administration from New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service, and completed the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School. He has received numerous transportation awards, including the lifetime achievement award from the American Public Transportation Association.


Former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation John Porcari noted, “Mort was extremely generous with his time when I was nominated as Deputy. He provided extremely valuable advice, and a couple of priceless heads up. Throughout my tour, I told people that I ‘wanted to be Mort Downey when I grow up’.” Porcari served as Deputy Secretary from 2009 to 2013.


The Mortimer L. Downey Legacy Fellows Program a key part of Eno’s commitment to enhancing transportation governance. By consolidating and sharing lessons learned, we’re building collective wisdom for the entire industry. If you share our vision and understand the value of this knowledge-driven approach, consider supporting our endeavors. To find out more or to make a contribution, please visit the Mortimer L. Downey Legacy Fellows page.

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