John Basilica, Jr.
Basilica pulls from his 21 years of executive experience in state government agencies and deep expertise in disaster assessment, recovery and preparedness to deliver for our clients to help them prepare and recovery from disasters. He served as program manager for the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development’s $180 million program for repairs to federal-aid-eligible roadways after Hurricane Katrina, and as project manager for Superstorm Sandy Disaster Assistance/Road Repair for the New York City Department of Transportation. Additionally, he was the principal-in-charge on an extension-of-staff services contract for the Coastal Protection and Restoration Agency to overhaul New Orleans’ flood protection system.
Basilica serves as HNTB’s Gulf Coast District leader and vice president, overseeing offices in Louisiana and Mississippi. He leads HNTB’s disaster recovery services practice nationwide. Prior to joining HNTB, he served as the chief of staff and later as undersecretary of LaDOTD. He also performed similar duties for the Louisiana State Military Department for three years.
30 seconds with John Basilica …
Q. What should transportation agencies consider when put in a position to rebuild after a disaster?
A. A dramatic increase in the frequency and severity of catastrophes — from windstorms to hurricanes, from floods to wildfires — is having a profound impact on communities’ stability and sustainability. These events can cause agencies to have to rewrite the book on design and construction, and to rebuild with adaptation and resiliency in mind. As they prepare for future events, agencies can consider building roads that better facilitate evacuations, creating drainage systems to help alleviate flooding, constructing storm shelters and wastewater treatment plants above the base flood elevation, and other tactics. It’s critical to rebuild for the next disaster — not from the last one.
Q. Recovering from a natural disaster is expensive, what do agencies and transportation departments need to consider when evaluating cost and how to pay for recovery?
A. After a disaster strikes, private-sector engineers can quickly be engaged to assess areas of risk; develop customized scopes for recovery and rebuilding; bridge knowledge and relationship gaps that may exist between a transportation agency and its local, state and federal partners; and more. After immediate response and recovery efforts are undertaken, preliminary damage assessments and detailed cost estimates and scope development must begin. Federal funding largely hinges on local agencies’ early understanding of damages, so there is pressure to have full knowledge of their needs.
If damages are not properly captured, scoped and estimated early on, there is risk for underfunding, appeals and delays. Third-party engineering assessments can ensure all scope items are documented early and agencies get the dollars they deserve.
Q. How quickly after a disaster can transportations agencies assess the full damage to their assets?
A. After a disaster, damage assessments should be performed as quickly as possible so transportation agencies understand which assets need repair and how to prioritize. However, fixing only “apparent” damage may not be enough. Latent damage — the damage we can't see and don't always detect — is a huge issue we are only beginning to comprehend. After a major coastal storm for example, floodwaters that submerge transportation infrastructure and halt service. This can create mold and corrosion, which weakens essential structures over time – long after initial cleanup is complete. Transportation agencies should prepare broad grant requests for additional federal assistance for destruction that isn’t obvious.
• Master of Science in construction engineering and management, University of Maryland College Park
• Bachelor of Science in civil engineering, United States Military Academy at West Point