Remembering Transportation Economist Shirley Ybarra


On November 10th, longtime CEI friend Shirley Ybarra passed away. Shirley was an accomplished transportation economist and a leading thinker on innovative transportation infrastructure finance and operations. But even more importantly, she put these ideas into practice during her long career in public service.

Shirley served as a senior policy advisor and special assistant for policy to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elizabeth Dole from 1983 to 1987 under President Reagan. As deputy secretary of transportation in Virginia under Gov. Allen during 1994-1998, she authored the Transportation Public-Private Act of 1995, which became the model for public-private partnership legislation across the U.S. She became Virginia’s secretary of transportation in 1998 under Gov. Gilmore, serving in that role until 2002.

Following her career in public service, Shirley served as a senior transportation policy analyst with our friends at the Reason Foundation. Reason’s Bob Poole published an essay highlighting the significant Washington-area projects that benefited from her foresight and leadership. After retiring from the Reason Foundation, Shirley remained very active in important transportation policy debates, including serving as the head of the U.S. Department of Transportation transition team for President Trump.

On a personal level, Shirley became a mentor to me when I began my career in transportation policy a decade ago. I enormously benefited from her deep knowledge and friendship. Her appreciation for harnessing the power of markets to steer public-purpose transportation investment and management has made our country a better place and she will be greatly missed by many.