Nossaman LLP

John P. Smolen


T 202.887.1466
F 202.466.3215
1666 K Street, NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20006

John Smolen uses his skills in project development, procurement, administration and finance to help clients advance many of the nation’s largest and most complex design-build and public-private partnership (PPP) infrastructure projects. 

He also offers expertise in engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) project delivery strategies within the energy and emerging technology industries, having led project developments and served as counsel for wind, solar, geothermal and waste-to-energy projects.  He has helped private clients commercialize energy-related technology.  Mr. Smolen has played a major role in advising on Nossaman’s "coal synergy" projects in Virginia, where heavy industry and mining companies use their equipment and skills to build roads as part of their mining operations.

Before becoming a lawyer, Mr. Smolen spent more than a decade as a U.S. Navy officer, serving as an aviator, flight instructor and Naval ROTC instructor.  His legal and military experience has helped him understand project and client issues from more than one perspective.

Representative Work

  • Maryland Transit Administration and Maryland Department of Transportation – Purple Line Light Rail.  Member of the legal team advising on a proposed $2.2 billion light rail system that will run 16.2 miles in the Washington, D.C. suburbs between Bethesda and New Carrollton with 21 new stations along the route.  The system, Maryland’s first PPP project under 2013 legislation Nossaman helped develop, would provide a direct connection to the Metrorail Red, Green and Orange lines and connect to the MARC train, Amtrak and local bus services.  In July 2014, MTA issued the final RFP for a 30-year AP concession to shortlisted teams on the DBFOM project.  Proposals are due in late 2015.  Mr. Smolen is assisting with primary subject matter responsibility and is involved with primary commercial and financial contract document drafting and negotiation for the project.
  • Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel District – Parallel Thimble Shoal Tunnel.  Lead associate of the legal team advising on design and construction of a new $725 million tunnel beneath the Thimble Shoal Channel in Virginia’s lower Chesapeake Bay.  The second two-lane tunnel will expand capacity and improve safety for travelers utilizing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, the sole connection between Delmarva Peninsula and the Hampton Roads area.  Mr. Smolen prepared the first draft of this complex design-build agreement.  The District shortlisted teams and released a draft RFP in August 2015.  A final award is anticipated in May 2016.
  • Indiana Finance Authority – East End Crossing.  Member of the legal team advising on a precedent-setting PPP procurement for a $1.18 billion, six-lane toll bridge across the Ohio River.  Scheduled for completion in 2016, the project broke new ground as the first PPP transportation deal that does not use TIFIA funds in its capital structure and the largest PAB issue for a PPP transportation project in the U.S.  It also features the first PPP availability payment project debt to receive a “flat” investment-grade rating from both Standard & Poor’s and Fitch.  The Authority contracted with a joint venture of Walsh/VINCI/Bilfinger for the DBFOM project, which achieved procurement in record time.  Financing includes $194.5 million in short-term bonds secured by milestone payments and $482 million in long-term bonds secured by APs.  Mr. Smolen’s role included assisting with drafting and finalizing the RFP documents, developing and implementing the evaluation process, and negotiating and closing the public-private agreement and financing.  He is also primary outside projects counsel, involved with ongoing project management, administration and implementation.  In 2015, East End Crossing won the International Road Federation’s “Global Road Achievement Award for Project Finance and Economics.”  The bridge earned PPP Bulletin International’s “Best Global Road Project” and “Best Global Infrastructure Project” honors in 2014.  The structure captured several awards in 2013: The Bond Buyer named it “Deal of the Year” – a first for a PPP transaction.  The American Road and Transportation Builders Association honored the bridge as “PPP Project of the Year,” and Project Finance International selected it as “Americas Transportation Deal of the Year.”  Project Finance magazine highlighted it as “North American Project Bond Deal of the Year,” and Partnerships Bulletin honored East End with “Projects Grand Prize” and “Gold Prize” for best PPP road project.  The same year, Infrastructure Journal named the project a finalist for “Transport Deal of the Year.” 
  • Virginia Department of Transportation – Coalfields Expressway.  Member of the legal team advising on a four-lane highway project that will stretch from Beckley, West Virginia to Pound, Virginia, connecting I-77/I-64 to U.S. Route 23.  To deliver the project, which sits in mountainous terrain with limited access, the transportation department is taking an innovative approach – utilizing coal mining operations and equipment to provide a rough-grade roadbed, resulting in a substantial reduction in anticipated costs compared with traditional methods.  After completion of the rough-grade roadbed, the road will be paved to complete the project.  Mr. Smolen’s role includes preparing the procurement documents and participating in contract negotiations with the project’s two concessionaires. 
  • Virginia Department of Transportation – U.S. 460 Corridor – Phase II.  Member of the legal team that advised on the Phase II development of a 6.2-mile rough-grade roadbed for the broader US 460 corridor project, also a coal synergy project and part of the Appalachian Development Highway System.  Mr. Smolen’s role included preparing the sole-source procurement documents and updating VDOT’s design-build contract templates.  In July 2013, the Department closed the contract to deliver the $108 million project, which is currently under construction.
  • Indiana Finance Authority – I-69 Section 5.  Member of the legal team advising on a $370 million DBFOM availability payment PPP procurement and contract for Section 5 of this six-phase highway project.  The section, Indiana’s second AP project following East End Crossing, will run 21 miles between Bloomington and Martinsville, turning SR 37 into an interstate highway.  Improvements will include four new interchanges and four new overpasses and upgrades to existing interchanges and overpasses.  The agency awarded a contract to Isolux Infrastructure Netherlands B.V. in April 2014 and Section 5 reached financial close three months later.  The project, which utilized $244 million in PABs and $41 million in private equity, is scheduled to open by the end of 2016, several years ahead of schedule.  Mr. Smolen’s role included assisting with drafting and finalizing the RFP documents, developing and implementing the evaluation process, and negotiating and closing the public-private agreement.   
  • Private Sector Heavy Industry Client – Coal Processing Facility.  Lead counsel to a private sector client in development of an EPC project to design and build a commercial scale coal processing facility.  Mr. Smolen’s role included preparing and negotiating the EPC contract, contract administration and dispute resolution assistance and follow-on development of other proprietary technology commercialization opportunities.
  • Private Sector Renewable Energy Project Developer – Renewable Energy Projects.  Lead associate to an early-stage development client in renewable energy power producing facilities in the mountain states and Hawaii.  Mr. Smolen’s role included extensive corporate and finance representation, real property negotiations and drafting, extensive interface with local counsel regarding permitting and real property matters, mergers and acquisitions and other general counseling matters.
  • Private Sector Wind Energy Project Owner – Renewable Energy Projects.  Lead associate on a portfolio of joint project development efforts for renewable energy projects throughout the Midwest, representing the owner in project development and construction matters.  Mr. Smolen’s role included developing, drafting and negotiating several EPC and other construction contracts, real property matters and preparations for portfolio capital markets financings.

Awards & Honors

Washington DC "Super Lawyers Rising Star" for Transportation/Maritime Law, Washington Lawyer magazine, 2014 and 2015

John P. Smolen
Bio Photo



J.D., University of Kansas School of Law, 2007

M.A., Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 2004

B.S., United States Naval Academy, 1995, with merit


District of Columbia



United States Supreme Court

Professional Affiliations

Kansas Bar Association

Maryland State Bar Association

American Bar Association

National Conference for Public-Private Partnerships

Young Professionals in Transportation - Baltimore

Awards & Honors

Washington DC "Super Lawyers Rising Star" for Transportation/Maritime Law, Washington Lawyer magazine, 2014 and 2015

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