Skip to main content
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 (P3) 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.  Mr. Smolen has helped private clients commercialize energy-related technology, and has played a major role in advising on Nossaman’s "coal synergy" projects in Virginia.  In those projects, 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 multiple perspectives.

Representative Work

  • Maryland Transit Administration and Maryland Department of Transportation – Purple Line Light Rail.  Member of the legal team that advised on an approximately $2 billion (capital cost) light rail system that will significantly ease travel between the Maryland suburbs and Washington, D.C.  The Purple Line Light Rail system will run 16.2 miles in the Washington, D.C. suburbs between Bethesda and New Carrollton with 21 new stations along the route.  It is designed to provide a direct link 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 an availability payment concession to shortlisted teams on the DBFOM project.  Proposals were received in late 2015 and, in March 2016, the agencies selected a consortium led by Fluor and Meridiam.  The project reached commercial close in April 2016 and financial close in June 2016.  Construction is expected to begin in 2017 and the project is expected to open in spring 2022.  The rail system’s financing plan includes an $874 million TIFIA loan, $313 million in PABs, $138 million in private equity and approximately $900 million in anticipated federal “New Starts” funding.  Maryland taxpayers will save more than $550 million over the 36-year contract term from the original bid amounts, due to rate and credit spread risk sharing under the P3 agreement.  The PABS utilized on the project were sold at the lowest interest rates ever achieved in the U.S. P3 market.  In 2016, the project earned a P3 Bulletin “Gold Award” for Best Transit and Aviation Project.  Mr. Smolen's services included assisting with primary subject matter responsibility and helping draft commercial and financial contract documents as well as project negotiations.
  • Indiana Finance Authority – East End Crossing (Lewis and Clark Bridge).  Member of the legal team that advised on a precedent-setting P3 for the development of a $1.18 billion, six-lane toll bridge across the Ohio River which opened in December 2016. The 8.5-mile-long, 2,500-foot cable-stayed East End Crossing (now known as Lewis and Clark Bridge), is a key piece of the $2.3 billion Ohio River Bridges Project – two bridges designed to provide safer, more reliable travel between Louisville, Kentucky and southern Indiana.  East End was the first bridge procured via an availability payment P3 transaction in the United States.  Among other industry “firsts,” it included the first availability payment debt to receive a “flat” investment-grade rating by both Standard & Poor’s and Fitch, and at financial close was the first P3 transportation transaction to not use TIFIA funds in its capital structure.  Financing included $194.5 million in short-term bonds secured by milestone payments and $482 million in long-term bonds secured by availability payments.  Nossaman assisted the Authority in contracting with a joint venture of Walsh/VINCI/Bilfinger for the approximately 35-year DBFOM project, which achieved procurement in record time.  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.  The project won many of the industry’s most prestigious awards:  In 2013, it captured The Bond Buyer’s “Deal of the Year” – a first for a P3 transaction; The American Road and Transportation Builders Association’s “P3 Project of the Year;” Project Finance International’s “Americas Transportation Deal of the Year;  Project Finance magazine’s “North American Project Bond Deal of the Year;” and Partnerships Bulletin’s “Projects Grand Prize” and “Gold Prize” for best P3 road project, and Infrastructure Journal named it a finalist for “Transport Deal of the Year.”  In 2014, P3 Bulletin International named East End “Best Global Road Project” and “Best Global Infrastructure Project,” and in 2015 the International Road Federation gave it the “Global Road Achievement Award for Project Finance and Economics.”  Most recently, the project was awarded the 2017 “Infrastructure Award” from the National Council for Public-Private Partnerships.
  • 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.   
  • Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel District – Parallel Thimble Shoal Tunnel.  Member of the legal team advising on a new $756 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. The District awarded the design-build contract in August 2016 to a joint venture of Dragados USA, Inc. and Schiavone Construction Co. LLC.  Construction began in 2017 and is estimated to be completed in 2022.  Mr. Smolen prepared the first draft of this complex design-build 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.  Counsel 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.  Counsel 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

Selected to the Rising Stars List for 2014-2017

John P. Smolen
John P. Smolen



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

National Council for Public-Private Partnerships

Young Professionals in Transportation - Baltimore

Awards & Honors

Selected to the Rising Stars List for 2014-2017

  • Professionals
  • Practices
  • Success Stories
  • News
  • Events
  • Resources
  • Firm Pages