President Bush has named Mary E. Peters, former head of the Federal Highway Administration, as his choice to lead the Dept. of Transportation. In announcing Peters as his nominee to be DOT secretary Sept. 5 at the White House, Bush called Peters "the right person for this job."

Peters led FHWA from 2001 to 2005 (Photo: Federal Highway Administration )

Bush said, "She brings a lifetime of experience on transportation issues for both the private and public sectors." Since November, Peters has been a senior vice president with engineering firm HDR and also has been serving on the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, a congressionally mandated panel that is studying possible changes in how highway and transit programs are financed.

If confirmed by the Senate, Peters would succeed Norman Mineta as DOT's chief. Mineta, who stepped down from the post in early July after more than five years, had supported Deputy Secretary Maria Cino, who has been acting secretary since July, as his successor. But Mineta, now vice chairman of public relations and consulting firm Hill & Knowlton, says, "I think that Mary Peters is a great choice by the President."

He adds, "With her background as [director] of transportation at the state level in Arizona, she brings executive experience with her. She's highly regarded by the transportation industry."

Mineta also says that Peters "was very instrumental in the revitalization of the Federal Highway Administration, especially on financial accountability issues." He adds that after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Peters "was one of our go-to people on emergency transportation."

Mineta says that in speaking to White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten as recently as Aug. 29 or 30, "I did say...that I was still supportive of Maria." But he says he knew that Bush had interviewed three people for the DOT job--Cino, Peters and Federal Aviation Administration chief Marion Blakey. Mineta says he told the top White House officials, "'You couldn't go wrong with Mary Peters as well.' You had three strong candidates."

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  • DOT Chief Mineta Resigns As Race for Replacement Begins ,
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  • DOT Says $107 Billion Needed to Improve Highway Conditions,
  • Observers predict Peters will win Senate confirmation. In fact, shortly after Bush's announcement, Sen. James Jeffords (I-Vt.) the ranking minority member on the Environment and Public Works Committee, issued a statement saying he would support Peters for the DOT job.

    Steve Hall, American Consulting Engineers Council vice president for government affairs, says, "She has an unbeatable track record heading a DOT at the state level and her service at the FHWA gives her the...political background to be effective in this position."

    Peter Ruane, American Road & Transportation Builders Association president and CEO, said Peters is "an outstanding choice for secretary," a view echoed by other industry officials.

    Brian Deery, senior director of the Associated General Contractors' highway and transportation division, says that Peters "was well regarded both inside and outside of the administration." He adds, "I don't foresee any problem with her getting confirmed."

    Cathy Connor, Parsons Brinckerhoff senior vice president for government affairs, says that unless Democrats "just want to totally shut down the Senate," Republican leaders can get Peters' nomination "on and off the floor pretty quickly."

    Peters was FHWA administrator from October 2001 through July 2005, where she was involved in the administration's plans for what became the Safe Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act--A Legacy for Users, the record authorization bill enacted in August 2005. She also was an advocate for innovative financing as well as "streamlining" the sometimes lengthy environmental reviews for large highway projects.

    Before that, she spent 15 years at the Arizona DOT, rising from contract administrator to senior positions and in 1998, to become the department's director.