Speaking at the American Road and Transportation Builders Association's 100th annual convention Tuesday, the administrator of the Federal Highway Administration promised support in restoring about half of a proposed $8.4 billion cut to the highway trust fund. It was the agency's first public vow of support, coming soon after U.S. Dept. of Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta told a Senate group he would also support the partial restoration. FHWA Administrator Mary Peters also vowed that the agency will reemphasize road-building as its priority instead of being "focused on too many areas." Peters said later that 'in the past the agency got into a lot of social policy issues" such as land use and environmental justice. "Those are local decisions to be made," she said.
Nevertheless, the FHWA can play a role as mediator when disputes between other federal agencies and local groups are holding up projects, she added. While ARTBA and other highway advocates would like to see more than $4.4 billion restored to the highway trust fund in the next budget cycle, Peters noted that the amount would "bring us back to [original] TEA-21 levels. That's about what we should have expected."