- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 5, 2006

President Bush yesterday nominated Mary E. Peters, the former head of the Federal Highway Administration, to become his new transportation secretary, and she promised to work to update the aging transportation system.

The job has taken on a new high profile in the post-September 11 world, with a focus on security at airports, seaports and other parts of the transportation infrastructure.

“Mary Peters is the right person for this job,” Mr. Bush said. “She brings a lifetime of experience on transportation issues, from both the private and public sectors.”

If she is confirmed by the Senate, Mrs. Peters would succeed Norman Y. Mineta, who joined Mr. Bush at the beginning of his first administration.

Mr. Mineta was the only Democrat serving in the Cabinet. After the terrorist attacks five years ago, his profile grew as the entire aviation system was shut down for several days and Congress tussled over ways to improve security at airports and seaports.

Mrs. Peters, who would be the second woman to head the department, joked that by following Mr. Mineta into the job, she felt “a little bit like Ginger Rogers must have felt with Fred Astaire.”

She served for 15 years in Arizona’s transportation department, including three years as its director, before coming to Washington to serve in the Federal Highway Administration. At the FHWA, she was an advocate for finding new ways to build infrastructure, and a particular booster of public-private partnerships. She left in 2005 to become a consultant.

Yesterday, she said that if confirmed to the job, she will tackle the task of updating the transportation system.

“We are experiencing increasing congestion on our nation’s highways, railways, airports and seaports. And we’re robbing our nation of productivity and our citizens of quality time with their families,” she said. “In some cases, this is the result of systems and structures that are more suited to a bygone era than to the 21st century.”

Arizona lawmakers said Mr. Bush made a smart pick.

“I have known Mary for many years, and I believe that she will bring a level of expertise to the job that is unmatched,” said Rep. John Shadegg, Arizona Republican.

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