Bush taps pro-toller for new Transportatioon Secretary

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President Names Secretary of Transportation
By Johanna Neuman
Times Staff Writer
September 5, 2006

WASHINGTON — President Bush today named Mary Peters, a former chief of the Federal Highway Administration, to succeed Norman Mineta as Secretary of Transportation.

“Mary Peters knows the legacy she has to live up to,” said Bush, who praised Mineta for serving “with integrity and distinction” during his six years in the post, the longest term in U.S. history.

Peters also praised Mineta, the former San Jose mayor who served in Congress for 20 years and was the only Democrat in Bush’s Cabinet. Following Mineta, who oversaw the hasty creation of the Transportation Security Administration after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, would be “a bit like Ginger Rogers…I’ll be dancing backward in high heels,” she said.

Peters is a fourth-generation Arizonan, who headed that state’s Department of Transportation for three years and headed the Federal Highway Administration from 2001 to 2005. Last year, she contemplated running for governor of Arizona against Democratic incumbent Janet Napolitano but dropped out after a fellow Republican questioned her eligibility as an Arizonan because she had lived in Virginia during Bush’s first term.

Since November, Peters has been serving as national director for transportation policy in the Phoenix office of HDR, an architectural and engineering firm based in Omaha.

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

In a recent interview, Peters advocated tolls for building new highways. “You just can’t depend on the federal government to bring the money in that was around when the interstate system was first built,” she said.

In today’s remarks, Peters talked of modernizing the nation’s transportation systems.

“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,” Peters 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.”

She also thanked her parents and grandparents, now deceased, because “they taught me anything is possible,” and she thanked God, “for without Him, nothing is possible.”