Mary E. Peters
Administrator-Designate, Federal Highway Administration
Committee on Environment and Public Works
United States Senate
September 21, 2001
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today as you consider my nomination for Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration.† I am sincerely honored to have been nominated for this position by President Bush, with the concurrence of Secretary Mineta.† Should you choose to confirm me I look forward to working with this committee, each of you, and your staff to administer the Federal highway program.† I recognize the historic contributions this committee has made to surface transportation and the key role it has played in shaping national transportation policy.†
Transportation affects every person in our country and each one of them, every man, woman and child, has the right to expect a safe, accessible, affordable and reliable transportation system.† This expectation should be honored, whether it be that of a child living within tribal nation boundaries who needs an education; a person with disabilities, like my own brother, who needs access to training services; parents who need to spend less time commuting and more time with their children, or a senior citizen who needs mobility options.† It is for these, our ultimate customers, that we provide transportation services.
Transportation that is responsive to the citizens and businesses we serve is vitally important to our nationís economic health and the quality of life of every American.† There are a number of factors to be considered in ensuring that transportation meets these needs.†
I would like to mention four of them today Ė national security, public safety, quality of life, and commerce.† I would normally always mention safety first.† However, after the terrorist attacks on September 11, I thought it important not to distinguish between public safety and national security on a priority basis.†
The Interstate Highway System met a need identified during World War II, providing a coast-to-coast highway system that would allow this country to efficiently move troops and equipment, and respond to natural disasters.† While the system is now complete, it is essential that it be operated and maintained in a manner that continues to enable the safe and efficient mobilization of military forces and deployment of disaster response resources.† As last weekís tragic events demonstrated, it is essential that our highway system, indeed our entire transportation system, dependably serve public safety, disaster response and recovery, and other national security requirements.
Transportation is important to public safety in a number of aspects, including safety of the infrastructure itself and the ability of police, fire and other emergency response personnel to reach the incidents to which they are responding.† Most importantly, we must make our highways safer for all who use them.† Too many die or are injured on our roads.† In addition, if an ambulance is stuck in traffic, or a fire truck cannot reach the blaze, our public safety needs cannot be met.† An efficient, effective transportation system is a crucial component of public safety.
Mobility is a key component to a good quality of life.† The ability to safely, efficiently and predictably get to our jobs, our childrenís activities, our religious services, to obtain medical services, shop for our needs or take a vacation are all affected by our nationís transportation systems.
Economic growth and our ability to compete in a global economy are dependent on transportation systems and services.† As Secretary Mineta has mentioned, when he served as Mayor of San Jose, California, he learned that transportation was the most effective tool available to him in fostering economic development.† The ability for commerce to move in a seamless, efficient transportation system can position our country to remain a leader in the world economy or inhibit our ability to do so.† Building the Interstate Highway System and designating the National Highway System were strong steps toward ensuring viable interstate commerce.† Now we must ensure that the operation of that system supports, rather than hinders, commerce.
To respond to these factors, if I am confirmed, I would immediately focus on several priority areas.† These are highway safety, environmental streamlining, stewardship of public funds, congestion and bottlenecks, and of course reauthorization.
While progress has been made, more than 40,000 persons lose their lives every year in highway crashes, and more than 3 million are injured.† Ninety-four percent of all transportation fatalities occur on highways, and if confirmed I would make it a top priority to improve highway safety. Using the three-pronged approach of engineering, enforcement and education we can improve our safety record and reduce lives lost on the nationís highways.† We must ensure that available funds are spent in ways that generate the greatest possible improvements for our investment.† Rumble strips, for example, are an excellent, relatively low-cost, way to reduce run-off-the-road crashes that occur predominantly on rural two-lane roadway sections.† Another area of emphasis is work zone safety, both for highway workers and the public.†
I believe that we can be respectful stewards of the environment while improving review processes so they are more efficient and less duplicative.† Secretary Mineta has said that taking longer does not necessarily result in a better project.† If confirmed, I would work with you, my fellow modal administrators, state and local officials, the environmental community, industry and others to develop methods for streamlining the environmental approval processes while remaining mindful of the critical importance of environmental stewardship.
In my position as Director of the Arizona Department of Transportation, I frequently reminded people in my agency that the funds we had been entrusted with to accomplish our mission were indeed the publicís money.† I bring that strong belief to the position for which I have been nominated, and if confirmed will work to further improve and strengthen oversight and accountability of the public funds entrusted to the Federal Highway Administration.† This includes the responsibility to accurately and completely estimate and disclose costs at the onset of all projects, as well as to monitor progress and expenditures during the life of projects to ensure we indeed get what we are paying for.
Congestion and bottlenecks have a detrimental effect on air quality, commerce, and our overall quality of life; it is both expensive and aggravating.† This growing level of congestion is, of course, the result of demand significantly outpacing capacity; however, the solution is not just to add capacity.† Congestion must be approached from a systemic and operational standpoint, using a variety of tools including technology, intermodal and multimodal solutions as well as capacity improvements.† In addition, there are a number of options to complete construction projects more quickly once they are approved.† If confirmed, I would make relieving congestion a top priority.
The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) and the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) were landmark pieces of legislation.† These acts, including firewalls, minimum guarantees and flexibility provided the funding and tools that allowed transportation directors, such as myself, to be significantly more responsive in meeting the stateís transportation needs. The upcoming 2003 Transportation Reauthorization provides an opportunity for us collectively to build on these successes as well as to be forward-focused on the transportation challenges and opportunities in the 21st Century.† We can take this opportunity to encourage innovation and take advantage of the exponential gains possible when the public and private sectors collaborate to meet these challenges.† If confirmed, I look forward to working with you on transportation reauthorization.
I have spent more than fifteen years in the transportation field.† I have had the opportunity to be involved in a number of local, regional and national transportation issues as State Director of Transportation in Arizona.† In that capacity, I had responsibility for highway, transit, rail and aviation transportation functions, as well as motor carrier programs, driver licensing and vehicle registration, and tax collection and distribution.† This experience afforded me the opportunity to recognize the importance of dealing systemically and inclusively with issues, remaining mindful of the integration of the various modal functions in arriving at solutions for the many transportation challenges in a rapidly growing state like Arizona.†
I bring this experience to the position for which I have been nominated, as well as knowledge in the technical aspects of planning, building and operating transportation systems, the use of technology in arriving at solutions, and a background in the finance and economics of these systems.† I have the management and leadership skills to work with Secretary Mineta to lead the Federal Highway Administration in a clear, strategic direction should I be confirmed.†
Recognizing the many demands on your time, I sincerely appreciate the opportunity you have afforded me to appear before you today as you consider my nomination.† I would be pleased to respond to any questions you may have.