President Bush has chosen Mary Peters, a former federal highway administrator, to succeed Norman Mineta as secretary of transportation, a senior administration official said Tuesday.
Bush was to announce his choice in the Roosevelt Room of the White House later in the day.
Peters spent three years directing the Arizona Department of Transportation, where she worked her way up through the ranks during a 16-year career there. Since November, Peters has been national director for transportation policy and consulting in the Phoenix office of Omaha-based architectural, engineering and consulting firm HDR Inc., according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official announcement had not been made.
Peters, who was chief of the Federal Highway Administration from 2001 to 2005, fills a Cabinet seat left open when Mineta left the job in July after six years on the job. Bush wanted to announce his choice as the Senate returned from its August recess so the confirmation process could begin.
Peters is an advocate of user fees, or tolls, for building new highways. In a recent interview, she said that the federal highway program will run out of money by decade's end without substantial changes and, rather than raise taxes, some states are turning to toll roads already to fill gaps.
"You just can't depend on the federal government to bring the money in that was around when the interstate system was first built," Peters said.
Peters is a fourth-generation Arizonan. She holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Phoenix and attended Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government Program for State and Local Government Executives. She and her husband, Terry, have three grown children.
A year ago, Peters was exploring a candidacy for governor of Arizona. Last November, she dropped her gubernatorial bid to challenge Democratic incumbent Janet Napolitano after a fellow Republican, already in the race, raised questions about Peters' eligibility.
The Arizona Constitution requires that candidates to have been Arizona "citizens" five years before the election, but Peters lived in Virginia and registered to vote in that state while serving during Bush's first term.
Peters said that she believed she still was eligible to run for governor and always intended to return to Arizona after her federal service, but that she stepped aside because the issue would have been too much of a distraction.
Mineta was the only Democrat in Bush's Cabinet. There had been speculation for years that he was on the verge of quitting, sometimes because of his health and sometimes because or rumors about a cabinet shake-up. Instead, Mineta became the longest-serving transportation secretary since the department was formed in 1967.
After the Sept. 11 hijackings, Mineta oversaw the hasty creation of the much-maligned Transportation Security Administration, which took over responsibility for aviation security from the airlines.
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