Kerry lifts hold on Capka nomination

News AASHTO Journal May 31, 2006
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U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) recently announced that he has released his hold on the nomination of Richard Capka to serve as Federal Highway Administrator. In a statement, Kerry said he met with Capka on Wednesday, May 24, and determined, after "having a very candid conversation with him," that the hold should be lifted.

"Mr. Capka answered my detailed questions in a way that satisfied my concerns," said Kerry, who had raised questions about Capka's past service as chief of executive officer of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority.

"I'm confident that he understands that Congress expects aggressive oversight of highway projects to ensure that the government is as careful with taxpayers' money as they are with their own," Kerry said.

Capka was nominated by President George W. Bush to the post of Federal Highway Administrator early in March, and his nomination was supported by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in April. But the nomination was blocked from proceeding on the Senate floor by Kerry's hold on the nomination. At the time, Kerry expressed concerns about Capka's tenure at the Massachusetts agency, which had oversight of the Central Artery/Third Harbor Tunnel project that had previously been plagued by cost overruns.

Capka, of Pennsylvania, also served as deputy FHWA administrator and as acting administrator since the resignation of former Administrator Mary Peters in August 2005. Capka also was in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for 29 years; he is a retired Brigadier General. Capka holds a bachelor's degree from the U.S. Military Academy and master's degrees from the University of California at Berkeley and from Chaminade University in Honolulu.

At the time the hold went on the nomination, AASHTO Executive Director John Horsley vigorously supported Capka's nomination, saying Capka showed strong leadership in FHWA's work to restore transportation to the hurricane-stricken Gulf Coast last year and in the speedy reconstruction of an Interstate highway bridge in Oklahoma that was struck in 2002 by a barge that strayed from a river shipping channel.

On Thursday, May 25, AASHTO officials said they were pleased the hold had been lifted and that Capka's nomination could proceed through Congress.

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