Peters' way

News AASHTO Journal December 11, 2001
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In her first address to the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials (AASHTO), new FHWA Administrator M

In her first address to the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials (AASHTO), new FHWA Administrator Mary Peters stressed redirection.


"Congestion is a problem of demand outpacing capacity," she said. "We need to break the anti-highway cycle that has plagued us. Sometimes transportation really is about asphalt, concrete and steel.


"This is not a social policy agency, it's a transportation agency and we need to grasp that now."


Input from AASHTO and other industry and stakeholder organizations was considered during a two-day retreat that developed the following priority focus areas:

* Safety and security--Peters said the highway system had performed well following the Sept. 11 tragedy, when all aviation services were shutdown. Regarding highway safety, she said the annual loss of life on the nation's highways--more than 40,000 fatalities--equaled the entire population of Flagstaff, Ariz. Reducing that toll, she said, "is our business and we must do something about it."

* Environmental streamlining--Calling the topic "a soap box issue," Peters said "we can improve processes and still be respectful of the environment. We are not jack-booted thugs who will pave over Bambi and the entire world. We will work with others to resolve these issues. The failure to resolve them has not been a staff issue. It's a leadership issue, and we will lead."

* Stewardship and accountability--Accountability for the proper use of federal funds is another key priority. "We promise to do this with you, not to you," Peters said.

* Congestion--According to the FHWA Administrator, congestion and bottlenecks wast time, money and productivity, so capacity issues must be addressed.

* Reauthorization--Peters said the FHWA is at work developing proposals for the reauthorization of the federal-aid highway program. She cited concerns including preservation of firewalls, preservation of minimum guarantees and flexibility as key priorities, adding the FHWA also will examine issues as the appropriate federal role.


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