A former New York transportation official who helped obtain a $2.9 billion statewide bond package for transit, highway, and bridge projects, sailed through a Senate committee hearing Wednesday, earning bipartisan support for his nomination to head the Federal Highway Administration.
Thomas J. Madison Jr., currently president of Spectra Subsurface Imaging Group in New York, was nominated for the post by President Bush on July 15.
Members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, along with New York Democratic Sens. Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer, roundly praised Madison as a strong candidate to work toward fixing the nation's crumbling infrastructure.
Madison opened his testimony by saying he believes "the traditional pillars of government transportation financing are no longer sufficient."
The senators questioned his opinions on Bush administration proposals - one day after the Department of Transportation sent out a massive plan to overhaul the transportation system in part by promoting more private investment.
As a commissioner of the New York State Department of Transportation, Madison helped push for the $2.9 billion Rebuild and Renew New York Transportation Bond Act of 2005 that authorized funds for mass transit, roads, bridges, airports and rail in the state.
Clinton asked if Madison supported the president's request to shore up the highway trust fund using $8 billion from the mass transit account, instead of transferring general funds into the trust fund. The fund is headed for a $3.1 billion shortfall. Madison said the president's proposal "has merit" on an "as-needed basis."
Madison gave a nod to the DOT's financing overhaul plan in response to comments from Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., the committee's ranking minority member. While gasoline taxes will "always" be a funding component, Madison said, infrastructure work will take "a real departure from how we've done things in the past" through mechanisms such as public-private partnerships, concession agreements, and congestion pricing.
Madison could not be reached for comment by press time. The committee's recommendation and full Senate confirmation vote have not yet been scheduled.