A former New York state transportation official who helped obtain $2.9 billion of bonds for highway and other projects and pushed for more private investment in state infrastructure has cleared the final hurdle to become administrator of the Federal Highway Administration.
The U.S. Senate voted Friday to confirm Thomas J. Madison, Jr., and he is expected to be sworn in during the next two weeks as the new administrator. Madison is currently president of Spectra Subsurface Imaging Group in New York and was nominated for the post by President Bush on July 15.
Madison will head the FHWA as Congress considers new legislation for transportation funding - the current law expires on Sept. 30, 2009 - and at a time when the Bush administration is encouraging more public-private partnerships for infrastructure projects. The federal highway trust fund that relies mostly on gasoline and diesel fuel taxes is expected to have at least a $3.1 billion shortfall by the end of fiscal 2009.
Madison breezed through a Senate committee hearing Wednesday. He fielded questions about his opinion of administration proposals for a transportation funding overhaul, testifying that the government's traditional infrastructure financing mechanisms are insufficient.
In an interview yesterday, Madison said he has not been briefed on, or seen "in detail," a massive transportation overhaul plan released by the Department of Transportation last week, but that he supports the use of both federal and private sector funding for transportation projects. The DOT's plan would eliminate a $15 billion cap on transportation private-activity bonds, require states to consider P3s before qualifying for federal aid in some cases, and encourage the use of state infrastructure banks.
"I believe that any way we can use government funds to try to stimulate private interest or infuse outside capital in appropriate ways in our infrastructure will be useful," Madison said.
Madison helped win voter approval of the $2.9 billion Rebuild and Renew New York Transportation Bond Act of 2005, as a commissioner of the New York State Department of Transportation. The act authorized general obligation funds for mass transit, roads, bridges, airports, and rail. He also pushed for P3-funded infrastructure in New York in 2006. Seventeen organizations that year responded to a request for proposals from the state's DOT for financial consulting.
Ted Phillips contributed to this story.