Obama picks second in command for Department of Transportation

The president continued filling out the top echelon of the department by selecting Maryland Department of Transportation head John Porcari as deputy secretary.

President Obama today filled another significant post at the US Department of Transportation. He chose John Porcari to be the next deputy secretary of the department, subject to Congressional approval.

Since 2007, Porcari has served as the secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT), a position which he also held from 1999 to 2002.

Porcari oversaw MDOT’s delivery of the $2.4 billion Woodrow Wilson Bridge over the Potomac River between Maryland and Virginia.

Under his watch, the department also secured a $516 million loan from the US government’s TIFIA (Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act) credit program for the Intercounty Connector toll road in suburban Washington DC.

Like his boss, US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Porcari has expressed approval for the inclusion of private sector participation alongside state and federal infrastructure funding.

“You can have substantial private sector participation in road projects and transit projects. People talk about these very large-scale public-private partnerships … but the bread and butter of public-private partnerships is making sure that private sector development is working hand-in-hand with our capital program”, Porcari told local media during a one-on-one interview shortly after his inauguration as MDOT head in January 2007.

It is the second major appointment to the department in as many weeks. Last week Obama selected Victor Mendez, former director of the Arizona Department of Transportation, to the US Federal Highway Administration.

The Department of Transportation will play a key role in President Obama’s economic recovery plan by administering its share of the $787 billion economic stimulus bill passed by Congress in February.
It will also play a key role in shaping the debate over the reauthorisation of the US’ surface transportation spending bill known as SAFETEA-LU, which expires in September 2009.