UPDATE: The Senate Environment & Public Works Committee Feb. 5 approved Nicole Nason’s nomination by voice vote.
By Rich Juliano, senior vice president for policy, ARTBA
Nicole Nason, President Donald Trump’s choice to head the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), took a step forward in the nomination process with her Jan. 29 confirmation hearing before the Senate Environment & Public Works (EPW) Committee. Nason told the committee her top priorities would be promoting safety on the nation’s roadways, exploring new technology (especially those which apply to multiple transportation modes) and traveling to see federal-aid highway projects and agency personnel around the country.
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), the EPW Committee’s chairman, pledged his support for the nominee, while Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), its ranking member, also made favorable comments.
Nason currently serves as assistant secretary for administration at the U.S. Department of State, where her portfolio includes construction and maintenance of diplomatic facilities around the world. During the administration of President George W. Bush, she served as assistant secretary of transportation for government affairs and administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Former U.S Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta introduced Nason to the committee during the hearing. Based on favorable experience with Nason in her previous roles, ARTBA endorsed her nomination in letters to Sens. Barrasso and Carper.
The FHWA administrator leads the agency’s 2,900 employees in delivering the $45 billion federal-aid highway program, along with the state departments of transportation. The administrator also plays a leading role on policy initiatives important to the transportation construction industry. The position has remained vacant since President Trump took office in January 2017. A previous nominee withdrew in late 2017 because of a family medical circumstance. Deputy Administrator Brandye Hendrickson, a Trump appointee whose position does not require Senate confirmation, has led the agency since July 2017.
The next step for Nason is reporting of her nomination by the EPW Committee, which if favorable will be followed by a vote of the full Senate. While there appear to be no direct obstacles to Nason’s nomination, the process can be delayed by unrelated legislative and political maneuvering. ARTBA will continue to follow developments closely.