Tuesday, March 14, 2006

John Kerry to Put Hold on Bush Pick for Federal Highway Administration

John Kerry said today that he will prevent the former head of Boston's $14.6 billion Big Dig, Richard Capka, from becoming head of the Federal Highway Administration. Capka, was nominated earlier this month by Bush for the top highway job. He was chief executive officer of Boston Big Dig from January 2001 to June 2002 until his position was terminated.

"I'm afraid Richard Capka could be the Brownie of highways," Kerry said.

Though costs rose slightly during his 1 1/2-year tenure, Capka was mostly criticized for his failure to handle the political controversies surrounding the massive project. For example, he approved lucrative severance packages for several Big Dig lawyers.

Sen. Kerry, D-Mass., said he will place a hold on Capka's nomination, which would prevent the Senate from considering his nomination.

"Why on earth would he get a promotion?" Kerry said. "It looks like the administration is going to repeat a stunning pattern of rewarding people who screw up."

Matthew Amorello, chairman of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which manages the still-to-be-completed Big Dig, said Capka had to deal with a difficult political climate in the state. A toll increase to pay for the Big Dig "was dominating public debate here," Amorello said.

Kerry remembers the situation differently.

"When Capka oversaw Boston's Big Dig, he was fired for massive cost overruns and for giving lucrative severance packages of six months' salary to a bunch of lawyers," Kerry said.

The price tag for the Big Dig was believed to be $14 billion when Capka took over, $14.6 billion by the time he left. Capka, is a retired brigadier general with the Army Corps of Engineers, he became the acting administrator of FHA in August.


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