The Washington Post has an odd but interesting profile today of three officials in the Department of Transportation—Tyler Duvall, D.J. Gribbin, and Mary Peters—who believe in, and are actively working toward, the use of market forces in improving the nation's transportation system.
When Democrats took control of Congress and stripped most earmarks from last year's federal budget, Peters took $850 million that would have been shipped to hundreds of municipalities and poured it into Urban Partnerships, a pilot program awarded to five cities on the condition that they test congestion pricing. […]
[T]he goal is not just to combat congestion but to upend the traditional way transportation projects are funded in this country. They believe that tolls paid by motorists, not tax dollars, should be used to construct and maintain roads.
They and other political appointees have spent the latter part of President Bush's two terms laboring behind the scenes to shrink the federal role in road-building and public transportation. They have also sought to turn highways into commodities that can be sold or leased to private firms and used by motorists for a price. In Duvall and Gribbin's view, unleashing the private sector and introducing market forces could lead to innovation and more choices for the public, much as the breakup of AT&T transformed telecommunications.
So how are they viewed by transit advocates and Democrats?
"Tyler Duvall is a little pointy-headed neocon with grand ideas about the future of transportation, and they all involve tolling," [House Transportation and Infrastructure highways and transit subcommittee chairman Peter] DeFazio said. "He's bright, young, energetic—just totally wrong, and has a bizarre, neocon view of transportation."