American Shipper

Ex-MarAd chief Connaughton to lead Virginia DOT

Ex-MarAd chief Connaughton to lead Virginia DOT


   Republican governor-elect Bob McConnell of Virginia named Sean Connaughton, who served three years as Maritime Administration administrator under President George W. Bush, to be his secretary of transportation.

   Connaughton, a Republican, was chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors before heading MarAd. He currently is vice president of the American Bureau of Shipping, a marine classification society that verifies vessels meet design, construction and operational standards. He is a graduate of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and as a private lawyer specialized in maritime and international law. He served as an officer in the Coast Guard and then as a civilian in its Office of Marine Safety, Security, and Environmental Protection. He also worked for the American Petroleum Institute representing companies in the energy and ocean tanker transportation industries.

   During the gubernatorial campaign McConnell proposed using money from the general fund to pay for transportation needs, raising money by privatizing the state-run Alcohol Beverage Control stores and putting toll booths on I-95 to capture money from out-of-state drivers. He opposes raising taxes. Critics say that using general fund monies without raising taxes would take from education and other priorities.

   McConnell, who takes office Jan. 16, said Connaughton's maritime background will be valuable as the state decides how to improve the Port of Virginia in Norfolk. State officials are currently considering three private sector bids to take over operation of the port in exchange for a large upfront payment and annual contributions. The Virginia Port Authority is also negotiating to lease a large private container terminal from APM Terminals to expand capacity and coordinate operations with other terminals under its management.

   The Virginia Department of Transportation has laid off thousands of workers and slashed its operating and capital budgets by billions of dollars during the past two years to cope with the decline in gas tax revenues and federal allocations. Gov. Tim Kaine and the legislature were unable to agree on any transportation plan even as constituents, businesses and experts agreed that transportation congestion was one of the state's key problem areas.

   As the Prince William County chairman, Connaughton dealt with road building and congestion issues.

   Connaughton will replace Pierce Homer as secretary of transportation. ' Eric Kulisch