CEDAR RAPIDS — Paul Trombino III, who previously ran the Iowa Department of Transportation, appeared before a U.S. Senate committee Thursday considering his nomination to lead the Federal Highway Administration.
Trombino, who was nominated by President Donald Trump, was introduced to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works by Sen. Joni Ernst, who said she was “greatly optimistic” about his nomination.
Iowans are “proud of your nomination and believe there is no one better qualified to head the Federal Highway Administration, especially when we are at such a critical time for our nation’s infrastructure,” she said.
She called maintaining a robust transportation infrastructure, along with national defense, one of the federal government’s core functions and vital to the economy.
Ernst, who worked with Trombino while a member of the Iowa Senate, called him an “invaluable partner and resource.”
Noting that federal motor fuel tax revenues have been declining as vehicle fuel efficiency has improved, Ernst asked Trombino for his suggestions other than increasing the tax.
Trombino, 51, now the president of McClure Engineering in Clive, played a prominent role in winning the Iowa Legislature’s support for a 10-cent-a-gallon increase in the state gas tax that generated more than $200 million a year for transportation infrastructure projects.
That, Ernst said, “would really be an uphill battle here in Congress.”
Trombino said there are a number of alternatives, including fees, especially those related to freight transportation. Overall, he added, whatever Congress does, “the key ingredient, from my perspective, is providing flexibility for states.”
Providing states and communities with tools that allow them to “maximize dollars for a specific project is really the key ingredient.”
His role, Trombino told senators, would be to provide advice and counsel, but ultimately, it will be lawmakers who make the choice on how to fund the transportation system.
In addition to leading the Iowa DOT from 2011-16, Trombino had a similar role with the Wisconsin DOT from 2001-11 and was president of both the Mid-American Association of State Transportation Officials and American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.