President Obama wants Maine native Greg Nadeau to be the next head of the Federal Highway Administration.

Nadeau, who originally is from Lewiston and remains a resident there, has been deputy administrator of the agency, which oversees billions in highway and transportation funding, since 2009. Obama on Friday announced his intention to nominate Nadeau, but officials at the Department of Transportation said there’s no timetable for hearings on Nadeau, who needs Senate confirmation to the post.

Nadeau will be faced with a big issue right at the beginning of his new job, with the authorization to spend money from the Highway Trust Fund set to expire at the end of the month. Nadeau said Friday that an extension of the authorization – there have been 32 since 2004 without Congress taking any steps to overhaul the system – is critical.

“The state of the trust fund is an ongoing issue,” he said in a telephone interview Friday night. “It’s certainly no way to run a capital program.”

Nadeau said Obama has proposed increasing the trust fund to allow spending to grow by about $11 billion over the next six years, but many in Congress oppose an increase in the federal gas tax that would be needed to raise that money. Nadeau noted that the last time Congress increased the gas tax was 1992.

Nadeau said a solution is needed because traffic, particularly freight traffic, is expected to continue to increase as the country’s population grows.

“We have to find a way to invest in the infrastructure in an innovative way,” he said. “Our parents and grandparents built the greatest infrastructure in the world and we can’t squander that inheritance.”

Nadeau said most states rely on money from the trust fund to pay for 45 to 50 percent of road and highway construction costs. Because of the uncertainty over the trust fund authorization, he said, some states have put those construction projects on hold, which not only allows roads, bridges and tunnels to deteriorate more, but also costs jobs.

Nadeau has deep roots in Maine government. From 2003 until 2009, he was deputy commissioner for policy, planning and communication for the Maine Department of Transportation. He was also a senior policy adviser to Gov. Angus King from 1995 to 2002 and represented Lewiston in the Maine House of Representatives from 1978 to 1990.

“As a trusted advisor during my time in the governor’s office, he provided me with invaluable advice and sound counsel, and I am confident that he will do the same for the President,” King, now Maine’s junior U.S. senator, said in a statement Friday evening. “I commend the President on his wise choice, and look forward to working closely with Greg to modernize America’s highway system.”

King later tweeted that the president had “chosen an experienced and thoughtful leader” for the FHA, then added, “naturally, he’s a Mainer.”

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, also praised Nadeau, saying she has worked with him on several Maine transportation projects.

“I am delighted the President has nominated him,” Collins said in a statement. “This is well-earned recognition of Greg’s expertise in transportation policy.”

Nadeau said he has managed to maintain his Lewiston residency despite a job in Washington that, naturally, requires a lot of travel.

“I tell people I live in Maine and I work in Washington,” he said.

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