WASHINGTON -- The House Democratic Caucus on Tuesday tapped Rep. Norman Y. Mineta, D-Calif., to be the new chairman of the House Public Works and Transportation Committee.

The House body voted, 242 to 7, to select Mineta, whose bid for the chair was largely uncontested. Mineta is replacing Robert Roe, D-N.J., who is retiring.

As chairman in recent years of the panel's surface transportation subcommittee, Mineta played a key role in drafting the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1990. It provided a record $150 billion over five years for highways and mass transit projects.

Mineta is known for his savvy about public finance issues. He helped draft the intricate and innovative financing provisions of the highway law that, among other things, permit for the first time a mixture of public and private funding for most transportation projects.

Mineta also championed the creation of a uniform 20% federal matching share requirement for state and local contributions to transportation projects, a move applauded by state and municipal groups.

The landmark highway reauthorization law also was one of Roe's crowning achievements. But the longtime public works advocate said he was retiring in part because of the frustrations of trying to enact such ambitious domestic spending bills in a Congress preoccupied with the deficit.

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