The Senate early Saturday confirmed President George W. Bush's nomination of Mary Peters as the new U.S. secretary of transportation.

Peters, a former federal highway administrator, succeeds Norman Mineta, a Democrat who resigned in July after six years in office.

In a statement issued by the White House, Bush said Peters is "an innovative thinker who will work with state and local leaders to confront challenges and solve problems."

Peters, 57, who spent most of her career in government highway jobs, is a strong advocate of privatizing roads. But highways are only a part of the Transportation Department's portfolio. The 60,000-person department also regulates aviation, railroads, pipelines, transit and motor carriers.

Her biggest challenges will be reducing highway, airport and seaport congestion. The administration in May announced a strategy to reduce highway congestion. It calls for selecting up to five interstate corridors for long-term investment.

Peters spent three years as head of the Arizona Department of Transportation and 3 1/2 years as head of the Federal Highway Administration. Since November, she has been national director for transportation policy and consulting in the Phoenix office of HDR, an architectural and engineering firm.

She explored a candidacy for governor of Arizona last November but dropped her bid after questions were raised about her residency status.