Rosselló Designates Blind Engineer to Head DTOP and ACT
SAN JUAN—Puerto Rico Governor-elect Ricardo Rosselló designated Carlos Contreras, an engineer, as secretary of the Department of Transportation & Public Works and executive director of the Highways & Transportation Authority (DTOP and ACT by their respective Spanish acronyms).
During a press conference Thursday, Rosselló said that Contreras, who is blind, has a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in civil engineering with a specialty in transportation from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez campus.
“We are pleased that Contreras has accepted joining our administration and offer his expertise and commitment to public service. His designation sets a historic precedent because it is the first time that a blind person occupies the position of secretary at DTOP,” Rosselló said.
Contreras immediately said he was grateful and honored for the designation and pointed out that ACT and DTOP have been an essential part of his professional career.
“I feel like I’m coming home. DTOP is my second home, I have worked from the inside and the outside, [and that gives one a clear idea of] what needs to be changed and what is necessary, and now Dr. Rosselló has given me the opportunity to carry out those changes. I know the work team at DTOP, they know me firsthand, and I know we will have a great working relationship,” the nominee said.
Contreras Aponte, originally from San Lorenzo, was head of ACT’s Traffic Engineering Office as well as assistant executive director of transit and highways. He was also the person in charge of supervising the modernization of toll technology on the island’s highway network.
“My approach is that we should look outside the box. We need investment. We have made million-dollar investments but have not allocated any money for maintenance. That can be improved. Nowadays we do banking transactions by phone and I wonder why we cannot do the same with services offered by Cesco [Drivers Service Centers their Spanish acronym]. I’m not saying that Cesco offices should be eliminated, only that certain transactions can be carried out remotely and only do those that are absolutely necessary on-site at the Cesco,” he said.
The engineer went on to question why, if US passports can be renewed by mail, the same cannot be done with local driver’s licenses.
“Some would say that there are security issues involved, but we are in the 21st century and we still have a 20th century mindset. We have ideas in mind to avoid congestion in traffic-prone areas… I know that [the governor-elect] arrived at a difficult time, competed with six candidates, and had people vote for him based on promises that he made. I will be an official who is going to work day and night to fulfill those promises,” he added.
The nominee added that a balance needs to be struck between the service and infrastructure elements at DTOP and ACT. “I’m sure that people in [the island municipality of] Vieques are not concerned about bridges. They care about the ferry service running properly, yet some people forget that Vieques is part of Puerto Rico, yet they’d rather have the funds assigned to the public bus system that hass a stop right in front of their house,” he said.