Melinda Peters, who has overseen the design and construction of the 18.8-mile Intercounty Connector for the past six years, will now lead the Maryland State Highway Administration, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) announced Thursday.

Peters, 38, will stay with the ICC project through the six-lane toll highway’s full opening scheduled for Tuesday before moving to her new job in mid-December, said state Transportation Secretary Beverley Swaim-Staley. Peters will be the first woman to lead the highway administration. As project director for the $2.56 billion ICC , she was one of the youngest women in the country to lead a major transportation project.

Swaim-Staley said Peters will help prioritize state road projects. The highway administration has 3,100 employees and a $1.1 billion annual budget.

Peters, an engineer, joined the highway agency in 1995 and quickly rose through the ranks before leading construction on the ICC, the most expensive highway built in Maryland and one of the most controversial because of its cost and impact on surrounding neighborhoods, streams and wildlife.

Swaim-Staley said Peters was chosen for her strong leadership skills, management experience and ability to work with the public.

Peters said she had wanted to remain in public service after finishing the ICC, which has a one-mile section still to be built between I-95 and Route 1. She said she will recuse herself from any decisions that might affect a Baltimore transportation construction firm, P. Flanigan & Sons, where her husband, Phil J. Peters, oversees paving projects.

Peters replaces Neil Pedersen, who retired in the summer as state highway administrator.