Meet Your New Secretary Of Transportation: Ray LaHood

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Ray LaHood (Photo from Time)
Ray LaHood (Photo from Time)

It’s been a while since this was announced, so we decided to round up the talk across the internet about the incoming Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, to see what urban enthusiasts and progressive transportation gurus are thinking about Obama’s choice of cabinet leader.

Bike Portland blog starts us off:

LaHood is a long-time friend of Obama and has worked closely in the past with Obama’s Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel…

LaHood’s transportation record is mixed. He is certainly not as progressive as a Sadik-Khan or Blumenauer (an understatement), but he has supported stronger fuel standards for cars and has put political weight behind continued funding of Amtrak.

A quick read of some comments on various articles about this news shows a range of reactions, from downright anger to a “let’s wait-and-see what he does” tone.

So there doesn’t seem to be any extreme optimism, but generally a tone of maybe it could be okay. The Greater Greater Washington blog pays closer attention to the words of Obama and LaHood in trying to determine where this choice could lead:

In accepting the nomination, LaHood added, “As a nation, we need to continue to be the world leader in infrastructure development, Amtrak, mass transit, light rail, air travel, and our roads and bridges all play a vital role in our economy and our well-being as a nation.” On the other hand, he later called the federal transportation spending bill the “Highway Bill”

LaHood has a proven track record as a bike advocate but also has close ties to the highway lobby. Most seem to agree that any major transportation reform will be slow in coming as evidenced by the appointment. Here’s a note from StreetsBlog:

As President George W. Bush did before him, Obama has chosen to use the transportation secretary slot as a place to show bipartisanship. “This sends the message that the transportation secretary is a throw-away political appointment who doesn’t matter,’ said a city transportation official who, like others, asked to remain anonymous to preserve their relationship with the U.S. DOT. “This is the slot for the token Republican. It’s the bottom of the barrel. A bone you can throw.”

There’s a little more reading on Ray over at Time. Transportation is one of the most important aspects of city life, sustainability, and quality of life. We hope to see a more well rounded outlook toward transportation emerge in the upcoming years, and that specifically means transit. It’s good that so many people are beginning to talk about the subject regularly and it seems to be in the news more than ever, but can Louisville find a seat at the table? So what do you think about Ray LaHood as Secretary of Transportation and what goals in policy and in the stimulus would you like to see emerge out of the new administration?

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Branden Klayko

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