Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood Leaves a Legacy

Ray Lahood/ Department of Transportation/Public Domain

When Ray Lahood became Transportation Secretary in 2009, I wrote Fox Guarding Henhouse Dept: Congressman from Caterpillar to Be Secretary of Transportation. In it, I complained that the former Congressman from Peoria was too closely tied to the world's largest manufacturer of roadbuilding equipment: " When you look under LaHood, you find he's Cat-Powered."

A year later, I was eating my words, after his announcement:

Today, I want to announce a sea change. People across America who value bicycling should have a voice when it comes to transportation planning. This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized.

True to his word, he backed significant increases in fuel economy, and was, as Peter Lehner notes at NRDC Switchboard, "an unexpected champion of green policies."

He poured investments into public transportation infrastructure, supported the development of livable, walkable communities, and emphasized regional cooperation on transportation alternatives through innovative, competitive grant programs. His focus on infrastructure helped shift the DOT’s priorities away from traditional highway-building and toward creating a more flexible, efficient, interconnected 21st-century transportation system—one that will help reduce our dependence on oil, improve air quality, and cut global warming pollution.

He was a big supporter of rail, public transit and access to public housing. In an impressive Accomplishments Overview, The DOT writes:

Livable and sustainable communities have also been a focus of DOT over the past four years – putting all travelers on equal footing, whether they get behind the wheel of a car or put on a pair of walking shoes. DOT has supported states and communities in their efforts to give citizens a wider array of transportation options, including high speed and intercity passenger rail, streetcars and comprehensive walking and biking paths.

His successor will have big walking shoes to fill.

Tags: Transportation | Washington DC

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