Ray LaHood Pledges Successor Will Continue His Legacy

Feb 13th, 2013 | Posted by

Outgoing Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has been doing some exit interviews with the media, and in them, he makes it clear that the changes he has helped push through – from supporting high speed rail to giving equal time to non-motorized forms of transportation – will last under his successor.

Tanya Snyder of Streetsblog has a very good interview with LaHood:

RL: So the president will be looking for somebody who will continue to carry out his vision for infrastructure, for transportation, for livable and sustainable communities, for making sure that people have lots of transportation alternatives — and the jobs that are created as a result of it…

TS: One of the very bold things that you did was stand on a tabletop and declare the equality of non-motorized transportation. Do you feel like that is an ethic that is deeply permeated in the department, or is that something that could leave with you? Or leave with President Obama?

RL: I think that the team of people that we have put together in the department, almost all of whom will be there after I’m gone, all of whom will support whoever the next secretary is, believe in the agenda that we have promoted, believe very strongly in alternative forms of transportation, promoting bike-share programs, promoting streetcars, promoting bus rapid transit, promoting light rail, promoting livable and sustainable communities, promoting alternative transportation.

I believe that this agenda will continue to be carried out by a very, very talented group of people that we put together over the last four years that will support the president’s vision and support the vision that DOT is not just about building roads and bridges. It’s about a lot of other opportunities for transportation for people. And I think people should not worry about that.

That’s all fantastic news. Things like bike share, streetcars, and light rail all matter both for building better cities. From a narrow high speed rail perspective, they also matter for providing great connections to riders at their points of arrival and departure. California high speed rail stations will be urban stations, built in city centers, and the experience of taking the bullet train is made that much better by having more trains and bike infrastructure at the station to use once you step off the HSR system.

LaHood had more to say about high speed rail in speaking to Burgess Everett of Politico:

It’s all a work in progress that will take energy, patience and a grass-roots effort to convince lawmakers of high-speed rail’s viability, LaHood said. “The people are so far ahead of most politicians on this,” he added….

“There’s no turning back. Do not be dissuaded by a few detractors. Do not be dissuaded by people without a transportation vision,” LaHood advised his audience. “The last group of transportation officials left us an interstate system. What we will leave to the next generation is high-speed rail.”

LaHood was very clear that, as we’ve known, support for HSR comes from the very top:

Now, it will be up to the next secretary to continue the task of selling the vision. LaHood is confident the administration will stay on track.

“You’ll continue to get a lot of encouragement from the Department of Transportation, from this administration and from the president,” LaHood said.

And the moderate Republican made it clear that he isn’t a fan of fast trains just because he’s in the Obama administration.

“I have no idea what I’m going to be doing,” LaHood said when asked about his future. “But I will continue to be passionate about high-speed rail, I can tell you that.”

That support is important, even if – and especially if – Congressional Republican hostility to high speed continues. President Obama is, as LaHood said, planning to be bolder here in his second term, and that will likely include seeking ways to overcome that hostility to continue building out a national high speed rail network.

We don’t know yet who the president will nominate to take LaHood’s place, though there are rumors and speculation. But what LaHood is saying is that ultimately it won’t much matter – a new course has been charted, a better and more sustainable course for transportation in America, and as long as Barack Obama is president, that course will be kept.

  1. StevieB
    Feb 14th, 2013 at 09:17

    Secretary LaHood told StreetsBlog “when the president gets focused on infrastructure and transportation, I think you’ll see a bold vision.”

    We’ve relied for years and years and years — for decades — on the highway trust fund to fund everything. And that’s a very limited resource now because people are driving less and driving more fuel-efficient cars. And people are also using alternative forms of transportation, other than gasoline-powered automobiles.

    So I think everybody who has a stake in transportation needs to think outside the box on how are we going to fund all the things that we need to do. And I think we need to be leaders on that too, here in Washington. And I think you’ll see the president lead on that.

  2. synonymouse
    Feb 14th, 2013 at 10:41

    Forget the Beltway Bureaucracy – our locals really know how to blow the bucks:


    I used to work there when it was the PCC. What a farce.

    Meanwhile environmentalists want concessions at Tehachapi:


    VBobier Reply:

    As mentioned there on Your 2nd link, Tunnels would be the answer, at least partly possibly.

    synonymouse Reply:

    A lot of discontent in Northern Italy over a railroad tunnel:


    Now if we could just transfer the tbm, workers, and money to the Bear Trap Canyon. Unlike Italy-France we do not have an existing railroad on our key link between our two “countries” – Norcal and Socal.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    there is one, it’s over the Tehachapi

    Paul H. Reply:

    It’s been about 5 years and Syn still hasn’t come out of his denial over this fact.

    VBobier Reply:

    I doubt Syno ever will, He has a one track mind from what I’ve read here.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Whatever happened to Morris and Spokker?

  3. Travis D
    Feb 14th, 2013 at 13:36

    So does anyone have any idea when we will get the next draft EIR?

    Will the Fresno-Bakersfield be certified in April?

    Roger Christensen Reply:

    Dan Richard told one of the Hanford locals that it is expected to be April.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Clarification: a “preferred alternative” (ie the route) is expected to be chosen in April. After this, the consultants can finish up a Final EIR. End of the year?

    Paul H. Reply:

    ie the Hanford West alignment, staying mostly on the BNSF south of Hanford with the possiblilty of a bypass in Corcoran and/or Allensworth.

    That’s my prediction.

    Jo Reply:

    I am not sure, but will the Hanford West alignment cost less? I believe it is shorter.

    Paul H. Reply:

    Yes shorter, takes less farm land, connects back up to the BNSF ROW quicker and the potential station is closer to the ‘downtown’ of Hanford. I also believe it is cheaper than the eastern alignment. It’s the one part of the alignment I know for sure will be picked. The other bypass or no-bypass choices I’m less certain on.

    Jo Reply:

    I agree. I do not think a couple more miles from Visalia is going to make much difference.

  4. Nathanael
    Feb 14th, 2013 at 20:49

    The federally funded rail projects in North Carolina are starting to break ground:

    Of course, at the same time the Republican *jackasses* in the NC state legislature are busily trying to loot the NCRR for projects completely unrelated to rail. Gah!


    That’s why the federal government shouldn’t give nice things to states which vote Republican. Sigh.

  5. Peter
    Feb 16th, 2013 at 13:25

    Whoa, just saw that the attorneys for “Timeless Investments” submitted a Request for Dismissal with Prejudice to their CEQA lawsuit against the Authority. First Chowchilla, and now the private plaintiffs are out of it, leaving the County of Madera et al. lawsuit as the last one standing against the Merced-Fresno EIR.

    VBobier Reply:

    Another on bites the dust…. I wonder what made them want to quit?? It couldn’t be a lack of money and/or support could it?

    VBobier Reply:

    that should be: Another one bites the dust….

    Peter Reply:

    They probably realized, especially after they lost the preliminary injunction motion, that they’re not going to succeed in their CEQA claims. Another option is that they came to some out-of-court agreement with the Authority on the sale of their properties (IIRC, Timeless Investments owned property in the ROW).

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