Tag: Ray LaHood

From the U.S. Department of Livable Communities

Ray LaHood

Secretary Ray LaHood gave the keynote address Tuesday night at the National Bike Summit. Bicycle Retailer and Industry News has a good report on the evening’s activities at the Grand Hyatt, “Sec. LaHood Calls for Action.” Excerpt:

LaHood, 65, shared his long family history in cycling, which began when he was a young boy riding his Schwinn bike—calling it “the best-looking bike in the neighborhood”—around Peoria, Illinois. He reassured attendees that he continues to be a “full partner” and that cyclists can also continue to count on President Obama’s support.

“Most of you worked hard to get him elected and the president’s budget for 2012 shows that livable communities really is his vision,” he said.

That’s an unusually direct political appeal for a Cabinet secretary to make at an ostensibly non-political event.  

Secretary LaHood elucidated the President’s agenda further in his post at the FastLane blog, “My message to the 2011 National Bike Summit: ‘We have work to do’.”

Now, the transportation budget President Obama proposed to Congress is a big, bold vision for the next generation of American transportation. And walkable, bikeable, livable communities are a central part of that vision.  The President’s 2012 budget would boost funding for pedestrian and bike-friendly communities to $4.1 billion.  And the Administration would like to see these essential resources included in the next six-year transportation legislation.

We thought the Administration was focused on jobs, economic growth and competitiveness, but instead we find that it has made “livable communities” a priority. And how, exactly, is urban development in Sheboygan, Montpelier or Corvallis a federal responsibility?

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LaHood’s Table Talk and Bike Summit Revisionism

The Washington Post reports on the Bike Summit, the annual fly-in of bicycle advocates to lobby Congress for more money and federal laws. From “Cycling advocates head to National Bike Summit“:

Bicycling advocates will arrive en masse in Washington on Tuesday for the annual National Bike Summit, three days of planning and lobbying that made news last year when Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood climbed onto a table to address the group.

No, that’s not right. While bike bloggers loved LaHood’s table speech, what made news was his bumptious policy pronouncement:

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.

As we then argued in a Shopfloor post, “Embracing Bicycles at Expense of Freight, Jobs, Reality:

Treating bicycles and other non-motorized transportation as equal to motorized transportation would cause an economic catastrophe. If put into effect, the policy would more than undermine any effort the Obama Administration has made toward jobs. You can’t have jobs without the efficient movement of freight.

Reading this jaw-dropping policy announcement, we thought the Secretary had let his enthusiasm get the best of him. Alas, no, his comments were actually reinforced in what he described as a “major policy revision” posted at the Federal Highway Administration website, Policy Statement on Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodation.”

Secretary LaHood’s remarks showed misguided leadership, an agency askew. Instead of focusing limited federal dollars — they are limited, you know — on interstate commerce and infrastructure, the Secretary talks up “community livability,” i.e., urban planning, bike commuting as the answer to traffic congestion, and he seems to be more interested in his anti-texting campaign than freeways, roads and bridges.

The Examiner calls it “LaHood’s war against cars.” We call it wrong priorities.

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A Distracting Euphemism from the Secretary of Transportation

Wall Street Journal editorial, “”Pedal Misapplications’: Ray LaHood recants on Toyota“:

A record $48.8 million in fines, nearly eight million vehicle recalls, hundreds of lawsuits and one humiliating set of Congressional grillings later, we finally learned Tuesday that Toyota cars can’t magically accelerate on their own. So what happened? “Pedal misapplications.”

Now there’s a euphemism for the bureaucratic ages. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood couldn’t bring himself to say “driver error” and he grew testy with a reporter who dared to put it so bluntly. But that’s what the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study, conducted over 10 months with the help of NASA engineers, concluded. Or to put it in plain English: Drivers, in moments of panic, sometimes mistake the accelerator for the brake.

That’s an uncomfortable finding for politicians, plaintiffs attorneys and “safety advocates” who have tried for years to squeeze money out of big auto makers, including Audi, Ford, General Motors and others.

The scientific study was only necessary because trial lawyers, politicians, “consumer” groups and media ginned up a public hysteria, the Journal observes, concluding: “Mr. LaHood played to those galleries at the time rather than contributing to public understanding, so we can understand why he prefers euphemisms now.”

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For Congress in 2011, NextGen and Other Aviation Priorities

The 19-member Future of Aviation Advisory Committee concluded its work today here in Washington and presented 23 recommendations to the Secretary of Transportation to ensure the future vitality of the U.S. aviation industry. 

Representatives from three major manufacturers – Boeing, Textron’s Cessna Aircraft and Goodrich Corporation –- offered critical leadership in keeping manufacturing and competitiveness issues at the fore.  Emerging as welcome priorities were the acceleration of NextGen air traffic modernization and the need for new financing mechanisms for NextGen aircraft equipage. (NextGen is short for Next Generation Air Transportation System, the digitally integrated infrastructure system for pilots and air traffic control operations. For more, see the NAM’s fact sheet, “Expediting Air Traffic Modernization and Accelerating NextGen.”)

Other top recommendations included making the R&D tax credit permanent to support aerospace innovation, development of alternative fuels, and a stronger coordinated role for STEM education to cultivate a future aerospace workforce. Safety and safety standards were a unifying theme throughout today’s discussions, as well.

Looking ahead to a fresh start for the FAA reauthorization effort in the 112th Congress and an anticipated FY 2012 Obama Administration budget proposal in early February, the Advisory Committee provided a practical blueprint for Transportation Secretary LaHood (and the authorizers in Congress) to move in the next several months.  Secretary LaHood declared the “recommendations will not sit on a shelf,” and the NAM will keep the manufacturers’ recommendations handy as we work for a comprehensive FAA reauthorization next year.

DOT news release, “U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood Receives Recommendations on Future of Aviation

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You, Out of the Car! Drop that Cell Phone! Now Ride! Ride!

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood endured a new round of blog-based criticism this week after suggesting that people who use their cells phones while driving should have their ignitions disabled by an elecro-magnetic-pulse weapon, dragged out of their cars and forced to ride bicycles up and down that special lane on Pennsylvania Avenue so at least someone will use the darn thing after we spent all that money on it.

But others at the DOT have apparently talked him down.

From The Daily Caller, “After raising the idea, Department of Transportation says it’s not interested in cell phone jamming technology in cars“:

While Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood stressed personal responsibility in a recent TV appearance, the Secretary said the department was “looking into” other technological possibilities.

“I think the technology is there,” said LaHood on MSNBC, Monday. “ I think you’re going to see the technology become adaptable in automobiles to disable these cell phones.”

Or not.

“While NHTSA is currently researching various technologies, Secretary LaHood believes first and foremost that everyone has a personal responsibility to drive safely,” said U.S. Department of Transportation spokeswoman Olivia Alair. “The Department of Transportation currently has no plans to endorse any particular technology.”

Secretary LaHood has also been in a dispute with incoming Republican governors in Wisconsin and Ohio who want to reallocate federal funds for high-speed rail projects for more pressing infrastructure projects, like repairing roads and bridges.

It surprises us that no one has made the connection. The new, intrusive pat-down searches and high-tech screening devices that have caused such a fuss at airports? Isn’t it obvious? They’re intended to make air travel so unpleasant that people will ride the train instead. As The Washington Post reports today, “Instead of a TSA airport search, he’ll take the train.”

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Infrastructure Plan and Manufacturing: Details, Please

In his speech to organized labor Monday in Milwaukee, President Obama provided a brief outline of a proposal to increase federal investment in transportation infrastructure.

The National Association of Manufacturers’ policy guide and call to action, the “Manufacturing Strategy for Jobs and a Competitive America,” placed federal investment in infrastructure high on the NAM’s list of policy priorities (see the extended entry below), so we were anxious to find out more about the President’s plan.

A frustrating search…

WhiteHouse.gov posted “Renewing and Expanding America’s Roads, Railways, and Runways,” a 2-1/2 page “fact sheet” that served as talking points.

The document raised many questions, answered few. For example, in the proleptic bullet points about “tangible accomplishments,” there was this: “ROADS: Rebuild 150,000 miles of roads – renewing our commitment to the backbone of our transportation system…”

“Rebuild” is often used as a code word, telling environmental groups that no dollars will spent on new construction or additional capacity.  New roads to ease congestion and improve the efficiency of freight transportation by trucks? Not in the plans. Maybe that wasn’t the intention, but given the paucity of information, it’s a reasonable conclusion to draw.

Then, following the bullet point about the $50 billion in “upfront investment” came this paragraph:

A vision for the future. The President proposes to pair this with a long-term framework to reform and expand our nation’s investment in transportation infrastructure. Since the end of last year, when the last long-term surface transportation legislation expired, these investments have been continued on a temporary basis, even as the trust fund to finance them has fallen into insolvency. If we are to enjoy the benefits that come from a worldclass transportation system, Congress must enact a long-term reauthorization that expands and reforms our infrastructure investments and returns the transportation trust fund to solvency.

This is a good idea, a definite priority, finally getting to Congressional reauthorization of federal surface transportation programs. The last  “highway bill” — SAFETEA-LU — expired on Sept. 30, 2009, and Congress has only managed to enact temporary extensions since. A six-year reauthorization as the President mentioned would provide certainty for planning and funding purposes.

So we look for details. The Department of Transportation or the Federal Highway Administration (FHwA) would surely have more details about the Administration proposed re-authorization, one might think.

Not that we can find. The FHwA site prominently promotes infrastructure projects paid for by last year’s stimulus bill, but there’s no reference to the President’s plan.

As for www.dot.gov, there’s nothing on the home page. The only mention we find of the President’s “historic announcement”  comes in Transportation Secretary LaHood’s Fast Lane blog, a post from Tuesday, “President proposes new jobs, renewed infrastructure.” But the post is just a reaffirmation of the President’s basic argument, providing no additional detail. Secretary LaHood concludes, “New jobs, renewed infrastructure, and a new model for transportation investments–it sounds like a lot of work to me. And I, for one, am ready.”

No doubt. But without a substantive proposal — at the very least, a document that lays out a more detailed plan for a six-year reauthorization — Congress and backers of robust infrastructure investment have nothing to rally to. What are we being asked to support?

It’s as if the proposal were designed not for policy, but for politics.

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More Details, Such as They Are, on President’s Infrastructure Plan

We looked for background material this morning to accompany the President’s speech at the AFL-CIO’s Laborfest in Milwaukee, where he announced and briefly discussed a proposal to spend $50 billion on infrastructure. There’s a little, here and there.

A transcript of the President’s speech is here.

There’s a two-and-a-half page summary sheet, available via a blog post by the vice president’s economic adviser, Jared Bernstein, entitled, “Let’s Stop Torturing Facts and Start Working Together.” (How’s that for extending hand of cooperation?)

Excerpt from fact sheet:

This plan would build on the investments we have already made under the Recovery Act, create jobs for American workers to strengthen our economy now, and increase our nation’s growth and productivity in the future. At the same time, the plan would reform the way America currently invests in transportation, changing our focus to enhancing competition, innovation, performance, and real analysis that gets taxpayers the best bang for the buck, while moving away from the earmarks and formula debates of the past. In prior years, transportation infrastructure was an issue that both parties worked on together, and the Administration hopes the same can be true now.

Some of the tangible accomplishments of the President’s plan over the next six years include:

  • ROADS: Rebuild 150,000 miles of roads – renewing our commitment to the backbone of our transportation system;
  • RAILWAYS: Construct and maintain 4,000 miles of rail – enough to go coast-to-coast;
  • RUNWAYS: Rehabilitate or reconstruct 150 miles of runway – while putting in place a NextGen system that will reduce travel time and delays.

Note to White House writers: Prolepsis notwithstanding, it’s not a “tangible accomplishment” until it actually happens.

At the Department of Transportation’s website, we don’t find any additional information on the President’s proposal. (Searched at 7:37 a.m., Tuesday.) There’s a Distracted Driving Summit coming up, through.

Senior White House advisers on Monday briefed reporters on the proposal. From Politico, “President Obama unveils $50 billion road, rail plan“:

Senior administration officials, in a conference call with reporters Monday morning, would not say whether they would push Congress to pass a bill before the end of 2010.

“These types of reauthorizations have always been a substantial undertaking,” one official said. “This one is particularly ambitious because of the front loading and the set of reforms.”

Under the best-case scenario, however, jobs would be created in 2011, the official said. “This is not an … immediate jobs plan. This is a six-year reauthorization that’s front-loaded,” according to the senior administration official. “We’re not trying to put out an idea today that in October 2010 will be creating jobs.”

Oh. But the surface transportation authorization expired on Sept. 30, 2009. As the National Governors Association summarized:

Comprehensive federal laws and regulations that guide national surface transportation policies and programs expired in September 2009. While the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (P.L. 111-5) provided one-time funding for highway and transit infrastructure spending, Congress has not passed a long-term authorization.

The National Association of Manufacturers regards investment in infrastructure as a central responsibility of the federal government and a competitive imperative, as covered in our NAM ManuFact. The economic value of investing  in infrastructure was a central thrust of the Milken Institute study the NAM released in January, 2010, “Jobs for America: Investments and policies for economic growth and competitiveness,” and the NAM prominently cites the need for infrastructure investment in our policy guide and call to action, “Manufacturing Strategy for Jobs and a Competitive America.”

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Circumnetting Infrastructure

Wall Street Journal, White House Under Fire for Unspent Infrastructure Cash“: “The Obama administration has paid out less than a third of the nearly $230 billion allocated to big infrastructure projects in the economic-stimulus program.”

Michael Barone, The Examiner, “Big government forgets how to build big projects,” comparing the construction of the Pentagon in WWII to a little bridge being rebuilt over an inlet on the Potomac. Both, 18 months: “Big government has become a big, waddling, sluggish beast, ever ready to boss you around, but not able to perform useful functions at anything but a plodding pace. It needs to be slimmed down and streamlined, so it can get useful things done fast.”

Washington Post editorial, “Stimulus programs hobbled by regulations“: “[Lawmakers] could carefully exempt projects in any future stimulus from burdensome regulatory requirements, even if those requirements make more sense in calmer times.” Even? It’s also possible they don’t make sense at any time.

Harold Meyerson, Washington Post, “Rebuilding the Democratic brand with jobs, “If the Democrats focused on boosting manufacturing, with a corollary upgrade to our infrastructure, they’d tap into the only area in which the public wants a more activist government.” Trouble is, an activist government tends to make manufacturing less competitive globally.

White House blog, “Obama Administration Officials Continue to Visit State Fairs,” announcing Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s attendance at the Illinois State Fair Friday, Aug. 20, “As part of the Illinois State Fair ‘Futures for Kids Day,’ Secretary LaHood will join law enforcement and traffic safety advocates for the 2010 kickoff of Operation Teen Safe Driving Illinois. Secretary Lahood will tour agricultural exhibits, visit the Illinois State Police Tent, and meet with high school students who have been helping to spread the word about the dangers of distracted driving.” We begrudge no one a trip to the state fair.

Wichita Eagle, “Grant may pay for bike lanes downtown“: “A federal grant that the city is poised to apply for could add miles of bike paths to the downtown area and convert four one-way streets downtown to two-way streets. Under the proposed grant application, the city would pay $10.5 million to leverage $24.5 million in federal money that is part of the TIGER II program.” What federal hand or eye could fund this fearful symmetry?

CNSNews.com, “White House Directive: Erect Signs at All Stimulus Projects as ‘Symbol of President Obama’s Commitment to American People’“: “The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration also issued guidance to ARRA [stimulus] recipients encouraging but not requiring that signs be posted at job sites.”

CBC News, “Feds flexible on stimulus funding deadline“: “The [Canadian] federal government is giving municipalities a bit of wiggle room on its deadline to receive infrastructure stimulus funding. The $4-billion federal program provides cash to shovel-ready provincial and municipal projects — provided they can be completed before March 31, 2011.”

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LaHood: If Eisenhower Had Signed the High-Speed Rail Bill…

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood spoke at Netroots Nation on Thursday, part of a panel discussing transportation policy. The conference in Las Vegas gathers activists and bloggers from the political left, and LaHood was the highest-ranking officials from Obama Administration to participate.

It was an interesting, good panel discussion. The Secretary promoted stimulus spending, federal funding for local public transportation, “livable communities” and high-speed rail. There was little discussion of bicycling, but boy, lots of talk about high-speed rail.

The most startling comment from the Secretary was his suggestion that President Obama’s vision is for America to be more like Asia or Europe. From the context, he was saying that the United States should embrace more mass transportation akin to the systems of the densely populated areas of Western Europe and Asia, but still…

From the Q&A, discussing how to get people out of cars, Secretary LaHood:

I think the way we really get more opportunities for people other than automobiles is what we’re doing with our high-speed intercity rail. You mentioned the fact that the district that I once represented, 20 counties in central and west-central Illinois is primarily rural, so people have to have automobiles in order to get back and forth to school and to work and to recreate. The day will come, though, and if you look at our high-speed intercity rail plan, as I mentioned before, over the next 25 years with the right investment, 80 percent of America will be connected. Think of how many people will be out of their cars and on a train going to visit grandma, or going to work. There will be intercity connections but there will also be big-city connections, too.

The example that I use is that, think of if President Eisenhower would have signed the high-speed intercity rail bill, where would our investments had been made? We would be like Europe and Asia. That’s the kind of vision that President Obama and Vice President Biden have for America.

Look it …Americans like their automobiles, we all know that. One of the reasons they like ‘em, is because it is in some places in the country the only form of transportation, particularly in rural America. But the plan that we have will connect America, and I think Americans will get in the habit, if we provide comfortable train service at affordable cost, a lot of people will use it. We’ve proved that they’ll do it on the Northeast corridor. Think of all the people who are not in cars when they’re riding from Washington to New York or Boston on the train.

So, I encourage you to go on our website and look at our high-speed intercity rail plan. It’s a very good plan. I think it will connect America and take a lot of cars off the road.

We have an audio clip here with the above segment and a few more of the Secretary’s comments on rail and federal spending on high-speed rail. The interlocutor is David Alpert of GreaterGreaterWashington.

Judging by the panelists and the questions, the progressive left has no interest in the efficient movement of freight. Secretary LaHood mentioned freight only in the context of the commercial railroads reaching agreements on track access so high-speed rail projects can move forward

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At Netroots Nation, a Discussion of Transportation Priorities

Netroots Nation is the now-annual gathering of the blogospheric and activist left, launched originally by Markos Moulitsas, the proprietor of the Daily Kos blog. For all the cursing at business that goes on there, the Daily Kos has turned into one heck of an enterprise.

Netroots Nation gets under way tomorrow in Las Vegas, the mecca of income redistribution (although probably not in the way the Netroots  prefer). The Obama Administration is sending one cabinet member, and the progressives are embracing him with delight. From the agenda:

Bikes, trains, stimulus, and the Obama Cabinet’s biggest surprise

Thursday, July 22nd 10:30 AM – 11:45 AM
Panel, Brasilia 1
Thursday, July 22nd, 10:30am – 11:45am
Brasilia 1

Despite early expectations or fears, one of the two Republicans in President Obama’s cabinet and head of an often-obscure agency has become one of the administration’s rock stars. Ray LaHood has elevated public transportation, biking and walking to prominence in American transportation policy just as the Recovery Act of 2009 pumped billions into new projects. How has a former Republican Congressman pushed some of Obama’s most progressive policy successes, and what’s needed to cement a new direction in federal policy that deeply affects where we live and how we get around?

The other speakers are advocates of smart growth, public transportation, government-subsidized housing, and promoting economic and social equity in older industrial cities.

In related news, The Journal of Commerce recently reported, “Truckers Fear Highway Bill Impasse May Last Years“:

The trucking industry is concerned the impasse in Washington over highway reauthorization may stretch into several years without a new spending bill to set planning for important road and infrastructure projects.

“There is speculation that there won’t be reauthorization in the entire first term of the Obama administration,” American Trucking Associations President and CEO Bill Graves told the Los Angeles Transportation Club.

With the Highway Trust Fund “insolvent,” and both Democrats and Republicans fearful of the political consequences of approving an increase in the fuel tax, the nation could be heading toward an infrastructure crisis now that freight volumes are once again growing, Graves said.

Trucks historically move about two-thirds of all freight in the United States, including manufactured goods and retail products.

Trucks traditionally haul about two-thirds of all freight in the United States, including manufactured and retail goods.

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