Secretary of Transportation Archives - Shopfloor

From the U.S. Department of Livable Communities

By | Infrastructure | 2 Comments

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

By | Economy, Infrastructure | One Comment

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

Embracing Bicycles at Expense of Freight, Jobs, Reality

By | General, Infrastructure | 19 Comments

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood was hailed by activists who support more federal funding for bicycling infrastructure for his remarks last week at the National Bike Summit 2010. Unfortunately, in winning points with the bicycle lobby, the Secretary departed from economic reality.

Secretary LaHood reported his Bike Summit comments at his FastLane blog today, “My view from atop the table at the National Bike Summit“:

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.

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.”

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.

On Oct. 29, 2008, National Association of Manufacturers President John Engler testified on the economic stimulus bill at a hearing of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Engler stated:

Eighty-percent of our nation’s freight, by value, moves across our nation’s roads, highways, and bridges by truck. The deteriorating condition of our surface transportation infrastructure and the challenges associated with traffic congestion have a negative effect on the manufacturing economy beyond wasted time and fuel. Nearly 20 percent of our small and medium-sized manufacturers recently reported to us in a survey that they risked losing a customer due to bottlenecks and other traffic delays over the past five years.

Pedicabs will not overcome those bottlenecks.

Now normally here we’d put in a statement about how bicycles are great, we need to fund infrastructure for bikes, federal support, blah, blah, blah. And, sure, more power to them. But c’mon! A great nation and modern industrial economy cannot operate if executive branch agencies are incapable of making a distinction between bicycles and trucks.

The House Appropriations Committee, Transportation and HUD Subcommittee, holds a hearing this Wednesday, “Strengthening Intermodal Connections & Improving Freight Mobility.” Scheduled to testify are Roy Kienitz, DOT’s under secretary for policy, and Victor Mendez, administrator of the Federal Highway Administration. Committee members would do everyone a service by posing this question: “Secretary LaHood last week declared it was now federal policy that motorized transportation should not be favored over non-motorized transportation. What in the world?”

For approving coverage of Secretary LaHood’s comments from bike-oriented outlets, see the extended entry.

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