Transportation Secretary LaHood leads the way on sustainability

photo of Secretary LaHood giving talk in front of light rail car

This is not your father's DOT. A couple of days ago I wrote a post on my NRDC blog about the remarkable (and now three-agency) partnership on sustainable communities within the Obama administration. Today I want to give a particular shout out to Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a few months ago just a little-known Republican (!) Congressman from downstate Illinois. I have to confess that I didn't know what to think one way or another when the Obama team announced his appointment. But, from today's vantage point, wow.

In March, when LaHood and Housing Secretary Donovan first announced the interagency partnership, LaHood wrote in his own blog about location efficiency, safe and efficient access, walkability, performance measures, livability, and integrating transportation and land use planning. The last transportation secretary to invoke terms like those was, well, nobody. Then in this week's announcement, he joined HUD and EPA is committing the federal government to redefining "affordability" to include transportation costs and to prioritizing revitalization, among other things.

In the meantime, the secretary has been stumping for high-speed rail, jump-starting pulic transit, and promoting bicycling for "less-carbon-intensive commuting." To top it off, he has appointed some of the best transportation policy minds in the country to the department, and that's all just in the first five months.

The administration is now seeking to put off full transportation reauthorization until next year and that, too, could be the right move for real reform, given the crowded legislative calendar, the distorting effects of the recession, and the benefits of giving the new team at DOT a bit more time to assemble their ideas.

Read all about it here.


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