Ray LaHood, the Republican Secretary of Transportation who brought a touch of bipartisan cooperation to the Obama administration and led a crusade against distracted driving, is stepping down.
Ray LaHood not staying for second term
“I have let President Obama know that I will not serve a second term as secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation,” LaHood said on Tuesday, January 29.
Praise from President Obama
President Obama praised LaHood for his “his dedication, his hard work, and his years of service to the American people.”
The President thanked him for his efforts toward creating jobs, rebuilding traffic infrastructure and bolstering the nation’s transit systems. That work, he said, has “laid the groundwork for the high-speed rail network of the future.”
‘An extraordinary opportunity’
LaHood sent an email to the president, thanking him for granting him “such an extraordinary opportunity.” He went on to say he would remain in his post until an appropriate replacement is chosen and confirmed by Congress.
He further wrote about the work he has accomplished in the last four years. “We have put safety front and center with the Distracted Driving Initiative,” LaHood wrote. “We have made great progress in improving the safety of our transit systems, pipelines, and highways, and in reducing roadway fatalities to historic lows.”
LaHood added that “it has been an honor and a privilege to lead the department.”
Cell phone and texting bans
Today, the District of Columbia and 10 states prohibit motorists from using cellphones or handheld devices while they are driving. Likewise, texting while driving is now banned in Washington, D.C. and 39 states. Those changes came largely as a result of the determined efforts of LaHood.
In addition to his efforts toward curbing distracted driving, LaHood also oversaw the allocation of $48 billion in transportation stimulus funding, creating jobs, improving infrastructure and championing public transportation. He was also central in the Administration’s decision to mandate that all vehicles sold in 2025 – at U.S. dealerships like Gus Johnson New Cars — must meet a standard of 54.5 m.p.g.
Possible replacements for LaHood
Several people have been suggested as possible replacements for LaHood in various reports. The list includes Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, National Transportation Safety Board chairwoman Debbie Hersman and Jennifer Granholm, the former Governor of Michigan. The Obama Administration has been criticized for not appointing enough women or minorities to staff positions in the President’s second term. It may take the opportunity here to address that.