* Charlotte, N.C., mayor faces tight budgets
* Aging roads, bridges, waterways a concern
* Highway bill renewal deadline looms in 2014
(Adds details, background)
By Mark Felsenthal
WASHINGTON, April 28 President Barack Obama
plans on Monday to nominate Charlotte, North Carolina, Mayor
Anthony Foxx to be his next transportation secretary, a White
House official said on Sunday.
If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Foxx would replace Ray
LaHood, who has served as transportation secretary since January
"Foxx's career as a public official, in a rapidly changing
urban environment, has been marked by an ability to integrate
local, state and federal resources to meet important
transportation challenges," the White House official said.
The next transportation secretary must secure funding for
pressing highway, bridge and other infrastructure projects at a
time of tight federal budgets and resistance in Congress to
Foxx is African-American and would make Obama Cabinet's more
diverse, something the president's supporters have been urging
him to do. Foxx will be 42 on Tuesday.
As Charlotte mayor, Foxx is credited with improving the
city's transportation system with streetcar and light rail as
well as airport and cargo terminal improvements.
North Carolina has been an important swing state in
presidential elections. While it voted for Republican Mitt
Romney in the 2012 presidential election, it backed Obama in
2008. It also hosted the most recent Democratic National
The Department of Transportation's Federal Aviation
Administration has been under scrutiny lately following travel
delays at the nation's airports.
LaHood, a former Republican congressman, warned that the
indiscriminate nature of across-the-board spending cuts known as
sequestration could result in temporary layoffs for FAA workers
and disrupt air travel. Because of the nature of the cuts, the
agency would have little flexibility in avoiding delays, he
When air travel problems surfaced last week, Congress
swiftly passed a measure allowing the FAA to redistribute its
required cuts to reduce disruptions to air travel.
The FAA is also in the midst of implementing a new
satellite-based national airspace system, called NextGen.
As secretary, Foxx would have to shepherd a highway bill
through Congress by June 2014.
In a recent report, the American Society of Civil Engineers
gave the nation's roads, bridges and waterways and other
transportation sectors an overall grade of D+ and estimated
repairs would cost $3.6 trillion by 2020.
"It is clear that we have a significant backlog of overdue
maintenance across our infrastructure systems," the trade group
The transportation secretary also will play a role in
Obama's dream of expanding high-speed rail to take some of the
pressure off clogged highways. Shortly after taking office, the
president set a goal for 80 percent of Americans to have access
to high-speed rail with the next 25 years.
(Additional reporting by Doug Palmer, Steve Holland, Sarah N.
Lynch; Editing by Stacey Joyce and Mohammad Zargham)