| WASHINGTON, April 29
WASHINGTON, April 29 For the past four years,
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has rarely passed up the
chance to chide American drivers for using mobile phones and
other devices while driving, often speaking directly to drivers
in radio ads during the morning commute.
The loquacious LaHood used the White House announcement
ceremony on Monday for his replacement as transportation
secretary to make one last plea for safer driving - and to say
his goodbyes to politics.
On Monday, President Barack Obama nominated Anthony Foxx to
replace LaHood, giving the young African-American mayor of
Charlotte, North Carolina, a chance at his first federal role,
while saying a fond farewell to his friend LaHood, a veteran of
Illinois and Washington politics.
After 35 years in public service, including 14 as an
Illinois congressman and more than four as transportation
secretary, the plain-speaking moderate Republican said he plans
to retire and spend time with his family.
He urged Foxx, who must be confirmed for the job by the
Senate, to press on with the campaign against texting while
"We're right at the starting gate on this. Distracted
driving is an epidemic," LaHood said.
Thirty-six states and the District of Columbia now have laws
banning texting while driving, according to the Governors
Highway Safety Association.
"Over the past four years, thanks to Ray's leadership, we've
built or improved more than 350,000 miles of road - enough to
circle the world more than 14 times," Obama said. "We've
upgraded more than 6,000 miles of rail - enough to go coast to
coast and back. We've repaired or replaced more than 20,000
bridges, and helped put tens of thousands of construction
workers back on the job."
While LaHood spoke optimistically about the prospects for
high-speed rail in the United States, any widespread development
of that transportation method is far in the future as Americans
continue their reliance on automobiles for long-distance travel.
Obama said in nominating Foxx that he helped improve
Charlotte's transportation system with streetcar and light rail
as well as airport improvements.
Foxx, who turns 42 on Tuesday, would make Obama's Cabinet
more diverse, something the president's supporters have urged.
He said he hoped to follow in LaHood's bipartisan footsteps.
"There is no such thing as a Democratic or Republican road,
bridge, port, airfield or rail system," Foxx said. "We must work
together across party lines to enhance this nation's
Charlotte was the host city for the 2012 Democratic Party
convention that launched Obama on a path to re-election, which
probably helped Foxx get the job, said Joshua Schank, president
of the Eno Center for Transportation, a non-partisan think tank.
"They saw that he was able to oversee a pretty important
event from their perspective and oversee it with great success,"
The two biggest challenges facing Foxx will be finding the
revenues to pay for huge infrastructure needs and modernizing
the air traffic control system, Schank said in an interview.
Because of his experience as mayor, Foxx may choose to work
closely with cities - but his relative inexperience working in
federal policy may be a sign that the White House will play a
big role in transportation issues, Schank said.