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The Politics of Moving Towards a Multimodal Future: A Challenge for USDOT Secretary Nominee Anthony Foxx

When Ray LaHood was nominated by President Obama in December 2008, few transportation professionals knew much about the Republican Congressman from Illinois.  However, in just four and a half years, Secretary LaHood’s efforts in redirecting USDOT’s mission towards a multimodal transportation system should have an important role in moving America’s transportation system “Beyond Oil.” As discussed in our book, transportation in America has become ultra-politicized, with rail and transit becoming associated with a liberal agenda and highways connected with conservatives. Perhaps this is due to the anachronistic belief that highways are fully funded by the gas tax paid into the Transportation Trust Fund. However, LaHood set a pathway towards a multimodal transportation system that emphasizes livable communities as part of the DOT Strategic Plan 2012-2016.  This multimodal strategy is necessary for America to remain globally competitive. While many in the transportation field know that China is investing billions in rail systems, fewer Americans realize that the conservative-led government in the United Kingdom (UK) is strongly pushing for high-speed rail. In both China and the UK, such investments are unlocking massive economic investments for transit-oriented development (TOD).   Pent-up demand for TOD-living in the United States is covered in my chapter of this book, which compliments Gil Carmichael’s call for America to build as much as 30,000 miles of new high-speed rail infrastructure.  Carmichael is a Republican from Mississippi and former Federal Railroad Administrator under President George H.W. Bush from 1989 – 1993. More at Transport Beyond Oil