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2009 Transportation Bill

LaHood to Streetsblog: No I’m Not Changing the Name of My Blog

lahood_abny.jpgPhoto: Danny Bright

I'll add a few more impressions to Bobby Cuza's report on yesterday's ABNY breakfast with federal transportation secretary Ray LaHood.

U.S. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood, made his morning
commute to New York City on the LaGuardia shuttle. "Not a bad way to
come," he told the ABNY crowd, before adding, "Train or shuttle. We've
done it both ways."

Here are a few notes from LaHood's talk and my brief conversation with him afterward:

    • NY1 gave prominent play to LaHood's comment about New York City's $354 million in congestion pricing money still being availablebut, to be clear, this wasn't a major point of his talk. It wasactually more of a side note in response to Council member DanGarodnick's question about whether the Obama Administration wouldcontinue the Urban Partnership program's effort "to create theincentives to move people out of their cars and onto transit."Regarding the hundreds of millions of dollars that our geniuses up in Albanyrejected last year, LaHood said, "That money is still sitting around.It's on the table somewhere. I think it’s in our office still. Weoffered it up to Chicago but like New York they couldn’t get their act together."
    • U.S.DOT is teaming up with former Bloomberg Administration all-star ShaunDonovan at HUD to focus on transit-oriented affordable housing. LaHoodframed this project as going "hand in hand" with the ObamaAdministration's commitment to high-speed rail. Donovan, LaHood said,is "one of the most innovative people in America; a very creativefellow."
    • LaHood said almost nothing about theupcoming federal transportation bill except that DOT is taking "a hardlook at how we fund transportation" and they want "to give cities likeNew York more flexibility in how they spend Uncle Sam’s dollars."
    • Thoughyou don't really get the sense that LaHood lives andbreathestransportation policy like, say, New York City's Janette Sadik-Khan, alot of the rightwords are coming out of his mouth these days. Yesterday'stalk wasn't limited to roads, bridges and zillion dollar mega-projects.The Obama Administration, he said, is committed to a transportationpolicy that will "enhance mobility, support a cleaner environment andhelp make our communities more livable." LaHood isclearly making the connection between transportation policy and urbandevelopment. He said (and I'm condensing this a little bit): "Whatwe’re trying to do is take some of the resources we have on thetransit side and connect them with what Secretary Donovan wants to do.We want to create livablecommunities. Portland is really the model for it. We want to createhousing opportunities so that people can walk out their front doors andgo wherever they want to go without getting into an automobile. That’sreally the goal."

Amen, Secretary.

After
the talk I introduced myself and Streetsblog to LaHood and told him
that we'd like to sit down with him for a Q&A in Washington D.C.
some time soon. LaHood said that he had his own blog too, The Fast Lane. Had I seen it?

"Of course," I said. "Streetsblog readers are big fans. But what do you think about changing the name of your blog to The Fast Track?"

Someone
in the background, I think one of his staffers, laughed. LaHood stopped
walking and gave me what I took to be a who-is-this-insane-person kind
of look.

"We think Fast Lane works pretty
well," he said, and headed off to a medal ceremony for the ferry crew
members who rescued US Air Flight 1549 in the Hudson River last winter.
 

All I'm saying is think about it, Ray. Think about it.

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