Transportation Secretary on Spending Binge Before Leaving Office

Bus rapid transit projects, separated bike lanes and a collection of streetcar systems are being unexpectedly funded by outgoing Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who's relishing his final days in office with an unprecedented spending spree.
April 1, 2013, 3pm PDT | planetizen
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In just the past month, LaHood has issued federal grants for more than $1.5 billion in public transit, pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure project – perhaps the largest short-term outpouring of federal transportation dollars in history. LaHood confirmed in late January that he would leave his office upon the selection of a new transportation secretary. But since no replacement has been chosen, LaHood has embraced his tentative hold on power by opening up the DOT's checkbook.

LaHood was ebullient at a recent meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, handing out federal transportation grants like it was an episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show. "You get a streetcar! And you get a streetcar! And you get a streetcar!" he told the assembled mayors, each giddy at the prospect of previously unattainable grants.

Obama administration officials are trying to stem the fiscal bleeding by finding a new candidate to nominate for LaHood's cabinet seat. In the meantime, LaHood is pushing the limits of his power. He recently earmarked $100,000 for the construction of a one-eighth scale miniature railroad in the backyard of his private home.

"Pretty soon I won't be Transportation Secretary of the U.S. anymore," LaHood said. "But I'll always be Transportation Secretary of Casa LaHood."

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Published on Monday, April 1, 2013 in Planetizen April 1st Edition
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