Transportation Secretary on Spending Binge Before Leaving Office
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."