Transportation Secretary Explains 'Sea Change' He Envisions for U.S. Transportation

April 30, 2010 - 6:07 PM
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Friday that Americans are "tired" of motorized transportation and its attendant hassles, and are looking for other options such as bicycle lanes and walking paths, which the government will add to its infrastructure.

In this Jan. 28, 2010 file photo, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood listens to a question during a news conference at the Transportation Department in Washington. LaHood said Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2010, Toyota was slow to realize safety problems with its gas pedals that has led to the recall of millions of popular Toyota brands. (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez, file)

(CNSNews.com) – Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Friday that Americans are “tired” of the congestion caused by motorized transportation, and instead are looking for other options such as bicycle lanes and walking paths, which the government will add to its infrastructure.
 
“People are sick of being stuck in traffic, stuck in their automobiles, and we want to help communities and neighborhoods that want more walking paths or biking paths—more transit,” LaHood told CNSNews.com.
 
President Obama’s top transportation official was following up on comments he had made on his official blog in March, when he announced a “sea change” in transportation. 


 
“Today,” he wrote on March 15, “I want to announce a sea change. People across America who value bicycling should have a voice when it comes to transportation planning. This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized.

“We are integrating the needs of bicyclists in federally funded road projects. We are discouraging transportation investments that negatively affect cyclists and pedestrians,” LaHood wrote.

With those comments in mind, CNSNews.com asked the secretary how he would implement that sea change.

“Well, look,” he began, “we have a state-of-the-art interstate system in America. We have the best road system in the world. That’s not going to change, and we’re going to continue to support our road system—our interstates—but we know that people want a lot of other alternatives.
 
“People are sick and tired of being stuck in traffic, stuck in their automobiles, and we want to help communities and neighborhoods that want more walking paths or biking paths—more transit. Some communities are going to be launching street car programs, more bus programs, but we’re promoting all forms of transportation,” he said.
 
“But we know that people are tired of all the congestion that’s created in cities, and so we think that promoting livable, sustainable neighborhoods by creating bike paths and walking paths and more transit and uh—really is what the people want,” LaHood added.
 
As for how to pay for the projects that he said would not come at the expense of the current interstate system, LaHood suggested the money would also come out of the general Treasury fund.
 
“We already pay taxes,” he said. “I mean, people all over America pay taxes. They pay their income taxes. People pay property taxes. People pay all kinds of taxes every day. If they buy something, they pay a sales tax. The point is, people pay a lot of taxes, and so we’re going to use—really use the resources that we have to create the kind of opportunities that people really want in America.”
 
LaHood had just appeared at Washington, D.C.’s Newseum, where he participated in live broadcasts of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and “The Gayle King Show,” which runs on satellite radio. Both revolved around “National No Phone Zone Day,” an initiative to create awareness among young drivers about the dangers of texting from behind the wheel.
 
Winfrey, via satellite from Chicago, pointed out that several states had instituted a penalty for those found texting while driving, but LaHood said he wanted a federal statute with “good enforcement” to solve the issue.
 
“There are some bills pending in Congress,” he told CNSNews.com. “I’ve talked to a number of senators and House members about this, and we will work with them and hope that they can pass legislation. We think national legislation with good enforcement would be very, very helpful here.
 
“We’re going to work with Congress,” he said.
 
The following is a transcript of Secretary  LaHood’s conversation with CNSNews.com:

CNSNews.com:  "You wrote on your official Transportation Department blog last month that a sea change in transportation was coming, that it would be the end of favoring motorized transportation over non-motorized. Can you explain a little bit how you would equalize, say, bicycle and motorized transportation? How do you create that sea change?" 
 
LaHood: "Well, look, we have a state-of-the-art interstate system in America. We have the best road system in the world. That’s not going to change, and we’re going to continue to support our road system—our interstates—but we know that people want a lot of other alternatives. People are sick and tired of being stuck in traffic, stuck in their automobiles, and we want to help communities and neighborhoods that want more walking paths or biking paths—more transit." 
 
LaHood: "Some communities are going to be launching street car programs, more bus programs, but we’re promoting all forms of transportation. But we know that people are tired of all the congestion that’s created in cities, and uh, so we think that—uh – promoting livable sustainable neighborhoods by creating bike paths and walking paths and more transit and uh—really is what the people want." 
 
CNSNews.com:  And as you create that new infrastructure then, how would it work for the users of those – cyclists, people on foot—would they be paying taxes to utilize these extra—
 
LaHood:  "We already pay taxes. I mean, people all over America pay taxes. They pay their income taxes. People pay property taxes. People pay all kinds of taxes every day. If they buy something, they pay a sales tax. The point is, people pay a lot of taxes, and uh, and so we’re going to use—really use the resources that we have to create the kind of opportunities that people really want in America." 
 
CNSNews.com: "And we saw Oprah showed on the map several states that have banned texting while driving. Is there anything you can do on the federal level, legislatively?"
 
LaHood: "Well, we’re going to work with Congress. There are some bills pending in Congress. I’ve talked to a number of senators and House members about this, and we will work with them and hope that they can pass legislation. We think national legislation with good enforcement would be very, very helpful here."