Monday, April 29, 2013

Anthony Foxx nominated as next USDOT Secretary

Written by  Frank N. Wilner, Contributing Editor
President Obama has nominated Charlotte, N.C., Mayor Anthony Foxx as the next U.S. Secretary of Transportation, to succeed Ray LaHood.

If confirmed by the Senate, Foxx will bring with him to Washington a commitment to passenger and freight rail funding.

“Anthony Foxx knows first-hand that investing in world-class infrastructure is vital to creating good jobs and ensuring American businesses can grow and compete in the global economy,” said an unnamed White House official April 28 following disclosure by the White House of Foxx’s nomination.

Charlotte is served by two Amtrak-operated state-subsidized corridor trains (the Carolinian and Piedmont), and the long-distance Crescent connecting New Orleans with New York.

Foxx has won transit-industry praise for supporting construction of the 10-mile CATS light rail line through Charlotte. The city contributed $12 million to the project and obtained an additional $25 million in federal funds. LaHood joined Foxx for the groundbreaking of that project in 2010. Another $580 million in federal funds was obtained last year by Charlotte to expand its light rail system. “He's serious about transportation and I don't say that about every mayor," LaHood said of Foxx.

Under Foxx’s leadership, Charlotte and Norfolk Southern initiated a lease at the Charlotte airport to construct an intermodal freight hub. NS will pay the $74 million in construction costs plus another $1 million annually in land rent, with another $16 million provided in state and federal funds.

If confirmed to the post, Foxx will become a member of Amtrak’s board of directors, as provided by statute.

The Foxx nomination had been rumored for several weeks, although National Transportation Safety Board Chairperson Debbie Hersman—formerly a rail resource for Senate Democrats—was considered the likely choice. Hersman has been among the strongest Administration voices for implementation of Positive Train Control.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Foxx nomination will “fend off criticism [among Democrats] about a lack of diversity” in Obama’s cabinet. Foxx is an African-American, although Obama also felt pressure to name a female, such as Hersman. The lone African-American currently in Obama’s cabinet is Attorney General Eric Holder. The Wall Street Journal observed that Foxx and Obama became “better acquainted when Charlotte played host to the Democratic National Convention last year.”

Before serving as mayor, Foxx worked as a lawyer, with posts in the House Judiciary Committee and Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. LaHood was a Republican congressman from Illinois prior to becoming Obama’s first transportation secretary.

The nation’s first transportation secretary was Alan Boyd, who later became president of Illinois Central Railroad (now part of CN) and then Amtrak’s president. Other transportation secretaries included John Volpe, Claude Brinegar, William Coleman, Brock Adams, Neil Goldschmidt, Drew Lewis (later Union Pacific chairman), Elizabeth Dole, James Burnley, Samuel Skinner, Andrew Card (later a Union Pacific board member), Federico Peña, Rodney Slater, Norman Mineta, and Mary Peters.