Sizing up the Next US Secretary of Transportation

Margo PedrosoLess than a month ago, President Obama announced that his choice for the next US Secretary of Transportation was Anthony Foxx, the mayor of Charlotte, NC.  Based on his work in Charlotte and his remarks about transportation, we are hopeful about his potential to carry forward Secretary LaHood’s leadership on bicycling, walking and Safe Routes to School.

As mayor and as a city councilor, Foxx oversaw the construction of road diets and sidewalks, led the adoption of a Complete Streets Policy, advocated for a smart growth approach to land use and transportation, and supported the Healthy Children Healthy Families program to reduce childhood obesity. He is also known for his work on expanding Charlotte’s light rail system and working to establish a streetcar system.

Mayor Foxx’s nomination is moving quickly.  On Wednesday, May 22, the Senate Commerce Committee held a confirmation hearing for Foxx.  In his opening statement, Foxx talked about how important his perspective as a mayor is and that he understands that smart investments in transportation can enhance quality of life and reverse economic decline.  He noted that his mother and grandmother were schoolteachers and that he rode the local bus to his first job as a teenager.  In several responses to questions, Foxx emphasized that state and local communities understand the importance of multi-modal transportation approaches. In speaking about his experience in Charlotte, Foxx indicated that they prioritized transportation projects that eased mobility challenges, created connections to jobs, and leveraged the infrastructure that was already in place. 

The hearing went very smoothly, with Senators on both sides of the aisle expressing support for the nomination.  Sen. Rockefeller (D-WV), the chair of the committee, even remarked that he believes that Mayor Foxx will “ride the fast rail right into the Secretaryship.”  It is likely the full Senate will take up the nomination in early June, meaning we will have a new Secretary of Transportation very soon.

The Safe Routes to School National Partnership has reached out to Mayor Foxx to indicate our support for his nomination, and to recommend steps he could take to advance Safe Routes to School and livable communities.  Assuming he is confirmed, we would like to see Secretary Foxx undertake the following in his first 100 days:

  • Issue supportive guidance for the Transportation Alternative program and encourage states and MPOs to spend existing SAFETEA-LU Safe Routes to School funds and the new Transportation Alternatives dollars promptly;
  • Establish a safety performance measure for bicycle and pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries to increase investments in bicycle and pedestrian safety;
  • Visit Safe Routes to School projects and partner with the First Lady’s Let’s Move! Active Schools initiative;
  • Encourage states to focus transportation investments in low-income communities; and
  • Hold two safety summits on walking.

We congratulate Mayor Foxx for his outstanding leadership in Charlotte, and look forward to working with him as the next Secretary of Transportation.