Friday, December 19, 2008

Obama's DOT Pick Makes Bi-Partisan Sense; Policy Implications Harder To Read

Barack Obama's pick of Illinois Republican Congressman Ray LaHood as Secretary of the US Department of Transportation makes good on the President-elect's pledge to have a bi-partisan cabinet, but doesn't send a strong signal that the agency might flip its highways-first/trains-second priorities.

But there are indications that LaHood, a consensus-builder from Peoria, is close to Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, and because the City of Chicago needs infrastructure upgrades to help it win the 2016 Olympic Games, the expanding Illinois nexus in the Obama administration could mean that Midwestern High-Speed Rail gets on the fast track.

And with a Democratic Congress, whose urban constituencies ride Amtrak along the Eastern seaboard and between Milwaukee and Chicago, it may be LaHood's job to implement a more balanced transportation policy to which Obama and key Congressional Democrats have said they support.

So let's see how it works out, and for now, give Obama and LaHood the benefit of the doubt.

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