U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood yesterday announced that he will not serve a second term. The only Republican on President Barack Obama's Cabinet, he has served as the DOT Secretary for four years.
In an email to DOT employees, Secretary LaHood said,
“I have let President Obama know that I will not serve a second term as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation. It has been an honor and a privilege to lead the Department, and I am grateful to President Obama for giving me such an extraordinary opportunity. I plan to stay on until my successor is confirmed to ensure a smooth transition for the Department and all the important work we still have to do."
An ardent supporter of High-Speed Rail (HSR) systems across the nation, the effect of his resignation on continued federal funding for California's HSR project remains subject to speculation. Possible successors to LaHood include former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and current Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Construction of the initial backbone of California's HSR system is supposed to begin within the next year, although various delays continue to push back the start date. The backbone will connect Madera to the Bakersfield area.
In response to his announcement, the Chairman and CEO of California's High-Speed Rail Authority issued the following statements:
“Ray LaHood has been one of the finest Secretaries of Transportation in our nation’s history,” said Authority Chair Dan Richard. “We not only appreciate his commitment to high-speed rail but also his many accomplishments including advancements of transportation safety measures.”
“We greatly appreciate Secretary LaHood’s tremendous leadership and focus in effectively advocating for President Obama’s plan to build a California high-speed rail system,” said Authority CEO Jeff Morales. “It was his personal commitment that helped move the high-speed rail project forward.”