Ray LaHood’s announcement Tuesday that he’s stepping down as U.S. secretary of transportation is a blow to the District, Mayor Vincent C. Gray said.
Gray (D) said Tuesday that LaHood has been an invaluable partner in city leaders’ efforts to invest in more bicycle lanes, push forward plans for a streetcar network and secure more funding to repair city bridges.
“Ray LaHood was an outstanding secretary of transportation,” Gray said. “He worked very closely with us. I really wish he were staying. He was very involved in the city. …He had a deep understanding of what it meant for transportation to support a city like the District of Columbia.”
On numerous occasions, Gray joined LaHood around the District to highlight President Obama’s transportation priorities. Last month, for example, Gray joined LaHood at an event at Booker T. Washington Public Charter School for Technical Arts to announce a new training program to better prepare students for jobs with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and other transit agencies.
LaHood also stepped in to help break a deadlock over how Virginia would fund extension of Metrorail to Dulles Airport, also a District priority.
But D.C. leaders said they will remember LaHood, a former GOP congressman from Illinois, most for being a surprisingly strong advocate of the city’s push for new strategies to try to reduce vehicle usage.
Before Gray took office in 2011, LaHood also worked with former mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) to launch the city’s bicycle lane on Pennsylvania Avenue. And city leaders viewed LaHood as a key ally in the District’s push to construct the planned $1.5 billion streetcar network.
“In my book, he gets an A-plus,” Gray said.
When asked what qualities he wants in a future Transportation Secretary, Gray responded, “Ray LaHood Two.”
“Hopefully the president’s policies will not change as a result of having a new transportation secretary,” Gray said. “Secretary LaHood was just phenomenal in his performance, and I hope someone of his stature and capability will be appointed.”