Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said today he would not remain on the job in the second Obama administration.
LaHood, 67, said in an e-mail to Department of Transportation (DOT) employees that he would stay in the post until the Senate confirms his successor. The Illinois Republican, who served 14 years in the House of Representatives before taking the top DOT job in January 2009, is the only member of the opposition party in President Obama's cabinet.
"I've told President Obama, and I've told many of you, that this is the best job I've ever had. I'm grateful to have the opportunity to work with all of you and I'm confident that DOT will continue to achieve great things in the future," LaHood wrote in his e-mail.
Since the president won re-election, LaHood has been asked several times if he planned to remain in a second-term cabinet. His stock reply was that he would discuss the matter with President Obama in due course.
During LaHood's tenure, Congress passed and the president signed into law the first transportation funding reauthorization bill since 2005. LaHood had forecast in January 2011 that a funding bill could become law that summer, but that did not come to pass until July 2012.
LaHood had been sharply critical of a five-year, $260 billion reauthorization bill that had passed the Republican-led House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, calling it "the worst transportation bill I've ever seen in 35 years of public service." He instead supported the 27-month, $109 billion reauthorization measure that eventually became law.
Under LaHood, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a subagency of DOT, took aggressive steps to improve driver and motor carrier safety. FMCSA launched CSA 2010, a far-reaching initiative to identify and, if necessary, remove substandard truck drivers from the roads. In addition, FMCSA made the first significant rewrite in a decade to the driver hours-of-service (HOS) regulations. The rules, which are scheduled to be enforced beginning July 1, 2013, are the subject of a court challenge.
In August 2012, LaHood announced the launch of the agency's Freight Policy Council. That group, which comprises officials from the various transport modes, is tasked with developing a national plan for improving freight movements, and with coordinating the implementation of the freight provisions in the reauthorization bill.
LaHood also launched a war on so-called "distracted driving" in a bid to keep motorists and commercial drivers alike from texting on cell phones while behind the wheel. In January 2010, he pushed through a directive banning all texting on cell phones by truck and bus drivers.
It has been reported that former Washington state Gov. Christine Gregoire and former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, both Democrats, would be considered for the DOT job should it become available. They reportedly also have been under consideration for the top posts at the departments of Labor and Interior, where successors will need to be named.