Former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood visits namesake terminalThe Honorable Ray LaHood
(Journal) – The international terminal at Gen. Wayne A. Downing Peoria International Airport is not open yet, but Ray LaHood looked right at home there Tuesday.
LaHood shook hands and chatted with well-wishers while waiting for a plane bringing U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Michael Huerta, administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration.
They were the featured speakers at the dedication of the Ray LaHood International Terminal.
“He is someone who oozes integrity, oozes civility and commands respect, mostly because he is quite willing to give it to other people, even those he disagrees with,” said Foxx, a former mayor of Charlotte, N.C., who succeeded LaHood as transportation secretary in 2013.
LaHood, a longtime Republican congressman from Peoria, was transportation secretary for more than four years in President Obama’s Cabinet, and Foxx said he made quite an impression on the department, which has 55,000 employees.
“All of them are card-carrying members of the Ray LaHood fan club,” he said.
Foxx said the General Accountability Office took notice of LaHood’s ability to curb wasteful spending, and Huerta praised his commitment to improving transportation safety and infrastructure.
The Peoria airport, Huerta said, is going in the right direction.
LaHood said he was “stunned and humbled” by the honor and grateful for the support of so many people who gave him the opportunity for 35 years in public service.
Peoria and central Illinois are special, he said, because “we all work together, and pull together.”
The $11 million Ray LaHood International Terminal will include a full-service customs and border protection facility, as well as two additional dual-purpose gates for domestic or international travel. The cost of the 22,000-square-foot, two-story terminal is to be covered by current passenger facility fees.
Airport Director Gene Olson said the international terminal is awaiting shipment of the jet bridges, or metal tubes, that connect the planes to the building.
“They’ve already been built. They just have to be installed,” he said.
Public tours will be offered in May, and the international terminal should be commissioned and ready for travelers in late May, he said.
“This domestic and international space will enhance world access and economic development for all of central Illinois,” he said.
Tuesday’s dedication was jointly hosted by Easter Seals Central Illinois and the Children’s Hospital of Illinois, and the audience was invited to help purchase a specialized piece of equipment for the Ray and Kathy LaHood Center for Cerebral Palsy.
The equipment, called a LiteGait training device, costs nearly $20,000 and is designed to improve treatment for both children and adults with cerebral palsy.