Ray LaHood served as the 16th Secretary of Transportation from January 23, 2009 to July 2, 2013.
In nominating him, President-elect Obama said, “Few understand our infrastructure challenge better than the outstanding public servant that I’m asking to lead the Department of Transportation.”
Secretary LaHood’s primary goals in implementing President Obama’s priorities for transportation included safety across all modes, restoring economic health and creating jobs, sustainability, shaping the economy of the coming decades by building new transportation infrastructure, and assuring that transportation policies focus on people who use the transportation system and their communities.
As Secretary of Transportation, LaHood led an agency with more than 55,000 employees and a $70 billion budget that oversees air, maritime, and surface transportation missions.
Under Secretary LaHood’s leadership, DOT made major improvements and investments in our nation’s infrastructure. Soon after being sworn in as Secretary of Transportation, LaHood began work implementing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the most significant public works program since the New Deal, awarding $48 billion in Recovery Act dollars for more than 15,000 transportation projects across the nation which created tens of thousands of jobs. The Recovery Act projects led to nearly 42,000 miles of road improved, over 2,700 bridges improved or replaced and the purchase or rehabilitation of over 12,220 transit vehicles. The Recovery Act also made the first-ever investments in American high-speed rail, with the construction of approximately 1,000 route-miles of new or improved track benefiting high-speed and faster intercity passenger rail corridor programs.
Between 2009 and 2013, the Department awarded $5.4 billion to rehabilitate runways, taxiways, and aprons at 1,115 airports around the country. It constructed or improved 6,500 miles of rail corridors and upgraded 40 stations. The Department also invested $7.9 billion to help build major new transit rail and bus infrastructure projects in 10 states and awarded 129 Small Shipyard Grants to shipyards in 77 cities.
Secretary LaHood led the Department’s aggressive national campaign to end the dangerous practice of distracted driving, and specifically texting and cell phone use behind the wheel. In 2009, only 18 states had laws against texting and driving. When Secretary LaHood left office, 41 states, D.C., Guam, and the Virgin Islands banned texting while driving, and 10 states, D.C., Guam, and the Virgin Islands banned all hand-held cell phone use behind the wheel.
Under Secretary LaHood, DOT issued two major rules that significantly strengthened protections for airline consumers. The rules have virtually ended lengthy tarmac delays, prohibited the largest U.S. airlines from scheduling chronically delayed flights, increased compensation for bumped passengers, required advertised airfares to include the full price to be paid by consumers, and taken numerous other consumer-friendly actions.
Before becoming Secretary of Transportation, LaHood served for 14 years in the U.S. House of Representatives from the 18th District of Illinois (from 1995-2009). During that time he served on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the House Appropriations Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He also chaired four bipartisan retreats to help restore civility to the House of Representatives. Prior to his election to the House, he served as Chief of Staff to House Republican Leader Robert Michel, whom he succeeded in representing the 18th District, and as District Administrative Assistant to Congressman Thomas Railsback. He also served in the Illinois State Legislature.
Before his career in government, Secretary LaHood was a junior high school teacher, having received his degree from Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. He was also director of the Rock Island County Youth Services Bureau and Chief planner for the Bi-States Metropolitan Planning Commission in Illinois.