In case you missed it, President Obama announced on Monday that he is nominating Charlotte mayor Anthony R. Foxx as the next transportation secretary. While he doesn’t have a background in transportation, Foxx has encouraged transit in Charlotte through measures such as the Charlotte Streetcar Project and expanding the LYNX Blue Line light rail. He has also supported cycling through projects such as a bike share program and an annual “Bike to Breakfast” ride, according to Jonathan Maus at BikePortland. As far as cars go, he’s invested in new electric vehicle infrastructure for Charlotte. However, he’s also supported highway extension and widening projects, causing some concern among transit and New Urbanism advocates.
Angie Schmitt of the Streetsblog network writes, “Expanding highways, transit, and bicycling options simultaneously is a good approximation of what we’ve seen so far from the Obama administration: giving people more transportation options without making much of an effort to rein in sprawl infrastructure.” Emily Badger of The Atlantic Cities looks at this approach in a slightly different way, calling his transportation resume “multi-modal,” and adds, “in an era when the federal DOT is pivoting away from its legacy as a builder of highways, Foxx seems to get that transportation – particularly in our cities – comes in many modes, and that they’re each integral to the economic strength of a region.”
The Atlantic Cities and Smart Growth America are both pleased that a former mayor will be the new head of the DOT. Alex Dodds of Smart Growth America explains, “Mayors and other city leaders understand transportation in a unique way, and we talked to The Atlantic Cities about this back in November. Their task is to create a vibrant city. Transportation is one part of that effort, but so are housing, jobs, safety, cost of living and quality of life. At the city level it’s particularly easy to see how transportation impacts all of these things. As a result mayors are likely to view transportation as an investment that supports broader economic development rather than just a way to move people.”
Despite Foxx’s support of certain highway projects in his home state, it’s clear he knows alternative modes of transportation need to be developed and supported, so that in turn, local economies are supported as well – a sentiment that was echoed by local businessman Howard Feldman a couple of weeks ago.