Former Rep. Ray LaHood (R-IL), Secretary-Designate of the U.S. Dept. of Transportation, gave a brief outline of what his priorities would be at his confirmation hearing yesterday before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. The nomination was then passed along to the full Senate for confirmation.

“A key challenge for those who craft and manage the nation’s transportation programs – that is, all of us here today – will be to link decision-making to performance at all levels,” LaHood said. “This will require a new commitment to measuring performance in real time, as was called for in the recent report of the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Commission, and to adjusting our course where progress is not rapid enough. The practice of performance measurement will be key to assuring both that new money is invested wisely and that the public has the confidence to continue supporting continued investments.

“The era of one-size-fits-all transportation projects must give way to one where preserving and enhancing unique community characteristics, be they rural or urban, is a primary mission of our work rather than an afterthought,” LaHood added.

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Former Rep. Ray LaHood (R-IL), Secretary-Designate of the U.S. Dept. of Transportation, gave a brief outline of what his priorities would be at his confirmation hearing yesterday before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. The nomination was then passed along to the full Senate for confirmation.

“A key challenge for those who craft and manage the nation’s transportation programs – that is, all of us here today – will be to link decision-making to performance at all levels,” LaHood said. “This will require a new commitment to measuring performance in real time, as was called for in the recent report of the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Commission, and to adjusting our course where progress is not rapid enough. The practice of performance measurement will be key to assuring both that new money is invested wisely and that the public has the confidence to continue supporting continued investments.

“The era of one-size-fits-all transportation projects must give way to one where preserving and enhancing unique community characteristics, be they rural or urban, is a primary mission of our work rather than an afterthought,” LaHood added.

LaHood also spoke on the need to focus on the environment with transportation policy. “We must acknowledge the new reality of climate change,” he said. “This has implications for all areas; investments in intercity rail and mass transit, as called for in the economic recovery and reinvestment plan, are part of the equation, but only part.”

Sen. John D. Rockefeller, IV (D-WV), Chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, said that increased freight and passenger demand have overwhelmed the transportation network, and the new Secretary will need to pay close attention to safety issues.

“Our current trucking safety programs and regulations are grossly inadequate and ready for a major overhaul,” Rockefeller said. “The number of trucks on the road greatly outnumbers the people who inspect them, which allows too many unsafe, noncompliant trucks to be operating on the same roads that millions of families travel on each day. We need to develop a new oversight method that incorporates innovative technology to better track the safety of trucks on our roads.”

Rockefeller also noted the importance of environmental regulation. “I have been disappointed at the DOT’s level of commitment to address climate change issues, in particular its failure to adequately staff and utilize the Office of Climate Change and Environment created by this Committee in 2007,” he said. “Given the incoming President’s leadership on this issue, I am hopeful that you will usher in a new era of proactive engagement at the DOT on the issue of climate change so that we can try to slow, and ultimately reverse, the effects of our unbridled production of carbon dioxide.”

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R–TX) asked LaHood about his stance on imposing tolls on existing federal highways. “I think we have placed too much focus on private-financed toll roads to solve the problems of urban congestion,” she said. “In many instances, this has become an abdication of private property rights. I am very concerned about our federal government giving incentives to promote toll roads and, in some instances, allowing tolls over every lane of a federal highway that the taxpayers have already paid for.” LaHood agreed with Hutchison, saying it was “not a good idea.”