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LaHood and the potential for livable communities

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We’ll hear from Transportation
Secretary Ray LaHood tomorrow

Tomorrow morning, President Obama’s Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood will address the 2009 National Bike Summit.

When LaHood was announced as Obama’s pick back in December, many in the bike movement didn’t really have much to say about him. He’s been a strong supporter of rail, but his background on bike issues wasn’t too deep.

Tomorrow, he’ll have his first chance to acquaint himself with America’s bike power brokers and, if a recent story in Congressional Quarterly is a reliable sign, LaHood is sure to win many fans.

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The article in CQ (published March 6th) was titled, ‘Livable Communities’ Central to Administration’s Transportation Goals and it includes some very encouraging words from LaHood that leaves a big opening for future bike-friendly legislation.

CQ wrote that LaHood’s proposal for the next transportation bill “will focus heavily on the idea of “livable communities.”” Here’s LaHood from his confirmation hearing (as reported in CQ):

“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 goal rather than an afterthought.”

And check out this passage from CQ:

“For the past half-century…the federal government has ignored mobility within communities to build the Interstate Highway System to promote movement around the country.”

CQ also reports that LaHood has discussed ideas to put affordable housing near public transportation, shortening street blocks to make them more walkable, and more. There also seems to be some serious talk about integrating transportation policy, housing policy and land use to create more livable communities.

These ideas are nothing new to bike and transportation advocates, but this marks a clear change from past administrations. It’s also something we would have never heard from former president Bush’s Transportation Secretary Mary Peters (who didn’t even think bike paths should be considered transportation infrastructure).

Livable communities are bike-able communities. I think many Summit-goers are sleeping tonight with dreams that finally, we just might have an administration that gets it. Do they? We’ll begin to find out tomorrow.