Transportation secretary to leave administration
LaHood, 67, served seven terms in Congress representing a central Illinois district that includes his hometown of Peoria, Ill., and overlapped with Obama in the state's delegation during the last four years of his career.
At the department, LaHood provided a bipartisan voice during the first term, helping implement billions of dollars in transportation projects from the 2009 economic stimulus bill and promoting the plan to wary Republicans. The department pushed forward thousands of infrastructure projects to improve roads and bridges and LaHood worked with Congress last year to pass an overhaul of highway and transit programs that gives states more flexibility in how they spend federal money.
He tackled a number of regulations that had been mired in gridlock. LaHood worked with auto makers and environmentalists to develop tougher fuel efficiency standards for new cars, with the goal of providing environmental benefits and reducing fuel consumption.
Guarding against airline pilot fatigue, the Federal Aviation Administration set new rules under LaHood's watch that would limit the maximum time a pilot can be scheduled on duty and place limits on scheduled flying time and hours for pilots flying overnight. The action was prompted by a deadly plane crash near Buffalo, N.Y., that raised concerns about pilot fatigue.
LaHood also has taken on major transportation companies during his tenure, slapping Toyota Motor Co. with record fines for delaying safety recalls and failing to promptly report problems to federal regulators.
He recently ordered United Airlines to ground its Boeing 787 Dreamliner following mishaps with the aircraft's batteries. The FAA is investigating the cause of the problems to the Dreamliner, which uses lithium ion batteries and is the world's first airliner whose structure is made mostly from lightweight composite materials.
Perhaps LaHood's most passionate work has involved distracted driving, which he has called a "national epidemic." He has launched a national media campaign to end texting and cellphone use by drivers, an awareness campaign that has drawn comparisons to efforts to promote seat belt use more than a generation ago.
The grandfather of 10, LaHood has often emphasized the toll that deaths and injuries from distracted driving can inflict on families.
"Safety will be something that people will remember us for in all modes of transportation," LaHood said.
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