U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced last week that he would leave his post after the U.S. Senate confirms a new transportation secretary to serve during President Barack Obama's second term in office. The rumor mill on who the new secretary might be has been running in overdrive, but the president has yet to announce his choice. Meanwhile, many people in the transportation industry have been singing LaHood's praises. What do you think about LaHood's service as transportation secretary? Has he been good for the rail industry? Did he meet rail industry professionals' expectations? The secretary's job performance is the subject of this week's poll on ProgressiveRailroading.com. Please consider answering the question, then share your thoughts here on Ray LaHood's tenure as transportation secretary.
I believe that Secretary LaHood has done a good job in general. By this I mean his office has tried hard to advance transportation safety in the continental United States. There are areas of opportunity in my professional opinion that have been overlooked during his term. This is a constructive view and not meant to detract from the accomplishments of the LaHood leadership during his appointed term. The construction of many new auto and rail bridges over our nation's largest rivers has been missed. These bridge infrastructure projects create many skilled jobs and add to a vital and healthy construction economy. Interstate highway maintenance, modification, additions and future planning could have been more intense on a country-wide scope. High-speed rail was not really defined in a way that the populous would need to logically back the program. Very detailed market studies concerning the realistic future use of any high-speed rail line were not completed or initiated. With the advent of high-speed rail as a political debate; I think our nation's state-of-the-art private railroad corporations did not receive the direct attention for advice that was needed to develope a cohesive and do-able plan. Under Secretary LaHood's leadership large amounts of taxpayer generated funds did get thrown in a way towards states that had no real preconceived plan or existing engineering plan for high-speed rail, and that was a major mistake. Genuine hs-rail on the world-class level of European or Asian representation follows engineering design that uses the most viable geographic routes. The so-called hs-rail map with lots of art ink marker lines drawn like a spider web of chaos have as yet today not addressed the best geology for maintaining 240-mph sustainable speeds! One line of marker had the Twin Cities in Minnesota connected to Chicago running along the unending compound curves of the Mississippi river! That was not the right answer for hs-rail. And in total several billions of dollars have found their way into state bank accounts for only hs-rail studies. Studies are important; but these types of studies, ecology, user friendlyness, community planning for the year 2080 or whatever don't contribute to any actual build of a hs-rail system. A complete civil engineering construction profile that takes care of a whole rail route is the only way to begin any hs-rail construction, not these partial and pieces of track that have been proposed so far! The several billions of dollars spent so far for not one foot of hs-rail trackage has been a disaster that no one individual is taking responsibility for. This is a huge land mass; the United States! Mr. LaHood tried to tie together many points of interest regarding hs-rail. Again; in general Secretary LaHood has done a good job. I think Ray LaHood should begin a private high-speed rail consultancy back in the important city of Chicago (America's most important transportation city), and approach the challenge of more specific marketing studies, and engineering technicalities. He should promote the fact that true hs-rail is totally independent and separate track and rail specification in relation to existing freight rail track. There have been way to many compromises in this area. Good luck in your future endeavors Secretary LaHood, and thank you for your service and leadership in a very hard national transportation department to run. I would suggest the philosophy to complete integration of Interstate hiway, main Interstate bridge and rail operations.
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