Perhaps we should have seen this coming: years after the city of Charlotte, North Carolina, launched an ambitious transit program, President Obama announced today that his choice for the nation's next Secretary of Transportation is Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx.
Anthony Foxx was born in Charlotte in 1971 and attended nearby Davidson College for his undergraduate degree. After graduating from New York University's school of law in 1996, he returned to Charlotte for a series of jobs in local law firms, eventually settling as a city councilman and an attorney for the U.S. branch of DesignLine, a transit bus manufacturer originally based in New Zealand.
Foxx's experience with Charlotte might be to credit behind a string of (minor) successes during his tenure as mayor: he presided over the opening of the Lynx, an ambitious, 10-mile light rail system that connects downtown Charlotte and I-485, the surrounding ring road. He also aided in the completion of a new runway at Charlotte's international airport (the country's sixth largest).
The success of Lynx was on display yesterday as President Barack Obama publicly announced Foxx's nomination. The light rail project was first conceived in the 1980s, but was repeatedly postponed and killed until 1998, when voters approved a sales tax increase to support the project. After years of planning and debate, construction began in 2005 and the system opened in 2007. Foxx can't exactly claim credit for that--he didn't become mayor until 2009--but he was at the head of Charlotte's government in 2012 when it proposed extending the rail system (whose success exceeded expectations). The extension is currently partially funded by federal grants and fully designed.
Foxx is expected to replace former secretary Ray LaHood, memorable for his tireless crusades against distracted driving. Under LaHood's tutelage, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued plenty of guidelines calling for the reduction or elimination of in-car distractions ranging from handheld cell phone calls, to text messages, to cumbersome voice commands and complicated touchscreens. It's unclear at this point how far those recommendations will go, as NHTSA's edicts are only guidelines; legislators, not appointees, can codify them into law.
Foxx's confirmation is expected to be smooth, although any measure of political gridlock in the Senate could postpone--or thwart--Foxx's installation. We'll have to wait and see.
Source: Charlotte Observer