U.S. Transportation Secretary influenced Georgia

With the departure of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, the state of Georgia loses a friendly link to power over federal transportation funds.

LaHood, a Republican, and Gov. Nathan Deal served together in Congress. By all accounts their relationship, along with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s links to the Obama administration, has served to boost Georgia’s efforts to advance its transportation projects in the Washington bureaucracy, even though Georgia is a red state dealing with a Democratic administration.

Georgia recently won key bureaucratic approval for its coveted project to deepen the Savannah port, and the state is making progress in its quest for federal funding for the project.

In addition to the ports project, LaHood led U.S. Department of Transportation efforts that had a significant impact in Georgia:

  • A campaign to outlaw texting behind the wheel helped spur Georgia to pass a state law banning the practice.
  • The city of Atlanta won a $47 million grant to help fund a streetcar downtown.
  • Georgia won federal cooperation in its attempts to advance the toll project on I-75 and I-575 in Cobb and Cherokee counties.

A spokesman for Deal, Brian Robinson, conceded the relationship was helpful and said Deal wished LaHood could stay. But he noted, “We still have influential liaisons to the Obama administration, particularly Mayor Kasim Reed.”

LaHood met with Deal on Monday, the day before he announced his departure, and he addressed Georgia’s mayors. “Over the last four years you’ve gotten your act together,” he told them. “You really have.”

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