3 recommendations from Obama's Secretary of Transportation for the Trump administration

Come January, former US Labour Secretary Elaine Chao will likely be appointed the new Secretary of Transportation as part of Trump’s administration. She will oversee federal regulations on everything from airlines to mass transit to roads.

Released in October, Trump’s infrastructure plan outlines his administration’s policy wishes for things like water systems and transportation for the next four years. The plan budgets $1 trillion for highway and bridge projects, and largely emphasises tax cuts to private-sector investors.

In an interview with Business Insider, Anthony Foxx, the current Secretary of Transportation under the Obama administration, outlined what he’d like to see as the country’s greatest priorities when it comes to mobility going forward. Stressing the need for reliable mass transit, Foxx’s ideas differ from Trump’s infrastructure plan, however.

Investment in repairs to mass transit

The US has a $90 billion backlog of repairs that need to be done on subways, buses, and rails every year, Foxx says. He points to the Washington DC Metro (which is in the midst of $118.8 million-worth of repairs) and the Holland Tunnel between New York and New Jersey (which has undergone an estimated $9.7 million concrete repair project since May) as examples of current projects that require much federal and state funding.

“We also have needed multi-modal development in fast-growing areas out west and down in the southeast,” he tells BI.

Adding more reliable public transit options would help free up gridlock in places like Charleston and Los Angeles, which (like most US cities) has only increased in recent years.

Creating transportation systems that accommodate the nation’s growing population

When making investment decisions about transportation, Foxx says the incoming administration should keep population growth in mind. By 2045, a projected 395 million Americans (70 million more than today) will live in the US.

“Those people will want to use roads, will want to use transit; they’re going to want to get on their bikes and want to walk,” he says. “And if we haven’t made room to accommodate that growth, shame on us.”

Public transit — which has been one of Foxx’s biggest focuses over the past four years — is not mentioned in Trump’s plan.

Trump wants to create an infrastructure bank using tax credits to generate private investment in projects. However, as NPR notes, infrastructure banks usually only work in favour of projects that generate revenue from their users, like toll roads and airports. Subways and bike lanes normally don’t generate that kind of revenue.

Emphasis on providing multiple ways to get from point A to B

Looking forward, Foxx says he would like to see an even bigger emphasis on multi-modal transportation — providing more options for people who want to travel by bike, public transit, or walking.

“We’re a big country and we got to be able to address the country that’s coming — not the country that we were in 1956,” says. “I think it’s really important to not just put more money in the pipeline but make sure those pipes are the ones we want money flowing through in the 21st century.”

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