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Ray LaHood
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood talks about the "Cash for Clunkers" program in Washington, DC, on July 27, 2009. (AP)

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood talks about the "Cash for Clunkers" program in Washington, DC, on July 27, 2009. (AP)

Barack Obama’s Republican Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, is in the middle of an awful lot of American life and economic action lately.

Cash for clunkers? That’s his baby. Billions in stimulus money for new roads and jobs? That’s his, too. Not to mention high-speed rail, a national infrastructure bank, a “passengers’ bill of rights” for air travelers, and what to do about people texting while driving.

The longtime GOP congressman is with us today. This hour, a conversation with the man in the middle — U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

You can join the conversation. Tell us what you think — here on this page, on Twitter, and on Facebook.


Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood joins us from Washington.  A Republican and former Congressman, he represented the 18th district of Illinois from 1995 until this past January. As U.S. Transportation Secretary he oversees 55,000 employees and a budget of $70 billion. His blog is The Fast Lane.

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  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    So, our infrastructure is falling apart (bridge in MN) and I’d like to know why more of the stimulus money isn’t being spent to give people jobs rebuilding it.

    This is a huge missed opportunity.

  • Lilya Lopheka

    Lilya’s wish list from Honorable Ray LaHood

    1. Regulate unnecessary use of flashing police cars on the side of highways that cause miles and miles of traffic jams, even though there are not any s obvious highway security issues. Educate Police Departments to be Public Servants and help out with traffic flow, when it is necessary.

    2. Pressure FDA to change mileage testing standards. Optimum mpg speeds in most cars are around 35 mph. Introduce a third testing standard with actual non-congestion highway speed (75-80 mph) with actually air resistance with some average wind and air-turbulence conditions(15 mph) coming from all directions.

    3a. If you can, add temperature variations to EPA tests. Example: if a car yields average 60 mpg in a hot summer day, in a very cold winter day, the yield will go down to 48 mpg – (heavier air density + some other factors). Highway MPG testing must reflect the “true” air resistance

    3. Educate Highway Engineers for fuel conservation. Avoid sharp highway turns and highway merge/exits. If possible give some slope/angle to sharp turns (ie. bicycle velodrome) so that everybody will not slam on their brakes. Especially in inner city turns, if you see hundreds of scratches or tire marks on a concrete wall, there is something wrong with the turn itself.

    4. Gradually change the third/upper stop light at the back of the cars to “blue”. Ongoing traffic (parking) lights are Red, dead stop lights are “stronger” Red. Just does not make sense. We can get early reaction times to Stopped Traffic and save thousands of lives and serious fuel.

    5. Use better pavement material on Highway (ie. like the ones in germany) – more tar and less granular mixture. It is crazy (and Expensive!!!) to strip off Highways every 3-4 years due to cracks and malformations.

    6. Increase national awareness for fuel conservation (unnecessary idling, minimize using the brakes) by being better drivers (TV, schools), clear up bad driving myths. Educate public officials to calibrate the limning of dumb (red) Traffic Lights cycles better, especially in main arteries.

    7. Work with car companies through regulations to increase national mpg. MPG displays on Dashboards; Continuous Variable Transmissions, more aerodynamic body designs; less deadweight. Most importantly: gradually increase federal tax on Gasoline. Instead of the current fixed (forever) cents per gallon, tie the tax amount on international average prices and international personal income levels.

    8. Gradually mandate usage of GPS by cell phones for auto locking. If a cell phone travels on a highway, it should turn itself off.

    9. At the lobby of main (or all) Dept. of Transportation Building(s) have at least one civilian staff with a smiling face, who knows the Dept. and is ready to help citizens …. instead of having everybody with blue uniforms working for an xyz security contracting firm with no incentive to represent the Image of the Department.

  • David Weinstein

    Why is a 1993, 17 year old Volvo which gets 17 mpg is not considered a clunker, that it is “too old” and it’s gas mileage is too good?

    What is the real criteria / definition of a Clunker?

  • Sam Kopper

    Air travelers’ Bill of Rights…Kidnapping & False Imprisonment

    Keeping passengers trapped in an airplane for anything over TWO hours should be considered a form of kidnapping or false imprisonment. If TSA or other national security rules dictate those sorts of inhuman abuses, those rules should be changed.

  • Kate Zirpolo Flynn

    I am just wondering if we can get the same kind of renewal attention to the tax credit for first time home buyers. I’m all for improving the gas mileage quality of the fleet of personal vehicles in this country as an attempt to shrink our carbon footprint and support a huge industry, but this is for replacement cars, not first time car buyers. Many of these cars are still able to do their job, why should this program have more assistance than the crippled housing market?

  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    Could it be that the reason few of us know about all of these things the Secretary is doing is because the media is spending too much time covering “birthers” and “death panels.”

  • Todd

    Cash for clunkers? This is an ill-conceived attempt to stimulate the economy and improve MPG. Those “clunkers” could’ve been retro-fitted to be much more fuel efficient for less than half the cost of the $4,500. ALSO, this will create a dearth of affordable used vehicles in the market for those who can’t buy new. Essentially, the government has set the bottom market price for a used vehicle at $4,500.

  • Rudolf Boentgen

    Can we be assured that the U.S. taxpayer funds are not used to support foreign economies such as by buying light rail vehicle replacements not manufactured in the U.S.?

  • http://calliopesounds.blogspot.com/ Andrew Gilmartin

    We will see more funding for high-capacity buses where light rail might be considered? We have placed so much money into roadways and DOTs so let’s make as much use of this existing infrastructure as we can rather than building new infrastructure.

  • brianna g

    Public transportation at what cost?

    We Americans much prefer to pay more gas tax instead of increasing fare rates of public transportation (+ commuter parking) whenever the local government needs more funds.

    If you take out the cost of inner-city parking, driving is still more cost effective than public transportation in all of the 50 states.

    Tax the hell out of Gasoline. Lower the ticket cost of public transportation.

  • Richard from Bridgewater

    How about some out-of-the-box innovation, starting with troubled Rte 9 in Boston? If the speed limit says 45 MPH, the law says 46 is an infraction. Many CCTV’s are already in place. The enforced “limit” might resultedly slow traffic; but, gridlock would lessen as would pollution and characters would stop “racing to the stop sign”. The existing governance would be balance two fold (1) violation funds increase; and (2) THE BEST PART, twice a day, during inbound and outbound rush hour, 2 or more (lottery based) awards of $500 would be mailed to cars “obeying”. If the CCTV captured that they were also car pooling, the prize would triple.

  • Jim Sherpa

    I am unable to use cash for clunkers because my new car mileage rating is 19mpg, however since my 1997 Ford
    has almost 200thousand miles on it, I only get 15mpg.
    It seems that we are missing an opportunity to get some of the guzzlers off the road by not including vehicles like this one.
    I am an underemployed carpenter and I had hoped that reducing my monthly fuel bill by half would allow me to afford the monthly payment on a new fuel efficient vehicle.

  • http://www.3manchess.com Clif King

    If Amtrack does indeed loose money every year, why do taxpayers have to subsidize rich politicians to go from DC to their suburban homes? Why can’t the ticket cost represent what the actual cost to provide the service?

  • Rod

    Is it possible to mandate all trucks (big rigs) and local and transportation buses convert to bio diesel? Can the production of bio diesel be expanded? Not ethanol, but bio diesel.

    Rod in Hamden, CT

  • Ken Kelly

    I believe the definition of Democracy is “When you lose the election you accept the results and work with the winning party”. I thank Ray LaHood for doing the difficult thing and not just trying to destroy the effectiveness of the elected administration. How has his own party treated him since is acceptance of this appointment?

  • Ken

    Many people that drive “clunkers” do so because they cannot afford a new car, many cannot also afford a new car minus the allowance rebate. I understand that there are 2 purposes to the rebate, to get gas guzzlers off the road and to stimulate new car manufacture. Why nit offer a lessor rebate for purchase of a more fuel efficient used car with the purpose of improving fuel efficiency and giving help to lower income brackets?

  • Carl DeSimone

    Since we are so advanced in technology, is it possible to develop a system which would limit the use of cell phones in automobiles and other sites. Making such a device mandatory would reduce the danger to innocents from inconsiderate texters and cell phone users.

  • Kristen

    I think the idea of a fast train system through out the US is a great idea. I take the commuter rail from Providence to Boston. The cost is right and it is more enjoyable than dealing with traffic and parking. I wish there were more locations for commuter rails to more areas with the same price value. It cost me $8 to go from Providence to Boston (one way). But it can cost anywhere from $30 – $120 (one way) from Providence to Hartford, CT. This doesn’t make sense.

  • carla gen

    Did not like this Secretary. He is too much of a self-congratulatory Reaganish. In almost all areas that he brags about we actually Suck big time.

    Anybody wh was in the Congress during the past 29 years and is also stay as a Republican, THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOU!

    Request: I hope the OnPoint staff passes on the the link/contents/suggestion/complaints here to Dept. of Transportation staff, so that we are not wasting our time.

  • g

    So sick and tired of hearing people complain about texting while driving. There are numerous studies that show that there are many more distractions that cause accidents – talking, children, fatigue, just to name a few.

    Are you going to outlaw those too!?

    Same studies have proven that hands-free calling does not work. Its not the physical act of holding the phone, but the conversation itself that causes people not to pay attention.

    Stop concentrating on texting and cell phones as the BIGGEST reason for accidents. The minute there is a law against screaming kicking children that cause just as much if not more distractions while driving, I’ll put down my phone.

  • Putney Swope

    The above comment says it all. Here we have a person saying that they text while driving. Are you nuts?

    What has been proven is that when your texting when you drive it is just the same as driving under the influence.

    G, your logic is so flawed that it defies any sense of reality. In my view if you can’t put that damn phone down and drive then you have a problem like the drunk driver who can’t stop drinking.

    Driving is a privilege not a right.

  • Putney Swope

    G I’m sick an tired of dodging people like you who are under the illusion that they are in control while they are texting and driving. If you screw up your going to kill someone or yourself.

  • Tim

    G: I have to agree with the two previous critics of both your logic and common sense. Please take the time to read–not on your Crackberry while driving, please- the excellent NYT series on Texting, Mulitasking while Driving. Here is the first:


  • Sue Roth

    I have a wish list too:

    1. Should have made “those purchasing a new vehicle under “CARS” get one with 30MPG average or more. My 1988 Saab gets better than 22MPG on average.

    2. You never answered why the money allotted for transportation improvements is not enough. As a citizen of Boston, we can see why it isn’t enough. Drive by any transportation improvement, and you are lucky if you see more than 50% of the men working, we allow budget overrides when a budget was submitted to get the contract -WHY DON”T WE HOLD THEM TO IT? maybe allow a re-look if something unknown is discovered- we allow ridiculous projects like those in Kenmore Square to go four years over (and it is still not done properly)- we have little oversight of work once a company is awarded a contract- the public should be angry at the lack of proper balancing of work properly done and the budget. If I ran my business this way, I would be out of business.

    3. The high speed trains are a joke- boston to new york acela, only 30 min less time, no wireless internet, and over $120!! I rather take Megabus which offers nice seats, electricity, FREE internet access, and it cost me $11 for a four hour ride.

    4. Passenger bill of rights needs to be passed as soon as possible.

    5. Public information should be visible and available. For every construction site, there should be a sign that indicates what is to be done, what the budget is, who is paying for it, and when it is expected to be completed.

    6. You should require all states to have a minimum of insurance coverage to operate a vehicle. I am so tired of living next to NH who makes no requirements.

    7. Texting while driving should be outlawed!

  • Alex

    1. Speed limits on highways suck. I’d rather concentrate on going with the flow and the road ahead than looking out for cops or trying to stay within 60 mph while people wizz by at 80. Would free some cops to do real job, too.

    2. Airlines are out of control. I have not flown in years, unless absolutely necessary. Passengers should have rights to slam them with law suits for disrupted vacations, lost luggage, and especially time spent sitting locked up on the plane.

  • Rick Evans

    1. Police need to turn on their flashers to protect themselves from idiots who try passing the rubberneckers illegally in the breakdown lane.

    2. The optimum fuel efficiency speed is between 50 and 60 and the 35mph you state Ref: http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/driveHabits.shtml.

    3. The sharpness of an exit turn has as much to do with right of way as anything else. And if you see lots of tire marks on a Jersey barrier it actually has more to do with unskilled incompetent drivers as it does with road design.

    4. Changing from red to blue is just plain dumb. Drivers are programmed to know what the red brightness change means and don’t need the confusion of changing colors.

    5. Roads are not stripped and repaved every three of four years.

    7. I agree with you on about dashboard fuel efficiency displays. However I suggest you visit fueleconomy.gov compare CVT cars within the Nissan family and lose that myth that CVT is more efficient. The difference is insignificant. It’s typically less efficient in city driving.

  • Belinda

    Kudos for getting the ball rolling on high speed rail in the US! I rode the TGV in France and I was so impressed. I knew that we would have that soon in the US, but 15 years later, I’m still waiting. I’m so glad the conversation has begun.

    I’m no longer a French student. A lot of what I do is dictated by the needs of my three small children. We love to travel, but due to their ages, I rarely do. My husband is deployed to Afghanistan now, so traveling with the children is very difficult. For us, a dependable and clean rail system would be a wonderful option.

  • Lilya Lopekha

    @ Rick Evans

    Be open to other ideas.

    1. I said “unnecessary”. Judgment call. If there is wide shoulder, or ability to pull over awaaaay from the right lane, and if it is rush hour and relatively traffic, the Cop should have some “common sense”….
    Geee, my blue lights are causing 10 miles of traffic backlog. Daaaa. We have to curtail the “errogance”.
    There is a good chance that there is an Ambulence stuck inside that artificially created backlog. Unfortuntaly we have this attitude of “I am a Cop, I can do anything I want”.

    2. I was surprised too. We have 2006 Honda Odessey and 2007 Prius. Both have mpg displays.

    Optimum speeds, on a flat flat flat road, average temp:
    Prius is 30-32 mpg with constant gas, CVS transmission
    Odessey is around 33-34 in ECO mode (3 cycl) regular auto transmission.

    Tested many many times; same result all the time. I disagree with that 50-55 mph. It had to be totally wrong.

    3. No, no, no. Sometimes when there is a sharp turn at intersection of bridges, etc… sometimes the road is not smooth and cars do get into surprise air born effect and cengrifigual force…. bang… at the barrier. If such accidents happen all the time, at certain bends, the road is badly designed!!!

    4. Be open minded. Think about it. Where is the harm.

    5. Stripped every 5.2 years…. who cares. The standards are very loose especially in deep freeze climates.

    7. Thank you for agreing.

    Hope you did not get up from the wrong side of the bed this morning. :)

  • Rick Evans

    @Lilya “Be open to other ideas.” The FACT that I read your rather wordy and opinionated post AND responded to it is evident I’m open to other ideas.

    “Hope you did not get up from the wrong side of the bed this morning.” Huh?

  • Jeffrey Hotson

    will amtrak and high speed rail be funded sufficiently to make it healthy enough to make them viable? In other words, the passenger train system needs trains, stations, and schedules that provide the means for riders (customers) to get where they want to go in a cost effective manner so that there are enough riders for the passenger system to thrive? As an example, similar to the 40s and 50s.

  • leyla

    I am curious if Mr LaHood uses public transportation? trains? rides a bike for transportation?

  • anon

    Why can’t the ticket cost represent what the actual cost to provide the service?

    The same could be said for gasoline. Drivers don’t pay the actual cost to create and maintain roadways, or to get oil and protect oil producing regions.

    The question isn’t one of taxpayer subsidies, but relatively how much of them are given to each mode of transportation.

  • http://N/A AFH

    Business ethics.

    As popularity diminishes with the Government’s spending to prolong the fall of the big three, more tax payers want the government out of the board rooms. The president said how we will rid the citizens of their shares as soon as the companies are more profitable. The Volt is not going to save Detroit. The government printing more money that eventually will find its way to the car companies via Cash for Clunkers. We are creating the car companies supposed turn a rounds as the major share holder. The people buying cars were going to buy vehicles. $4500 doesn’t magically allow someone severely below the poverty line to have the remainders of a new cars MSRP.

  • http://www.whnuckolsconsulting.com Will Nuckols

    We’ve been talking for years now about the interplay of port to port transportation of goods in the U.S. and how an effective port to port system in the U.S. would likely take large numbers of trucks off of our already over congested interstate system. Experts have cited the Jones Act as a long standing impediment to improving our nation’s transportation by being able to optimize the use of our waterways in an integrated multi-modal system.
    When we look at ocean policy two issues are most often cited as long standing problems that there is wide agreement that we fix: passing the international law of the sea treaty and repealing or altering the Jones Act so that we stand some chance of having a rational transportation policy.
    I would like to hear from the Secretary what he sees as his role as we form and implement a national ocean policy.
    We’ve done a good job for years now pointing out the shortcomings of our policies. Now we need energetic leadership to finally change the status quo.

  • Mike Meehan

    I am surprised I was unemployed from March to June and there were very few jobs on any of the Job Search Websites for any “Road Construction Jobs. When you drive by many of these road construction sites all you see is Migrant workers not many or the locals doing the work. Amnd of the few jobs maybe 10 over 4 months 5 were for flaggers and 5 engineering jobs so where is all these jobs if they are not open to the locals to apply for them? With Michigan having 15% unemployed… Where are all these jobs going to come from? This being the official number many have give up looking for a real job with good pay and benefits because there aren’t many of those these days. I took a job at 5.00 less an hour and I am making the monthly bills I am no getting ahead just surviving but I have not miss a house payment but I can not do anything to improve my house because I don’t have the money to as many others don’t… mnd I lost 15% of the value of my home which makes it hard when I just got about that much into it… Where are all these jobs going to come from or be created???

    As for cash for clunkers I saw many new reports saying it would last to September but it is onlyt Aug 20th and it is ending… I guess some got a great deal…

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    the sky blue fans are just laffing at me after that signing

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    U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced Thursday that after a wildly successful run, the cash for clunkers program will come to a close on Monday, August 24th at 8 p.m. EDT.

  • jeffe

    Rick Evans do yourself a favor, ignore Lilya if you can.
    She’s not firing on all cylinders if you get my drift.

  • http://www.vacationrentalsco.com jasonbradyut

    Good…, as they say, all good things come to an end. Actually, this could be considered a BAD thing b/c it’s CRAZY, we are giving people money to live more vicariously and lavishly than before all this economical bust took place? What are we doing? Spoiling every single last American? Let’s learn to live in moderation, then we wouldn’t have so much debt…Well, the fish sticks from the head..so the head is the While House…right?

  • Sam

    I completely agree with Lilya about the Road Designs as well as the Road Signs n the placement of those signs.


    1. At any MassPike Exits, one can witness the CatRace that happens just after the tolls, the worst is at Exit 18 East Bound towards Cambridge towards the Double Tree Guesthouse

    2.Why on earth we have “No Turn On Red” written why cant we have the “Red Arrow” along with the Red Light? (Werent we taught that a Picture is worth a Thousand Words?)

    3.Most of the Entry Ramps to the Interstate are simply so narrow that its impossible to merge safely without slowing down (yet the common Rule of Thumb is always merge Into Highway at Highway Speeds, though there is a Yield Sign)

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    While we encourage a robust, open debate on the topic at hand, these comment threads are moderated by On Point and WBUR, and we may delete comments that we judge to be off-topic, unduly repetitive, or that descend into personal, ad hominem attacks.

  • http://www.wholesaleguccihandbags.us Wholesale Gucci Handbags

    I agree that this will make it easier to manage search campaigns but I also agree that MSN and Yahoo have much work to do on their PPC campaign interface. Google’s is much more intuitive and expanding every day, making it a cinch for PPC novices to dive right in. This would be a good

  • Stefan

    Wow, I was looking forward to this show, but you had Ray on the worst phone line possible… he doesn’t have he nicest voice as it is, and you had him on a ratty nasty sounding line, and I had a headache after listening to him yell into his phone after an hour.. :(

    - Stefan in Montreal

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