Who would have ever thought that a Republican from Peoria would end up at a progressive bloggers conference in Las Vegas?
I just finished speaking on a panel at Netroots Nation, an annual conference for online progressive activists which attracts some of the best and brightest minds in politics and policy today. I was joined by David Alpert from Greater Greater Washington, Duncan (Atrios) Black from Eschaton, and Radhika Fox from PolicyLink.
My fellow panelists and I had an engaging discussion about DOT's top priorities and the future of transportation planning. The moderator and the audience asked great questions on a variety of important topics, including livability, transit operating assistance, high speed rail, and more.
I had a chuckle when I saw that our panel was called "Bikes, trains, stimulus, and the Obama Cabinet's biggest surprise." Because I'm often still surprised to be where I am - a grandfather of nine with a blog, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account.
But, I'm proud of the community we've built here, and I appreciate everyone who takes the time to read, comment, and share their experiences with me. It's amazing to see how the internet has helped open up the conversation, making it easier than ever before for regular folks to have their voices heard on the issues that matter most to them.
Since taking on this job, I've done a lot of listening. When I travel around the country, people stop to tell me about what they need from their transportation systems. They ask for more affordable, more efficient, and more sustainable options for getting from one place to another. They ask for investments in highways and bridges, sidewalks and bike paths, and transit, commuter, and light rail lines. They ask for the best safety protections and regulations that will ensure their loved ones make it home in one piece every night.
These are the conversations that shape my decisions as the Secretary of Transportation. And I'm proud of the work we've done so far.
The Recovery Act has allowed us to put thousands of Americans to work on behalf of commuters, truckers, and bus drivers everywhere, improving 30,000 miles worth of roadways this summer alone. We've begun laying the groundwork for a national high speed rail network that will change the way people travel around the country. And we've committed to policies that take the needs of pedestrians and cyclists into account in transportation planning.
(From left to right) Duncan Black, Radhika Fox, & Ray LaHood at Netroots Nation.
As we've made all of this progress, we've also remembered that advancement at the expense of safety is never acceptable. That's why we've put consumer protection regulations in place that provide air travelers with basic rights when they fly. It's why, as more and more gadgets make their way into vehicles, we've launched a crusade against distracted driving that encourages drivers to put down their cell phones and concentrate on the road.
The Obama Administration and the Department of Transportation are committed to delivering on what the American people are asking for. As long as I'm in this job, I promise that I'll keep listening. So keep commenting, tweeting, and posting out there - you have my undivided attention.