While the nation was focused on health care last week, Secretary Ray LaHood announced a “sea change" taking place at Obama's Department of Transportation.  The administration is eyeing policies that would take the nation's transportation infrastructure in a drastically different direction--away from economic reality. 

In a speech before the National Bike Summit and on his DOT blog, LaHood announced that "people across America who value bicycling should have a voice when it comes to transportation planning.  This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized."

Oh, yes.  You read that correctly.  The Obama DOT plans to treat bicycle & pedestrian paths and other non-motorized transportation avenues as equal to those of motorized transportation.  Without figuring out ways to fund existing infrastructure projects crumbling underneath the weight of a growing nation, the Obama administration is refocusing national transportation policy on "livability" standards:
"People get it. People want to live in livable communities. People want streetcars... walking paths, biking paths, and opportunities for families to really do the things they do best — which is to hang together and have fun… And you all created an opportunity for America with all of your hard work.

“I really came here just to say thank you to all of you for hanging in there with us. You all have made a big difference. Our whole livable community program … The President has included money in his next year’s budget for it; we’re collaborating with HUD, we’re going to put affordable housing next to walking paths and biking paths...

“I’ve been all over America, and where I’ve been in America I’ve been very proud to talk about the fact that people do want alternatives. They want out of their cars; they want out of congestion; they want to live in livable neighhoods. And we would not be where we’re at today without you ….  I’m very, very grateful!”

“This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized,” LaHood continued on his blog. “We are integrating the needs of bicyclists in federally-funded road projects. We are discouraging transportation investments that negatively affect cyclists and pedestrians. And we are encouraging investments that go beyond the minimum requirements and provide facilities for bicyclists and pedestrians of all ages and abilities.”

Apparently Lost on LaHood and Obama are a few basic facts.  The nation's infrastructure is crumbling and our economic vitality--commerce and jobs--rests on the movement of freight across the country.  Refocusing infrastructure efforts away from highways to bike paths means economic catastrophe. 

A spokesperson for LaHood added,

“Secretary LaHood believes the way we design our communities has a huge impact on our citizens’ economic, physical and social wellbeing,” a DOT spokesman said when asked if LaHood’s new directive meant that much-needed highway infrastructure needs might be sidetracked in favor of bike paths. “Many Americans live in neighborhoods without access to public transportation or sidewalks.  By focusing on livability, we can help transform the way transportation serves the American people, and create safer, healthier communities that provide access to economic opportunities.”

The spokesman noted that LaHood presently is presiding over the “most ambitious infrastructure investment program in more than half a century, the Economic Recovery Act.”
Seriously?  It's like these people live in an alternative universe... 

All those who want stimulus money going toward building bike paths and hiking trails, raise your hand.