Why Is Obama Leaving Top Federal Transportation Posts Unfilled?

There are five open posts at leading federal transportation agencies. Photo: Bike Portland
There are five open posts at leading federal transportation agencies. Photo: Bike Portland

We’ve heard a lot of good policy points on transportation from President Obama during his six years in office, and we’ve seen some progress, too.

But transportation reform has never been a top priority for the president. Here’s an example from Network blog Systemic Failure: The Obama administration is leaving top federal transportation positions unfilled.

There are now 5 transportation agencies within the Federal government that are being run by acting administrators:

  • The FTA: Therese McMillan is acting administrator while her nomination is pending in the Senate.
  • NHTSA, where David Friedman has been acting administrator since the resignation of David Strickland (over the GM ignition switch scandal).
  • The FRA, which is losing Joe Szabo (thank God!).
  • NTSB: Deborah Hersman resigned as Chair earlier this year. Christopher Hart has been Acting Chair.
  • FHWA: Gregory Nadeau is acting Administrator.

Other than McMillan, the Obama Administration has yet to make a nomination for these agencies. It is one of those rare opportunities where the Obama Administration could dramatically support transit, bikes, and livability goals. Well, that is if the Administration were really interested in doing that.

Just imagine: an NTSB that focuses on road safety, instead of hot-air balloons and rocketships. An NHTSA that implements regulations for truck sideguards. An FRA that doesn’t regulate passenger trains out of existence. An FHWA that isn’t blindly promoting highway expansion.

What is the president waiting for?

Elsewhere on the Network today: The Political Environment explains how the Wisconsin Department of Transportation is fudging traffic projections to make the case for a $1.1 billion highway expansion in Milwaukee. Family Friendly Cities wonders what it would take to get suburban families with children to make the switch to urban living. And This Old City contemplates how to get Philadelphia City Council members, who really, really love to drive, to advocate for transit riders.