Foxx Hopes to Invest in Infrastructure in New DOT Post

July 30--WASHINGTON -- Former Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx is still settling into his new job as U.S. secretary of transportation, but he said some of what he learned as the city's leader applies: Invest in infrastructure to spur economic growth.

"I think there are several lessons from my time as mayor of Charlotte," said Foxx, in the Department of Transportation's media briefing room. "I do see such a strong connection between infrastructure and economic growth."

Foxx was sworn in July 2 as DOT secretary, a job that will face challenges including political gridlock in and decaying national infrastructure.

Since then, he's had to deal with a commercial airline crash in San Francisco and the lingering effects of the sequester budget cuts on the department, in addition to learning an agency that has a $70-billion budget and more than 55,000 employees.

"This first several days and weeks is really all about internal focus and trying to make sure that before I start launching out there in the public space too much that I take the time to learn the business, so to speak," said Foxx. Before Tuesday's interview, one of Foxx's press aides said that he would not answer any questions about Charlotte Douglas International Airport and the legislation passed last week to transfer control of the airport to a new, independent commission, or about the impending US Airways-American Airlines merger.

For ethics reasons, Foxx has recused himself from issues involving Charlotte, officials said.

On other issues ranging from air travel to rail to air, Foxx said:

--He's still awaiting the results of a safety analysis on Boeing's 787 Dreamliner airplane, which has been plagued by battery-related issues.

"It's leading-edge technology. It's a product that's an example of where we're going in the future of aviation. It's my hope and expectation that the 787 will be a great success."

--States experimenting with measures to deal with declining gas tax revenues, such as taxing vehicle miles traveled and toll roads, could point the way to solutions for closing funding shortfalls nationwide.

--High-speed rail travel in places such as California and North Carolina is a priority. "I think Europe has done a pretty effective job of making rail on par with other modes of getting around. The president is still very committed to rail, and I am as well."

--The tension between cities such as Charlotte and the North Carolina General Assembly this year could hurt the state's competitiveness, Foxx said. "To the extent that we're undercutting our ability to prepare people for the jobs of the 21st century, that's a problem," he said.

In the race to succeed him as Charlotte's next elected mayor, Foxx won't say who he supports.

"I'm not touching that one," said Foxx, with a smile.

And speculation has already started about what Foxx might do after his job as secretary of transportation likely comes to an end with the end of President Barack Obama's second term in 2016. Will he challenge N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory?

"I keep getting that question," Foxx said with a laugh. "I thought you had a governor."

Copyright 2013 - The Charlotte Observer