Obama praises LaHood as 'maybe the best secretary of transportation' in U.S. history

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Obama cited LaHood's record as transportation secretary since he was sworn into the post in 2009.

"From the day that he was sworn in, Ray has fought tirelessly to rebuild America’s infrastructure — creating good jobs that strengthen our economy and allow us to better compete in the global economy," Obama said of the gregarious departing transportation secretary.

"Over the past four years, thanks to Ray's leadership, we’ve built or improved more than 350,000 miles of road — enough to circle the world more than 14 times," Obama continued. "We’ve upgraded more than 6,000 miles of rail — enough to go coast to coast and back.  We’ve repaired or replaced more than 20,000 bridges, and helped put tens of thousands of construction workers back on the job.  And that’s all due in no small part to Ray LaHood's leadership."

LaHood was equally effusive about Obama, calling his administration "one of the most historic" administrations in U.S. history.

"He's going to have many legacies, but his transportation legacy will be high-speed rail," LaHood said of Obama. "Lincoln started the rail system in America. Obama has started high-speed rail."

Obama cited his friendship with LaHood, dating back to when they were both representing Illinois as members of Congress.

"On a personal note, Ray LaHood has been a good friend of mine for many years," he said.  "Before he served in my Cabinet, we served together in Congress.  He’s a Republican; I’m a Democrat.  These days, that sometimes keeps folks apart, but what always brought Ray and I together was a shared belief that those of us who serve in public service owe their allegiance not to party but to the people who elected them to represent them."

Obama added, "It helps that we're from the same state — Ray is from Peoria; I'm from Chicago."