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Heritage tees up questions for Transportation nominee

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Lawmakers should ask Foxx “[W]hat is the appropriate federal role in transportation policy and could Washington hand over certain activities to states or localities?,” Heritage said.

The question was one of eight the Heritage Foundation suggested for the Foxx hearing. The others include:

“How do you believe Highway Trust Fund revenues should be spent? What do you think the goals of the federal highway program should be?”

“Do you think spending on transit is an effective use of federal taxpayer dollars?”

“Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood described his livability initiative as a way to ‘coerce people out of the cars.’ Do you endorse such government intrusion into Americans’ lives?”

“Do you agree with the Administration’s high-speed rail vision? If so, how would you pay for it?”

“Do you support subjecting the operation of Amtrak’s passenger rail lines to competition to lower costs and save taxpayer money?”

“Do you support federal “stimulus,” such as the $50 billion in immediate infrastructure ‘investments’ included in President Obama’s budget?”

“Should the federal government create a national infrastructure bank?”

The conservative foundation provided its own answers to the questions, of course.

On the use of highway trust fund revenue, the group said “federal highway funds should be spent on programs that improve mobility and safety and mitigate traffic congestion cost-effectively.”

“The motorists and truckers paying the gas tax that supports the highway program should get something in return — increased highway capacity and safe roads, not local projects such as bicycle paths and trolley cars, which do not alleviate traffic congestion,” Heritage said.

On providing federal funding for public transportation, the group said “despite receiving federal subsidies for three decades, transit has failed to relieve traffic congestion, which actually has worsened over the life of the federal transit program, evidenced by increased peak travel times in the nation’s 51 metropolitan areas.”

“Further, supporters overstate the economic activity, jobs, and environmental benefits produced by transit projects,” the think tank said. “Misguided federal spending on transit has diverted funding away from highway and bridge projects, which would more cost-effectively mitigate congestion and boost safety.

“Transit itself is largely concentrated in just six cities (New York, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, and San Francisco), making it truly a local program.”

The Heritage Foundation acknowledged that a Transportation nominee appointed by President Obama is unlikely to agree with its point of view on issues involving road and transit funding.

“If confirmed, Foxx could not reverse course overnight, but he could advocate policies and programs that scale back the federal role in transportation policy in favor of greater state flexibility and control, thus increasing accountability and freeing the states to meet their unique transportation needs,” the group said.

Supporters of Foxx’s nomination have argued that he will support increased funding for public transportation systems because of his support for transit projects in Charlotte, N.C., where he has served as mayor since 2009.

When Obama introduced Foxx as his DOT nominee last month at the White House, he cited the Charlotte mayor’s experience implementing transportation programs at the local level as a key qualification for the top transportation job in his Cabinet.

"When Anthony became mayor in 2009, Charlotte, like the rest of the country, was going through a bruising economic crisis," Obama said on April 29. "But the city has managed to turn things around. The economy is growing. There are more jobs, more opportunity. And if you ask Anthony how that happened, he’ll tell you that one of the reasons is that Charlotte made one of the largest investments in transportation in the city’s history."

Foxx has kept a low profile since he accepted the DOT nomination, but he has been meeting with members of the Senate’s Transportation committee ahead of Wednesday’s hearing.

At least one member of the panel, Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillBiden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big Harris walks fine line on Barrett as election nears Fox's Bongino, MSNBC's McCaskill trade blows over Trump ride: 'You epic piece of garbage' MORE (D-Mo.), has promised to press Foxx on allowing airline passengers to use electronic devices during flight takeoffs and landings.

Currently, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which is a subsidiary of the DOT, requires passengers to turn off their electronic devices when airplanes are at altitudes below 10,000 feet.