Anthony Foxx.
Anthony Foxx.
U.S. Department of Labor

Anthony Foxx, the transit-friendly mayor of Charlotte, N.C., has been confirmed as Obama’s transportation secretary in a rare unanimous Senate vote. (GOP lawmakers must be focusing all their energy on obstructing Gina McCarthy’s nomination for EPA chief.) He’ll be the youngest member of Obama’s cabinet.

From the Associated Press:

Foxx, 42, is considered a charismatic rising figure in the Democratic party and was a staunch and active campaigner for President Barack Obama in North Carolina, including playing host to the Democratic National Convention. …

Foxx is expected to continue in the vein of [former Transportation Secretary Ray] LaHood. He told the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee that safety would be his top priority at a nomination hearing a month ago.

His short tenure as mayor, and his professional background, suggest he will also carry on LaHood’s fondness for rail and transit.

Foxx worked to expand Charlotte’s light-rail system, break ground on an electric streetcar project in the city, and build electric vehicle-charging infrastructure. During his three and a half years as mayor, Charlotte’s unemployment rate dropped more than 3 percent, in part thanks to Foxx’s efforts to bolster the city’s reputation as an energy-industry hub.

Some transportation-policy wonks worry that LaHood will be a tough act to follow considering Foxx’s relative inexperience. But Foxx is no stranger to Washington, D.C. — he’s worked for the Department of Justice and the House Judiciary Committee, and he collaborated closely with the Obama team when Charlotte hosted the Democratic National Convention last year.

But just because his confirmation process was smooth sailing doesn’t mean Foxx won’t have his work cut out for him in the Transportation Department. The Charlotte Observer reports:

The department faces an immediate problem in finding a sustainable funding stream for badly needed improvements to roads, bridges and transit systems. It also has struggled to replace the country’s radar-based air-traffic-control system, which dates to the 1950s, with a modern, satellite-based system.

The Highway Trust Fund, which was created in the 1950s to fund the construction and maintenance of the Interstate Highway System, is going broke. Since the 1980s, the fund has also supported transit systems – a signature issue for Foxx.

Federal gasoline tax revenue has become insufficient to support the fund, and Congress has bailed it out with more than $50 billion from the U.S. Treasury in the past five years.

The 18.4-cents-a-gallon tax has remained unchanged in two decades, and Foxx will have to consider whether to raise it or replace it with something else. Almost any choice would force drivers to pay more, and would be politically unpopular.

All we want to know is, will he bike to work?