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Anthony Foxx confirmed as U.S. transportation chief

The U.S. Senate voted 100-0 Thursday morning to confirm Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx to be the next U.S. Transportation Secretary after Sen. John Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, said Foxx would be a “superb” person to lead the country’s transportation network.

Foxx, 42, will immediately confront safety and funding challenges in a large department that oversees the nation’s highway, transit, aviation and rail networks.

Skeptics have questioned whether Foxx brings enough heft to the job. But supporters admire his push in Charlotte for improvements to the city’s airport, highways and transit systems. Others like his experience working with the federal government on the local level.

Anthony Foxx officially gets the nod

From AP: President Barack Obama is nominating the mayor of Charlotte to head his Department of Transportation. Obama revealed Mayor Anthony Foxx as his pick in the White House East Room Monday.

The president called the rising Democratic star his friend and called on the Senate to quickly confirm him. He said he wants to get Americans back to work rebuilding roads and other infrastructure.

The take from Washington, courtesy of the National Journal: "It’s a smart move politically for the White House. Not only does this give the president another minority in his Cabinet, but this move also boosts a rising star in the Democratic Party."

UPDATED: Click "Read More" to see Obama's full remarks.

NC DOT chief mentioned as potential Obama cabinet member

State DOT Secretary Gene Conti is mentioned in Governing Magazine's list of potential candidates to run the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Conti, who has led the state transportation department for nearly four years, is a former U.S. assistant secretary for transportation policy.

Governing says Conti's emphasis on data-driven analytics could be important in a new national transportation leader.

Update: Dome's Crosstown Traffic colleague talked to Conti.

“I’m very honored to be on the list of so many prominent transportation leaders,” Conti said Friday. “It’s a nice recognition of the work we’ve done in the last four years in North Carolina.”

Conti was en route to his home town, Pittsburgh, for the annual meeting of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, where he will receive the group’s highest award this weekend. The Thomas H. McDonald Award recognizes a career of service in transportation and highway engineering.

He said the mention of his name for U.S. transportation secretary was “all speculation,” but he did not dismiss the possibility.

“When the president asks you to do something, you have to give it very serious consideration," Conti said. "We’re far away from that point, I think. Nobody has contacted me about that directly. We’ll just see how it unfolds.”

Ray LaHood, a Republican and former congressman from Illinois who currently holds the position, has indicated that he might not stay on for President Barack Obama’s second term.

Correction of LaHood's former position.

Read more here:

Perdue declares emergency over cold

Gov. Bev Perdue has temporarily suspended federal rules that limit how long truck drivers can be behind the wheel.

Perdue signed an executive order declaring an emergency and suspending certain rules to ensure that drivers can deliver essential fuels and oils used for heating. Federal regulations limit how long commercial drivers can drive without rest.

"I want to ensure that adequate supplies of home heating and vehicle fuels are available to our citizens during this extended cold snap," Perdue said in a news release. "Some areas of our mountains got more than 20 inches of snow recently and extremely cold temperatures have persisted statewide."

The order only applies to drivers transporting essential fuels. The Highway Patrol will enforce the order and drivers must produce documentation proving they are delivering the fuels.

Update: Perdue spokesman Tim Crowley said companies that deliver heating fuels are behind on their shipments because of prolonged icy conditions in the western part of the state. The executive order is intended to ensure residents and businesses have enough fuel to deal with the cold temperatures, he said.

executive order 43.pdf

Perdue heads to D.C.

Gov. Beverly Perdue will meet with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood on Wednesday to tell him how much the state needs a new bridge over the Yadkin River.

The Interstate 85 bridge, a few miles northeast of Salisbury, is an aging four-lane bridge built in the 1950s, Barb Barrett reports. It would cost an estimated $335 million to replace.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has a $1.5 billion pot of discretionary money to go to special, big-ticket items around the country. States have to apply for funding, and no state could receive more than $300 million under the program’s rules.

Perdue’s push continues work already begun by state transportation leaders. State Secretary of Transportation Gene Conti visited the White House this spring to talk with federal officials about the state’s needs.

While in Washington on Wednesday, Perdue also has meetings planned with Sens. Richard Burr and Kay Hagan, and with most of the House delegation.

She plans to talk with them about North Carolina’s ongoing budget crisis, its needs from federal recovery efforts and how the state is spending its money so far.

Claims Dept: Dole on 'Fibber Kay'

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole has a new ad attacking her Democratic rival, Kay Hagan.

What the ad says: The ad begins with images of a small dog barking and jumping at a fence. Narrator: "They call her 'Fibber Kay Hagan.' Fib after fib, she tries to turn us against Elizabeth Dole. But we know Elizabeth has been consistently voted one of the 10 most admired women in the world. Her clout works wonders for North Carolina. So bark away Fibber Kay. That dog don't hunt." Dole: "I'm Elizabeth Dole and I approve this message." Text on the screen says Dole "saved jobs," "saved bases," "saved farmers" and "helped sheriffs."

The background: The ad does not specify who "they" are who call Hagan "Fibber Kay."

The Dole campaign said they did not come up with the nickname, but they did not know who did.

"We're not sure who coined it, but we hear people call Kay Hagan 'Fibber Kay' on the campaign trail and we hear it frequently," said spokesman Hogan Gidley.

A search of North Carolina newspapers, blogs and Web sites did not return any references to "Fibber Kay" from before the ad began airing, and nearly all written since were about the ad itself.

The ad does not name any of the supposed "fibs" that Hagan has made.

MOST ADMIRED: Every year since 1948, the Gallup organization has surveyed a random group of Americans on the men and women in the world they most admire.

As secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation under President Reagan, Dole first made the top 10 in 1987, returning three years later as secretary of the Labor department.

Though she received votes in other years, she returned to the top 10 as the wife of presidential candidate Bob Dole and president of the American Red Cross. Between 1996 and 2003, she was ranked between third and tenth place.

She also landed in ninth place in 2005, but she has not been on the list in the last two years.

She was in the top 10 a total of 11 times — the same number as the poet Maya Angelou and news anchor Barbara Walters.

JOBS AND BASES: The U.S. Department of Defense announced a round of base closings and other changes in 2005 as part of a regular program begun at the end of the Cold War. The multi-year process is designed to be insulated from political pressure.

Some North Carolina leaders had feared the loss of thousands of jobs — something that never materialized. A number of politicians, including Dole and Democratic Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue, have claimed credit for North Carolina's relative success, but there is no way to quantify how much each helped.

FARMERS: In 2004, Congress and President Bush approved a buyout of the Depression-era system of price supports — or quotas — for tobacco leaf. Cigarette companies financed the buyout, passing on the costs to consumers.

The buyout is designed to put $9.6 billion into the pockets of quota owners and growers over 10 years. Some farmers have used the money to reinvest in the crop, while others chose to change crops or retire.

Dole supported the buyout during her 2002 campaign and was a vocal advocate in Congress, along with other senators from tobacco-growing states.

SHERIFFS: Since 1996, the federal government has offered a test program for sheriff's deputies to investigate illegal immigration.

Though immigration enforcement is typically handled by the federal government, the goal of the 287(g) program is to start deportation proceedings on illegal immigrants who are arrested for non-immigration related crimes.

In North Carolina, a handful of sheriffs' offices, including Mecklenburg and Wake counties, have signed up for the program, which Dole has promoted.

The federal government pays for the cost of training deputies in immigration enforcement and grants sheriffs' offices access to immigration records.

Is the ad accurate? There is no way to verify the "Fibber Kay" nickname or who coined it and no evidence it has been used. Dole has been consistently ranked among the most admired women in the world. Though the ad's claims are vague, Dole did help farmers and sheriffs in Congress, but there is no way to quantify her role in saving the state's military bases.

— Ryan Teague Beckwith and David Ingram

Behind Majority Action's math

Would higher mileage standards really save you money?

A radio ad by a 527 group against U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole claims that higher standards proposed in a 2003 bill would save North Carolina families "$1,600 or more on fuel costs every year."

We asked Majority Action how they got to that number. Here's their chain of logic and a quick double-checking of the figures:

* According to a November 2005 report (page 17) from the U.S. Department of Energy, the average American household with a car, truck or SUV owns 1.9 of them.

* The same report (page 60) found that the average miles-per-gallon of vehicles in U.S. households was 20.2 mpg.

* A report from the U.S. Department of Transportation found that the average miles traveled in 2006 was 12,408 per vehicle.

* Gas is currently about $4 a gallon, so the average U.S. vehicle-owning household is spending $4,668 a year on gas. (12,408 miles times 1.9 vehicles divided by 20.2 miles per gallon times $4 a gallon.)

* If the average fuel efficiency were 32 miles per gallon — the figure mandated by the failed 2003 amendment — those same households would be spending $2,947 a year on gas. (12,408 times 1.9 divided by 32 times $4.)

That adds up to a savings of $1,721. (The number is slightly higher because Majority Action used 1.8 vehicles per household instead of 1.9.) Still, there are a few caveats to that number.

We'll look at them next.

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