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Former top U.S. transportation officials head to private sector

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood speaks at the White House in Washington February 22, 2013. REUTERS/Larry Downing
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood speaks at the White House in Washington February 22, 2013. REUTERS/Larry Downing

By Elvina Nawaguna

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two former leading U.S. transportation officials who left the Obama administration in recent months were named on Wednesday to new private-sector posts.

Ray LaHood, the former U.S. Secretary of Transportation, will join a Washington, D.C-based advocacy group, where he will push for Congress to fund improvements in the nation's roads, bridges, airports, rails and ports.

Separately, David Strickland, who lead the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration until last month, will join a Washington law firm.

Building America's Future named LaHood as co-chairman, alongside billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who just ended three terms as mayor of New York City, and former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell.

LaHood, 68, was President Barack Obama's transportation chief from 2009 until July 2013, and is a former Republican congressman from Illinois.

The group said it expects to draw on from LaHood's expertise in advocating for transportation issues and reaching across the partisan aisles.

Bloomberg cofounded Building America's Future in 2008 with Rendell and then California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to push for improvements in the nation's infrastructure.

"We need Washington to step up and provide the necessary funding so cities can invest in stronger, more resilient infrastructure that is able to withstand future severe weather events," Bloomberg said in a statement.

BAF said it plans "aggressive advocacy" to bolster investment in transportation and infrastructure

"While there is widespread agreement that our nation's aging roads, bridges, transit and aviation systems are woefully inadequate, Washington has failed to show leadership in making the tough decisions to increase revenue to fund these critical investments," LaHood said in a statement.

LaHood's appointment at BAF comes as the Highway Trust Fund, which pays for transportation and infrastructure projects with money received from a federal fuel tax, is expected to run out of money in coming months. BAF is pushing for Congress to keep the fund from insolvency.

A long-time Washington insider, Strickland was named as a partner in the regulatory and legislative practices group at the law firm Venable LLP.

Strickland, who oversaw the development of the first national fuel efficiency program and pushed for child passenger safety at the NHTSA, is a Harvard-educated lawyer who spent eight years as a staff member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

Strickland joins a number of other former regulators and lawmakers at Venable, including Birch Bayh, previously a Senator from Indiana, and James Burnley IV transportation secretary during the Ronald Reagan administration.

(Reporting by Elvina Nawaguna, editing by Ros Krasny, Bernard Orr)

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