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Part of I-74 may be renamed to honor LaHood

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Ray LaHood doesn't believe he deserves any special recognition for his many years of public service, but he nonetheless feels honored by a proposal in the Illinois General Assembly to rename part of Interstate 74 in his honor.

State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, D-Peoria, introduced the legislation to rename I-74 from the Murray Baker Bridge to the Sterling Avenue exit the Ray LaHood Highway, a stretch of about six miles. It would honor both his service as Secretary of Transportation under the current administration as well as his help securing federal funds for I-74 improvements when he represented the 18th District in Congress. That stretch received the most amount of work.

"Peoria has been privileged to have a statesman, strong advocate, and dedicated leader in Ray LaHood," said Gordon-Booth. "He has always put the needs of the Peoria community over political divisions and worked diligently on behalf of its residents. Renaming Interstate 74 in his honor is a small but meaningful way to thank Secretary LaHood for his tireless work."

LaHood said Wednesday that he was stunned when he heard about the proposal. "Obviously, I was very surprised. I never even thought about something like that," he said.

"I always just though about my public service work as serving the people in the best way way I could. I didn't ever expect to get this kind of recognition. I don't deserve it, frankly," he said.

A life-long Peoria resident, LaHood began his career in public service as a teacher after graduating from Bradley University.

Later in his career, LaHood served as administrative assistant to former congressmen Tom Railsback and Bob Michel, eventually becoming Michel's chief-of-staff. After Michel retired from office in 1994, LaHood ran for the 18th Congressional District and won.

Throughout his Congressional career LaHood focused on the needs of his district over partisan politics. In addition to promoting transportation projects to help communities throughout his district grow, LaHood was also a strong supporter of building the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield.

After retiring from Congress in 2008, LaHood was chosen by President Barack Obama to serve as Secretary of Transportation, the only Republican to serve on Obama's Cabinet. In this position, he helped promote infrastructure upgrades and advocated for road safety.

He is retiring from the position soon, after his replacement, Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, is confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

"Ray LaHood has made a lasting impact on Peoria and its surrounding communities," said Gordon-Booth. "This is an honor befitting a man who had dedicated his life to public service and making our region and state stronger."

The Bob Michel Bridge was named in honor of LaHood's Congressional mentor and predecessor after he retired. It has become on of the area's heaviest traveled bridges, carrying vehicles between downtown Peoria and the riverfront developments in East Peoria.

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).