But I know there are private investors that are in America right now partnering with our friends in California or Illinois or along the Northeast Corridor. There’s a lot of interest in high-speed rail by private investors. That’s what needs to happen.

You met late last week with Senators Lautenberg and Gillibrand about Hurricane Sandy recovery funding. What is DOT doing to move the newly approved billions for highway and transit, emergency funds out quickly? When will all that money be obligated?

Senator Blumenthal was also in that [meeting]. And we also briefed Senator Schumer privately. But the answer to your question is: In the Sandy law we have the authority to spend up to $2 billion immediately to reimburse those that have already made investments, already made repairs, already improved infrastructure on rail lines, on bridges, on other infrastructures. So we’re receiving applications for that $2 billion right now. 

And then we also put out a notice today [Feb. 4], which is in the Federal Register about how we intend to allocate the remainder of the money. We are not sitting around on our hands here. We are about the business of reimbursing for up to $2 billion—money that’s already been spent, improvements that have already been made and then the notice that we put in the Federal Register lays out how we’ll spend the rest of the money.

What about your future plans? Are you going back to Illinois? Going to stay in the D.C. area?

I’m going to split my time between Washington and Peoria—I have a home in Peoria.

What would you be doing here in Washington? Do you have something lined up, if I could ask?

Yeah, you know, I really don’t. I have refused, really resisted, talking to anybody about any opportunities until I walk out the door. I have a job to do here. I continue to do that job. When I walk out the door I hope the phone will ring at my apartment and we’ll see who’s on the other end.

What led you to make your decision at this point?

Forty-five years of marriage and 35 years of public service sort of came together and my wife said it’s time for us to move on.
This is the best job that I have ever had. I am so grateful to the President. When I took this job four years ago I believe I became a part of the most historic administration in the history of our country. I’ve really enjoyed working with the President. He and I are dear friends. We share a lot in common—not the least of which is our belief that transportation and infrastructure put friends and neighbors to work and we’ve done that over the last four years.

It’s been an incredible run for four years, and 35 years of public service, and after 45 years of marriage I’m going to listen to my wife and move on.

I was very conflicted when I met with the President and told him that I intended to leave…because I think I could have this job for four more years and have a lot of fun with it, but it’s time to move on.

When did you meet with him?

Probably about 10 days after he was re-elected, something like that.

Last quick one—when might a nominee be announced and do you know who’s being considered?

You know, I have not been involved in any of that. And I can’t really tell you the answer to that.