In formally nominating Charlotte, N.C., Mayor Anthony Foxx as his next transportation secretary on Monday, President Obama signaled that he’ll keep the drumbeat going for more transportation and infrastructure spending — a tough sell on Capitol Hill.

“Since Anthony took office, they’ve broken ground on a new streetcar project that’s going to bring modern electric tram service to the downtown area,” Obama said from the East Room of the White House. “They’ve expanded the international airport. And they’re extending the city’s light rail system. All of that has not only helped create new jobs, it’s helped Charlotte become more attractive to business.”

Obama is calling for $50 billion in spending on highways, transit systems and airports, part of his push for a wave of new government investments. The plan was highlighted in Obama’s State of the Union address but hasn’t garnered much momentum since.

“We need to modernize the infrastructure that powers our economy,” Obama said. “We need more high-speed rail, and Internet, and high-tech schools, and self-healing power grids, and bridges, and tunnels, and ports that help us ship products all around the world stamped with three proud words: Made in America.”

Republicans counter that Obama’s previous stimulus spending hasn’t improved the economy — and only worsened chronic deficits.

Foxx’s nomination has been one of the worst-kept secrets in Washington. For weeks, he’s been the rumored choice to take over for outgoing Secretary Ray LaHood, among the few Republicans in an upper-level position in the Obama administration.

Foxx is the first black Cabinet nominee of Obama’s second term. Some had questioned why Obama’s Cabinet did not include more African-Americans.

Foxx’s national brand received a shot in the arm after Charlotte hosted the Democratic National Convention last year. He’s led the city since 2009.