If confirmed by the Senate, Foxx would replace outgoing Secretary Ray LaHood.
Foxx is Obama's first black nominee among the new Cabinet members appointed for the second term. The president faced criticism early in his second term for a lack of diversity among his nominees.
The official insisted on anonymity to avoid public discussion of the pick before the official announcement.
The official noted that Foxx has led efforts to improve his city's transit infrastructure to expand economic opportunity for businesses and workers. During Foxx's term as mayor, Charlotte has broken ground on several important transportation projects, including the Charlotte Streetcar Project to bring modern electric tram service to the city as well as a third parallel runway at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport. The city has also moved to extend the LYNX light rail system to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, the official said.
If confirmed by the Senate, Foxx would take over a department that has been at the center of Washington's debate over the impact of the so-called sequester cuts. The automatic cuts resulted in furloughs for air traffic controllers that helped cause delays at many airports.
Congress reached a deal last week to provide the Transportation Department flexibility that allowed it to end the air traffic controller furloughs.
Foxx, an attorney who has worked in several positions with the federal government, was first elected mayor in 2009. He raised his national profile last year when Charlotte played host to the Democratic Party's convention.
He also served as a member of the Charlotte City Council.
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