LaHood, a former Republican congressman from Obama's home state of Illinois, was appointed in 2009 and announced Tuesday he was stepping down when the president chooses a successor.
"I want to thank Secretary LaHood for his dedication, his hard work and his years of service to the American people," Obama said in a statement released by the White House. He also thanked LaHood for his friendship.
"Years ago, we were drawn together by a shared belief that those of us in public service owe an allegiance not to party or faction, but to the people we were elected to represent," Obama said. "And Ray has never wavered in that belief. As secretary of transportation, he has fought to create jobs and grow our economy by rebuilding our roads, bridges and transit systems. Under his leadership, we have made significant investments in our passenger rail system and laid the groundwork for the high-speed rail network of the future. And every American who travels by air, rail or highway can thank Ray for his commitment to making our entire transportation system safer and stronger."
USA Today reported Tuesday it is not known who will succeed LaHood and the secretary did not comment on his future.
"I think safety is what I'll be remembered for," LaHood told the newspaper. "We wake up every day and think of safety. Because we do, I think we've set a very high bar for safety in a lot of different forms of transportation."
Interpol investigating stolen passports on missing flight
Senate Democrats to pull all-nighter on climate change