A breath of fresh air on the Hill: Secretaries LaHood and Donovan told Congress yesterday that they’ve formed a new partnership between DOT and HUD to promote livable, sustainable communities and transportation.

And they’re speaking the language we always dreamed of hearing from our government. The partnerships aims to “revitalize our downtowns, foster walkable neighborhoods, and bring people, employers, and housing closer together through public transportation,” LaHood announced on his blog yesterday.

The most exciting part wasn’t just the fact that our government is talking seriously about livability and sustainibility. It was the recognition, finally, of how interlinked are our society’s choices about where we live and how we get around — and that the disparate agencies in charge of these issues can’t keep making decisions in isolation.

It was also brilliant to frame the issue of sustainability not just as a long-term benefit, but a short-term one as well. After housing, transportation is the biggest expense for most households, LaHood pointed out – so if we can “bring people, employers, and housing closer together through public transportation,” that’s going to be a lot easier on our wallets as well as the ozone.

It’s a little soon to rejoice, though. The bulk of the stimulus transportation spending is still going towards highways, and it’s hard to see how this will reconcile with their message of sustainability.

But it’s a promising start. Here’s hoping that LaHood and Donovan’s message – and the example they’re setting with their historic inter-agency partnership — trickles down to the state and city government level, too.