We’ve been talking a lot here lately —and with good reason— about the pressing need to rebuild and renew America's transportation system. Recent Fast Lane posts have emphasized the need for Congress to act on a long-term transportation bill that boosts investment in roads, bridges, and transit. And just yesterday, with the Highway Trust Fund running low and current transportation law set to expire, Secretary Foxx sent a letter to State DOT officials advising them of the impending deadline and its painful implications.
Often overlooked in this discussion, however, are America's counties.
If we want to improve the safety and resilience of our nation's roads, we can’t draw the line at Interstate highways, U.S. highways, or State highways; we must include America's County roads...
In June, we published graphs showing past balances and projected balances for the two Highway Trust Fund accounts, the Highways Account and the Mass Transit Account. Those graphs showed the Highways Account balance quickly approaching zero with the Mass Transit Account balance not far behind.
A month later, we've updated the data for both accounts to reflect June's activity. I'm sorry to report that the situation has not really changed, and both accounts are dwindling fast. In fact, we're nearing the threshold for the Highways Account where we have to institute cash management procedures...
Today we released a set of Fact Sheets showing the condition of transportation in all 50 states. It's not a pretty picture.
Grim data from just one of the 50 fact sheets DOT released today.
A nation's infrastructure is its economic backbone. And you don't need a history book to know that a big part of America's success has long been our willingness to invest in our transportation system. In return, our ability to get supplies to manufacturers, goods to market, and people where they need to go has helped us thrive.
But we've been investing in that ability less and less. And, as our willingness to invest has declined and transportation spending has decreased, it's no coincidence that —more and more— Americans in every state are experiencing the frustration of poor road conditions and congestion.
Congress has a scant 24 days until America's surface transportation law expires and our Highway Trust Fund crosses a dangerously low threshold. Although the current law wasn't really more than the 34th successive extension of previous law at pretty bare funding levels, even that is approaching a dead end.
If you're a Fast Lane reader, you know where I stand: this Congress should pass a long-term bill so States, regions, counties, and cities can plan more than 2 months ahead. And that bill should significantly increase investment in our Nation's roads, bridges, and transit systems so this country can continue to thrive.
We included those ideas and others --like faster project delivery so people can enjoy the benefits of transportation investments more quickly-- in the GROW AMERICA Act that we sent to Congress last March. But I keep looking at the calendar and wondering what we have to do to get a proposal like GROW through Congress and to President Obama's desk for his signature.
The good news is, I am hardly alone. Leaders across the country are adding their voices to this important campaign...
This week, as Congressional committees met to discuss ways to keep our country's Highway Trust Fund (HTF) solvent, Secretary Foxx urged them to adopt a long-term transportation bill with increased funding:
“The state of our nation’s infrastructure is not a partisan talking point; it is a problem facing all Americans. So I am encouraged that Members of Congress are asking the tough questions about how we will find solutions together. As I have said many times, we cannot build tomorrow's transportation system with yesterday's policy and yesterday's funding; I look forward to working with both parties to pass a long-term bill that aggressively boosts investment and changes outdated policies so we can build for the future.”
With a shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund approaching, cash management steps are not far away. Because the HTF supports critical roadwork by State DOTs, these cash management procedures will slow improvements and basic repairs on roads across the U.S.
To keep Americans informed, we've posted on our website the projected cash flows for the HTF's Highway Account and Mass Transit Account.
HTF Highway Account
HTF Mass Transit Account
Pass by a bus stop in downtown Los Angeles and you’ll see the faces of those waiting to use public transportation are diverse. Women, seniors, college students, African-Americans and Latinos take various forms of public transportation to get to work, school or even just to get connected to society.
Latinos rely especially heavily on public transportation.
1.7 million Latinos use public transit to commute to work.
3 million Latinos carpool.
And a combined 1 million Latinos bike, use a motorcycle or walk to work according to census data.
Public transportation is a critical lifeline for the Latino community. Like most Americans, we depend on it for economic and social mobility. When I was in college and law school, I relied on public transportation to get to class. I didn’t have a car and lived too far from campus to walk. I depended on the BART at the University of California, Berkeley and at UCLA Law School, I took the 1 bus from Santa Monica to downtown Los Angeles.
As we move forward, it’s important to remember the Latino community has a big stake in the transportation conversation...
I’m pretty excited about the productive week we've had here at DOT, and I'd like to share that sense of achievement and --more importantly-- promise with Fast Lane readers.
On Monday, we jumped out of the gate by sending a revamped GROW AMERICA Act to Congress. GROW is our legislative proposal for surface transportation that provides six years of funding certainty, increased investment in infrastructure, and smart policies that ensure taxpayers get more bang for their buck and that communities can enjoy the benefits of projects sooner. Experts all agree that America's transportation system needs more than a few potholes filled and bridges repaired. But we also need to start getting ahead of the curve like the world leader we have been since George Washington began supervising construction of a canal along the Potomac River. And GROW will help us do that.
In fact, all of this week's highlights point back to the GROW AMERICA Act...
Many of you might have watched last night's 60 Minutes segment, "Falling Apart: America's Neglected Infrastructure." I was glad to see CBS give this critical situation its due in primetime.
As Fast Lane readers know, this is an issue I’ve been talking about almost every day since taking office. I’ve been to 41 states, sounding the alarm that our infrastructure is crumbling and that we need Congress to step up and help us rebuild it. I’ve also put forward a plan –the GROW AMERICA Act– that would give Congress a roadmap to do exactly that...and help us maintain our transportation system for generations to come.
Unfortunately, Congress doesn't seem to share our sense of urgency, which prompted my predecessor, Secretary Ray LaHood, to suggest on 60 Minutes last night that Congress needs to have the political courage to solve this problem.
For five and half years, one of the best parts of my job has been meeting with mayors and people at the local level working hard to get things done. To leaders like the National League of Cities members I met with this week, transportation comes down to improving quality of life.
I used to be a mayor myself. I served in Riverdale, Illinois, the first outer-ring suburb on the southern edge of Chicago.
Riverdale is a railroad town. It has two major rail yards, five railroads that run through it, and two commuter rail stations. So I understand how community leaders are eager to have safe, reliable, efficient rail connections but also the necessary tools to address challenges like blocked crossings or train horn noise. Above all, they want to know that their communities are safe –and so do we...
Remember when the Highway Trust Fund was running out of money, and state departments of transportation warned they’d have to cancel projects? That was a dark hour for America. But some thought that when Congress passed a ten-month funding patch in August, the worst was over.
It wasn’t over. Not even close.
The Tennessee DOT is delaying $400 million in road projects. It turns out, the patch Congress passed didn’t end the uncertainty over transportation funding; it perpetuated it. As TDOT Commissioner John Shroer wrote in a letter to state legislators last Friday, "The instability in the flow of these dollars is certainly having an impact in Tennessee."
At USDOT, we knew this would happen. We said this would happen.
And now we’re seeing the terrible – and very predictable – outcome.