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Secretary Foxx has talked a lot about the cost of transportation funding shortages --and for good reason.  Last week, I visited the site of a project that exemplifies exactly what has been happening all around the country: the US 395 North Spokane Corridor or NSC.  The NSC remains half-built, and there is simply no funding to build the second half, the remaining five miles that would connect it to Interstate 90. 

From one standpoint, the project really symbolizes what’s right in transportation today.  The people of this region came up with a project that would improve safety and reduce congestion.

The bad news is that --after 33 short-term, underinvesting extensions by Congress-- we still don’t have the federal funding to complete the NSC.  Or to complete thousands of other projects like it across the country.  Or to even start the thousands of other projects communities have planned to meet their most pressing transportation needs.

The NSC and its half-built and unbuilt counterparts do not need the short-term patch of another Congressional extension. They need the GROW AMERICA proposal Secretary Foxx sent to Congress in March.  They need the substantial investment this nation has put off for far too long.  They need a long-term timeline that lets communities plan and invest in projects that will create jobs, improve residents' quality of life, and help the local economy grow...

At N.S.C. site
Acting FHWA Administrator Greg Nadeau with Washington State Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson, courtesy FHWA.
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When then Secretary Norman Mineta rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange in 2004 to announce a new monthly transportation index, he kicked off a new era in the use of statistics for measuring transportation. In the decade since, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the DOT’s data agency, has been applying its advanced statistical methods to track the level of transportation activity, issuing an index number every month.

During the past 11 years, the BTS Transportation Services Index (TSI) has shown the changes in transportation activity, including both its low in the 2007-2009 recession and its record highs in recent months...

TSI showing Freight, Passengers, and Total
Transportation Services Index (TSI) Freight and Passengers (Year 2000=100)
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Today the House of Representatives voted on its 33rd short-term funding measure for transportation in the past 6 years, and Americans will pay the price.

On the surface, funding transportation drop-by-drop might not seem like such a big problem.  But it is, and the facts are unassailable.  This era of short-term patches and chronic federal underinvestment has crippled America’s ability to build the transportation system we need.

This is not anyone's idea of the preferred outcome.  And while we recognize that Congress needs more time to complete work on what we do want –a long-term bill that increases investment in our nation’s infrastructure, the White House has made it clear that this pattern of perpetual uncertainty must stop...

Overburdened road
The light might be green, but no one's going anywhere.
Continue Reading Let’s Make it Count in 2015 ››
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In yesterday's #InfrastructureWeek edition of the Fast Lane, I wrote that even if Congress does manage to pass its 33rd short-term extension of our nation's transportation law, "the previous 32 short-term measures have all but stripped away the ability of state and local governments to complete big projects."

And this morning, I saw first-hand how our inability to invest adequately in transportation is affecting the everyday lives of people in Knoxville, Tennessee.

The nearly one million people living in the greater Knoxville area look a lot like the folks in communities I've visited across America.  They're trying to get their children to school on time, get themselves to work, and get home for dinner.  They're doing their part, trying to get a little bit ahead if they can, trying to ensure a better life for their kids.

But, short-term extension after short-term extension, their government is failing them.  And exhibit "A" of that failure is the Alcoa Highway...

Knoxville skyline

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It's happening again.  The May 31 expiration date for federal transportation funding is fast approaching. 

Earlier today, I wrote to State Department of Transportation leaders, informing them that all federal participation in transportation infrastructure construction will stop if we reach that date without action by Congress.  States will not be reimbursed for construction costs.  They will not receive technical support.  And, as construction season begins after a long winter, projects will grind to a halt.

Maybe Congress will act in time.  But at best, they’re likely to pass another short-term extension, the 33rd such patch in the past 6 years.  And at best, they’ll prolong a dangerous status quo of funding infrastructure at a level that has left our transportation system gasping for air.

That's why thousands of stakeholders across the nation are rallying for the 3rd annual Infrastructure Week to urge Congress to say “no” to more short-term measures and “yes” to a long-term solution.

I’ll be leading the charge with kick-off events here in Washington, DC, and a week of activities in Tennessee, Iowa, and California...

Courtesy of Eric Wagner, BGOV
Photo courtesy of Eric Wagner (@WagnerEric), Bloomberg Government (@BGOV)
Continue Reading For Infrastructure Week, ››
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With America's population expected to grow by 70 million over the next 30 years, moving the goods that enrich our lives --and the freight that fuels our economy-- will be a key challenge.  As our Beyond Traffic draft framework indicates, by 2045, the volume of goods on our roads, rail, air, and water will increase 45 percent or more.

Because tomorrow's looming increase will pose a significant burden on our transportation system, we must prepare to handle that freight now by developing and investing in solutions today.  The good news is that DOT is working to do just that.

Our Nation’s navigable waterways offer us a terrific, underused resource, and the Maritime Administration’s Marine Highway Program works to incorporate that excess capacity into the U.S. transportation system --especially where marine transportation services present the most efficient and sustainable freight option. Continued development and investment along these 22 all-water Marine Highway Routes will provide more choices to shippers, help alleviate road and rail congestion, and accommodate future freight growth.

Just last week, Secretary Foxx designated three new marine highway projects aimed at making these waterborne routes seamless extensions of America’s transportation system and helping move us Beyond Traffic...

Barges on AMH

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If you're not a datahead, you might have missed this news.  Last month, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reported that, "U.S. airlines and foreign airlines serving the United States carried an all-time high of 848.1 million systemwide (domestic and international) scheduled service passengers in 2014."

Sure, 848 million is a lot of passengers, and more often than not, that would be interesting enough.  But today we want to go one better than the absolute number of enplanements; we want to talk about the "all-time high."  Because the previous record high was reached in 2007, and that means that, after the brutal recession, air travel --and the economy-- are truly back.

Want to see the relationship between economic activity and air travelers without pesky numbers getting in the way?  Thanks to BTS, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and a little spreadsheet wizardry, you can:

Air passengers and GDP by year

Continue Reading Record 2014 airline ››
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Every year, car buyers and auto enthusiasts await the release of Detroit's new models. It's an exciting moment to see what some of America's most innovative design and engineering teams can produce. But unlike cars, new models of American-made shipping vessels don't roll out every year.

From idea to service, new ships are usually 20 years in the making. So you can imagine how excited the maritime community is to see what rolled off the NASSCO shipyard line in San Diego this past weekend: the world's first Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) powered container ship.

Isla Bella rolls into water

The launch of this next generation of American-made vessels, commissioned by TOTE Maritime, was financed in part by a $324.6 million Title XI Loan Guarantee from the Maritime Administration (MARAD).  The new 764-foot Isla Bella includes a number of innovative technological advances. The key feature, of course, is that by burning LNG instead of diesel, it will significantly reduce harmful emissions...

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Every day, American companies ship cargo worth more than $5.5 billion through U.S. ports. That activity supports over 13 million American jobs nationwide. So it’s no secret that America’s ports keep America economically strong.

Since 1926, the Port of Corpus Christi, Texas, has been doing just that, and they're ready to do even more. 

Last week, I was at the port to help celebrate completion of the first phase of a planned railyard expansion. Fundedby a $10 million DOT TIGER grant and a public-private partnership, the expanded railyard will help the Port of Corpus Christi add capacity to meet growing demand, and it will improve the efficiency of existing cargo movement at the port. It will also take more than 600,000 trucks off the road, significantly reducing emissions in the area...

Opening of the Nueces River Railyard

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When we talk about "breaking ground," at the Federal Highway Administration, we're not just talking about moving some dirt. We're almost always also talking about moving people and freight where they need to go faster and more safely than before. And that was the story last week at the groundbreaking for the Boulder City Bypass in Nevada. 

The Bypass is an outstanding project that will help achieve three key DOT goals –enhanced safety, less congestion and more efficient movement of freight. We're also proud to support the Bypass because it will help bring Nevadans and Arizonans one step closer to the key regional goal of an eventual Interstate link between Las Vegas and Phoenix...

Greg Nadeau at Boulder City Bypass groundbreaking

Continue Reading Boulder City Bypass will ››
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