Secretary Ray LaHood
--Remarks as Prepared for Delivery--
AASHTO Washington Briefing
February 27, 2013
Thank you, Mike [Lewis].
First, I want to congratulate your new executive director, Bud Wright. We’re looking for good things to come from Bud’s leadership. He was a long-time public servant in the Federal Highway Administration—and I know he’ll work very hard to continue the strong relationship between AASHTO and DOT.
A few weeks ago, President Obama laid out his plan for a strong middle class and a strong America.
He called on us to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth—a rising, thriving middle class.
Those of us on the frontlines of transportation know better than anyone else that transportation is a great way to reignite that economic engine.
We only have to look at the last four years to see the proof.
ECONOMIC RECOVERY THROUGH TRANSPORTATION
When I first took this job, we had a lot of work ahead of us.
Our nation faced the worst economic crisis in a generation.
And our communities needed infrastructure investments that would create jobs and promote economic growth.
From day one, President Obama and this Administration made infrastructure investments a priority—and we at DOT have worked hard to build a transportation system that is reliable, efficient—and above all, safe.
Within the first few months of taking office, the President signed into law the Recovery Act, which pulled our economy back from the brink—and gave us a renewed focus on infrastructure not seen in generations.
The Recovery Act funded critical investments nationwide, like the CREATE freight rail project in Chicago, the I-244 Bridge in Tulsa and the rebuilding of the Presidio Parkway in San Francisco.
Between the Recovery Act and core infrastructure funds, we’ve improved over 350,000 miles of U.S. roads, and we’ve repaired or replaced over 20,000 bridges.
Our investments have helped communities build or improve more than 6,000 miles of rail and 40 train stations nationwide— like Union Station in St. Paul and Moynihan Station in New York.
Under President Obama’s leadership, we’ve invested over $12 billion in high-speed rail projects.
And we’ve helped to revitalize American manufacturing by purchasing 260 passenger rail cars and 105 locomotives.
We’ve improved intercity transit—connecting people with jobs, schools and everywhere else they need to go—by investing in more than 350 miles of new rail and bus rapid transit systems.
And through our successful TIGER program, we provided over $3 billion to fund 217 projects in all 50 states—helping to build innovative projects that are often difficult to fund through the traditional programs, but would make the greatest difference for the community.
We’ve continued to move forward with NextGen, which maximizes the benefits of GPS-based surveillance and navigation.
As part of our effort to streamline airways, airplanes approaching the Washington DC area started using satellite routes in August—saving 760,000 gallons of jet fuel per year.
That’s like taking 1,500 cars off the roads of metro D.C. every year.
We’ve made record investments in our ports and shipyards—providing more than $300 million in infrastructure redevelopment.
These investments are ensuring a strong maritime connection that will help us reach President Obama’s goal of doubling exports by 2015.
Through it all, we’ve put people to work. Across the country, we’ve seen how transportation investments have created jobs, promoted economic development, and helped us to compete in a global economy.
In everything we do at DOT, safety remains our number one priority. No one takes a back seat to DOT when it comes to safety—and I’m proud to tell you we’re seeing the results of our safety efforts.
Our National Highway Traffic Safety Administration continues to work hard every day to reduce highway deaths and injuries.
In 2011, the nation saw the lowest rate of deaths on our nation’s highways since 1949. That’s the lowest rate ever recorded.
And it’s in large part due to safer vehicles, improved awareness of safety, and strong enforcement.
Our Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration continues to target high-risk motorcoach operators while also providing the latest safety information to consumers.
And they’re working to reduce truck occupant deaths through commonsense solutions—like ensuring responsible driving.
When it comes to safety, we must all be vigilant.
Whether we are truck drivers, motorists, cyclists or pedestrians, we have to share the road.
At DOT, we are very proud of our work to save lives and reduce injuries.
But, we also know that our job is never done.
This is especially true when it comes to bicycle and pedestrian safety.
DOT has consistently promoted bicycle and pedestrian safety through public education, such as encouraging bike riders to wear a helmet, and through improved infrastructure and more livable communities that make biking and walking great, safe options for getting around.
As demand for walking and biking continues to grow, we must make sure that our policies keep up with the way people move.
We must ensure that our streets, bridges and highways are safe—whether you are in a car or on a bike.
I know that most of you want to build the 21st century infrastructure that your communities need to be competitive. The problem is—we don’t have modern day roadway standards to help us bring these big ideas to life.
Today, I’m proud to tell you that DOT is looking to create a standard guide for how we will build modern streets that work for everyone who depends on them.
As we begin work on this, we’re going to look at the AASHTO bike guide—and other similar types of assistance—to help us build streets, bridges and highways that keep all travelers as safe as possible.
We’re going to build from your ideas in order to highlight bicycle and pedestrian safety as a priority. And we’re going to work with you as we create this critical safety resource.
Businesses and travelers alike are looking to us to build modern infrastructure that not only meets their changing demands, but is safe as well.
We must work together to meet the growing demand for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and to make these transportation options safe for more Americans.
MOVING AHEAD FOR PROGRESS IN THE 21ST CENTURY
As you well know, President Obama signed into law MAP-21 last summer—providing states and communities the welcome certainty of two years of steady funding to build roads, bridges and transit systems.
This bill included $81 billion for highways and $21 billion for transit capital investment.
And it ensured the solvency of the Highway Trust fund through Fiscal Year 2014.
Since enactment, MAP-21 has been a major priority for the Department, and I am proud of how quickly we have been able to implement its key provisions and provide guidance.
MAP-21 does a lot of good things for transportation, helping us to improve safety—especially in transit, expand the TIFIA loan program, enhance planning, and move towards a more performance-driven system.
MAP-21 also helps us to continue to improve the way we move freight. At DOT, we’ve taken the lead on improving our nation’s freight movement—because we know that in order to compete in a global economy, you need to get goods from ship to train to truck quickly and efficiently.
Last summer, we created our high level, multi-modal Freight Policy Council, which is chaired by Deputy Secretary John Porcari.
This council brings together senior leadership and modal administrators, as well as policy, budget, economic and research experts -- to oversee the implementation of MAP-21’s freight provisions, including the development of the National Freight Strategic Plan.
Last week, we announced the establishment of the National Freight Advisory Committee.
Our goal is to engage both the public and the private sector as we implement MAP-21 freight provisions.
We are accepting nominations for committee members now until March 21st, and I encourage you to send us your best and brightest.
And not just your highways folks—we want representatives from across the transportation spectrum to help us improve the way we move freight.
LOOKING AHEAD: PRESIDENT OBAMA’S PLAN FOR A STONG AMERICA
As we look back on the last four years, it’s clear we’ve made historic progress. And none of this would have been possible without your partnership. You have all been a tremendous resource.
But the truth is, we’re not finished.
President Obama has put forth a plan to rebuild and upgrade our infrastructure so our businesses have the tools they need to compete.
And he has called for $50 billion in increased infrastructure investment.
His plan begins with a “fix-it-first” program that would direct $40 billion towards repair and maintenance of our existing roads, bridges, airports and public transportation systems.
This will ensure our infrastructure is safe and more modern. And it will target the most urgent upgrades, like the 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country.
His plan also calls for a “Rebuild America” Partnership that will attract private capital to build the infrastructure that businesses need most. This includes implementing the newly expanded TIFIA loan program.
And finally, his plan calls for cutting red tape. We’ve already shown that we can cut the federal review and permitting timelines for important construction projects. And we’ll continue to get projects up and running as quickly as we can.
As we move ahead, we’ll need people from across transportation—and at every level of government—to come together and work with us to reignite America’s economic engine.
Like generations before us, we must put aside our differences and give our kids and grand-kids a country that’s better than the one we inherited.
Ask any CEO where they rather locate and hire, and you hear the same thing time and time again. Business leaders, and the bright talent they need, want modern infrastructure:
Projects like intermodal train stations that allow travelers to connect seamlessly from train to plane, bus, car or bike.
Or energy efficient transit and bus systems that link people with jobs, schools and other vital services.
Or bike and pedestrian paths that help our communities to be more active and more connected.
They want safe and reliable 21st century transportation that is good for competition, economic growth, and our environment.
As many of you head over to the Capitol this afternoon, remind Congress what’s at stake.
If we want to be a country that leads…
If we want to help the next generation compete in a global economy…
If we want to make America a magnet for jobs…
We must come together to invest in our infrastructure. This is our duty. And this is the time to act. Our future depends on our ability to work together and realize the big dreams that make our country great.
On behalf of the entire Obama Administration, we look forward to continuing to work with AASHTO to make our nation’s infrastructure the envy of the world.