"Remarks as Prepared for Delivery"
National Governors Association Meeting
August 3, 2013
Hello everyone. It’s great to be here.
I want to thank the National Governors Association Chairs, Governor Markell [Mar-kel] and Governor Fallin [Fal-in], for inviting me here, and I want to thank Governor Daugaard [Doo-gard] and Governor Nixon for hosting this session.
This is my first major address since becoming Secretary of Transportation—and for good reason.
Our nation’s governors know first-hand the power of transportation.
You know that transportation is more than the asphalt we pave or the train cars we build. Transportation is a bridge to opportunity.
It’s the highway that ensures a mom gets her kids home safely after soccer practice.
It’s the bus that helps a young man work a part-time job to pay for school.
It’s the freight train or the cargo ship that exports American-made goods to markets across the country and around the world.
Transportation moves America forward.
When we build bridges, highways, transit systems, airports and ports, we are putting people to work and helping businesses expand.
But most importantly, we are giving the next generation the tools to compete.
Take a look at the Golden Gate Bridge, the Hoover Dam or the Transcontinental Railroad.
These symbols of American grit and innovation weren’t built by us.
Generations before us pursued these projects in difficult times because they believed in a better future for the next generation.
So yes, funding is tight, but I believe we can still build great things.
And we can answer President Obama’s call to give the middle class a better bargain in the process.
We can ensure that the rungs on the ladder of opportunity are not so far apart—
That the American dream is still within reach for those who are willing to work for it.
This is the challenge of our generation. And we must work together to address it.
Of course, as Secretary of Transportation, my overriding priority is to make our transportation system the safest and most efficient in the world.
At DOT, we’ll continue to work hard so that Americans feel safe when they get in a car, hop on a bus, board an airplane or even ride a bike.
We’re also working with our partners to do more with what we have – so that taxpayers can trust us to make smart investments.
But efficiency alone isn’t going to cut it. Over the long-term, we’ve got to be even more creative—and we’ve got to work together—public and private, Republican and Democrat, state and federal.
As you know, we have a lot of options in our toolbox.
For instance, we’ve seen how public private partnerships can kick-start important projects—such as the Historic Millwork District in Dubuque or the M-1 Rail Project in Detroit.
Our TIFIA program has leveraged $43.8 billion in infrastructure investments across America—in Illinois, California and Texas.
And we’ve seen our Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing loan program help Denver, Colorado revitalize their Union Station and enable other states to purchase locomotives that are manufactured right here in America.
None of those projects would be possible without leadership at the state and local levels.
Our governors make it happen.
You are the X-Factor. You are the difference between a deteriorating, congested road and a 21st century highway that is safe and efficient.
This is why I need your help.
We may come from different political backgrounds, but we can all agree that transportation is important to our economy and our way of life.
And I can tell you, after meeting with Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, that they agree. The hard part is agreeing on a way to fund these needs. But I believe we can do it.
MAP-21 was a great start. MAP-21 provided states and communities two years of steady funding and the certainty you need to invest in critical road, bridge, and transit projects.
It ensured the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund for two years.
And it gave the American people better value for their money by institutionalizing best practices that allow us to work faster and smarter.
But the truth is—MAP-21 expires next September, and we’re facing a long-term structural deficit with the Highway Trust Fund.
The way we’ve been doing business is simply not sustainable.
But I don’t have to tell you that. Many of you are already looking at innovative ways to fund your transportation needs.
This year, half of all state legislatures have considered or approved measures dealing with transportation funding.
Fourteen states have at least discussed raising their fuel taxes, and several have moved to protect transportation funding from being raided for general expenditures.
Wyoming, Virginia, Michigan, and Maryland are great examples of what happens when we come together and figure out common sense ways to address our transportation needs.
For instance, Governor O’Malley, found that driving on roads that are congested, deteriorated or unsafe costs Maryland commuters $6.2 billion per year.
His state already has the longest average daily commute in America—and his constituents simply could not afford more time spent in traffic.
But thanks to his leadership, Maryland will be able to invest $4.4 billion in their infrastructure over the next six years.
But all of these states—and the people who live there—aren’t looking at infrastructure through a partisan lens.
They’re looking at crowded buses, congested highways and neglected train stations.
They’re looking at potholes and bridges that are so old they could qualify for Medicare, as President Obama pointed out last week.
And most importantly, they’re hearing from businesses that need 21st century infrastructure to grow and hire.
When it comes to transportation, everything we do has a local impact and requires local cooperation. I know from experience.
As Mayor of Charlotte, I worked with Republicans and Democrats, businesses and government to address the challenges facing our city.
Time after time, we put aside our differences to do what was right for our constituents.
I know that you do the same in your states.
So today, I’m reaching out to you. I want to hear your ideas. I want to know how you prioritize projects in your state. I want to know how you organize your transportation needs along economic lines rather than political ones.
The American people are counting on all of us to lead and to make the critical investments needed to move this country forward.
We can start by answering President Obama’s call for a Better Bargain for the Middle Class.
The President’s Fix It First proposal would invest $50 billion in our nation’s infrastructure, with $40 billion targeted to the most urgent upgrades and repairs in states across the country.
And his Rebuild America Partnership would leverage private sector investments—helping communities take on the critical transportation projects we need to succeed in the 21st century.
That’s the kind of vision we need to build a stronger America.
As we work to make the President’s vision a reality, I hope the work that you are doing will serve as an example for how Congress can come together to invest in our nation’s infrastructure.
The time is now.
So let’s come together. Let’s invest in the future. And let’s build a transportation network that is second to none.
And now, I’m happy to answer your questions.