Forty years of growth made San Bernardino County’s Devore Interchange one of Southern California’s most urgently needed projects. Last week, I visited the interchange, at the junction of Interstates 15 and 215, and saw firsthand how critical it is to the movement of people and freight in this rapidly growing region.
For too long, congestion and gridlock have been the norm for the one million cars and 150,000 commercial trucks that use the interchange weekly. During peak times, it’s not uncommon for traffic to exceed five miles. Bumper-to-bumper traffic conditions on the interchange undermine the productivity of not only the region—but of the entire nation.
This year we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Department – 50 years of transportation safety, 50 years of innovation across all modes, and 50 years of creating opportunity. At the same time, we are looking into the future of this Department and our transportation system which is why this year’s National Transportation Week theme – “Infrastructure Matters” – is right on time.
All week we have the chance to further elevate and shine a spotlight on our transportation infrastructure as a critical issue impacting all Americans. Transportation infrastructure matters – in ways big and small - to our economy, our quality of life, our safety, and to every community across America.
At a time when the nation reflects on our past in order to decide who will lead us into the future, yesterday, our national town hall allowed for a relevant and poignant conversation on how and where transportation will fit in. Stakeholders, advocates and users alike from all across the nation were in the room, physically and virtually, to discuss the way in which our transportation system can functionally expand but also serve as the catalyst for economic opportunity in communities nationwide.
We know that deeply embedded in our transportation infrastructure are the values of past eras that accepted disconnections. The brick and mortar that holds up throughways to get us from point A to point B simultaneously kept people ‘in’ or ‘out’. As we prepare our transportation network to accommodate millions more Americans and freight demands in the coming years, we must consciously seek to ensure access for all. And by “all” I mean everyone affected by the projects we build.
Thanks to the TIGER program, since 2009, I’ve been able to witness 381 transportation projects shape this country’s future. Projects that are safer, more innovative and more targeted to open the floodgates of opportunity across America.
Today, in Burlington, Vermont was no different. I am proud to announce that the Department will provide $10 million to extend Amtrak’s Ethan Allen Express passenger train service all the way to Burlington, Vermont. Currently, the service begins in New York City and stops in Rutland, Vermont.
Traffic in the Mile High City is already challenging, and getting worse. Even more chokepoints are in store for Denver and the rapidly growing Rocky Mountain region unless the right transportation solutions are found. The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is taking this challenge seriously and has embarked on numerous transportation projects in the last few years to address gridlock.
In April, CDOT expanded capacity on I-25 by adding an Express Lane in each direction between US 36 and 120th Avenue. Denver-area transportation planners have a stellar history in addressing the region’s growth and are not new to megaprojects, such as the T-REX, that have improved traffic flow, expanded transportation options and transformed the area.
Transportation is the lifeblood of our economy. Our transportation system moves millions of people and countless tons of freight every day, which requires a lot of energy – energy that is released into our environment in the form of carbon dioxide and other pollutants. In all, transportation accounts for about 30 percent of America’s greenhouse gas emissions, making it the second-largest contributor.
At FTA, we’re proud that public transportation is already a greener way to get around than driving a private vehicle – but we can do more. That’s why we developed the Low or No Emission Vehicle Deployment program, known as Low-No.
Americans are stuck in traffic every day on the highways as seemingly a fact of life. But today, the Federal Highway Administration is unveiling a newly proposed rule to tackle the problem head on. FHWA will be requiring State transportation agencies to collect and use better data on actual travel times and to monitor the performance of the nation’s highways. This will help them to make better investment decisions and help ensure a more predictable commute.
FHWA will make system reliability a key performance measure. So, what does that mean?
The Beyond Traffic framework continues to make the case for innovative transportation solutions that address future trends that will affect the way our nation moves people and freight. You’ve heard the numbers. Within 30 years:
70 million people.
45 percent more freight.
This increase will include a drastic population shift from rural to urban areas and we’re already preparing our transportation system to adapt and expand. We have a sense for the challenges and opportunities this presents here at home, so we’re taking our ideas and solutions overseas for an international innovation exchange. Beginning today, I will be participating in roundtables, presentations and panels that highlight transportation’s role in improving quality of life, economic development, and the environment. Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway are leaders in such innovation, particularly when it comes to creating bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and developing Smart Cities through technological innovation, so we will visit all three countries.
With over 20 colleges and universities in the Washington, DC metro area, the energy, excitement and commitment to the future that resonates throughout the city are palpable. So you can imagine the atmosphere in College Park, MD when I stopped by the University of Maryland for their Transportation, Innovation and Policy Summit. Based on the theme alone, this was exactly where I wanted to be.
As I walked through the technology showcase, I saw work from our nation’s future transportation leaders and researchers that exhibited just the type of pioneering and innovative thinking our nation needs.
Leading the development and expansion of America’s Marine Highway system and facilitating its integration into the U.S. surface transportation system is one of the core missions at MARAD. That’s why Secretary Foxx designated three new Marine Highway Projects along the M-55 and M-90 Marine Highway corridors, providing an attractive alternative for companies shipping products along the Mississippi River, between the ports of Baton Rouge and New Orleans, and in the Great Lakes region. This potentially significant expansion of waterborne freight transportation services could reduce traffic congestion and air pollution in those regions, while giving shippers efficient, economical new options for moving freight.
As our population grows by 70 million people over the next three decades, and domestic freight volumes increase by 45 percent in that same timeframe, the pressure on our roads and highways will exact a devastating toll in infrastructure wear and tear, increased pollution and lost time sitting in traffic. The Marine Highway Program - designed to maximize the potential of our nation’s 29,000 miles of navigable waterways and near coast routes – created 22 all-water Marine Highway Routes to take the pressure off of our roads, highways and bridges.