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.
When we walk through department stores, supermarkets, and even car dealerships we see everything to buy but don’t always remember how it got there. Every day millions of trucks, trains, airplanes, ships and barges move across our highways, local roads, railways, navigable waterways, and pipelines transporting tons of raw materials and finished products from the entire spectrum of our economy.
In 2045, we expect to have to move even more of this freight. But how much more? We estimate that we will have to move 40 percent more freight in order to accommodate an additional 70 million people. So we need to prepare for the future, and we’re asking for your input.
I’ve traveled all over the country talking with folks about how we find ourselves at a critical moment in our nation’s transportation history. In the next 30 years, our nation will need to accommodate 70 million more people and a 45 percent increase in freight. This growth will especially increase demands on our ports and waterways – which are integral to our Nation’s economic well-being and security.
So I was pleased that today, while at the American Association of Port Authorities spring meeting, I was able to address maritime professionals and experts who are intimately engaged with the challenges ahead of us, and also aware of the opportunity for growth and greater economic prosperity.
The world’s greatest highway system raised the standard, again, this past weekend when the Seattle area opened the world’s longest floating bridge. Under the watchful eye of a representative from the Guinness Book of Records, the new bridge measures an impressive 7,710 feet, or 1.5 miles long. That makes it one hundred and thirty feet longer than its predecessor, which in its day was also the world’s longest floating bridge. The new SR 520 bridge is more structurally sound and capable of resisting sustained winds of up to 89 mph.
This bridge is more than just an engineering marvel; it is an economic lifeline for the Puget Sound region.
As we continue with our conversations on freight planning in cities around the country, we are delighted to have new funding opportunities to talk about with the new Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-term Achievement of National Efficiencies (FASTLANE) grants.
As authorized by the Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects program, the grants are funded at $4.5 billion for Fiscal Years 2016-2020, including up to $800 million for FY2016. With these grants and the formula funds in the National Highway Freight Program, we have – for the first time in USDOT's 50-year history – dedicated, multiyear funding for freight infrastructure.
Tucson, Charlotte and New Orleans join countless cities nationwide to benefit from the program. Our challenge as a nation is to make sure we have the infrastructure to handle more goods movement to continue to promote economic growth and opportunity and be equipped to compete internationally.
That’s why our conversations are centered on the Draft National Freight Strategic Plan and we continue to ask business, transportation, and state and local government leaders attending our roundtables to provide us with their feedback on where to make targeted investments in freight transportation and on how we can strengthen our freight transportation system.
I had the pleasure of returning home to Charlotte, North Carolina, this week for a Southeast Rail Forum hosted by the Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) International and the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Rail Division. While there, however, I had to deliver a tough message – a necessary message – about the reality of transportation in the fast-growing region.
A wave of population growth is going to hit the Southeast – we can expect another 13 million people and a significant increase in the movement of freight by 2045. This means that local and State leaders must move quickly to develop a comprehensive blueprint for the Region’s rail network and establish a Southeast Rail Commission to advance it or risk being stuck in traffic for a very long time. While progress over the years has been steady, we are still inching along instead of sprinting. We cannot afford to wait another generation to get to the finish line.