When I visit Rhode Island, one of the first things I notice its extensive water resources available for tourism, sports and commerce not to mention the ability to move people from one place to another. Next, I think about the dynamic men and women working on and near the water in the maritime industries and businesses including ship construction and repair that support the State’s long-term economic prosperity. Boasting over 400 miles of coastline, it’s easy to see why maritime is a central part of the “Ocean State’s” heritage as well as the key to its economic future.
I saw this first hand last week when I joined Senator Jack Reed and Governor Gina Raimondo, along with other state and local officials, to christen the Port of Providence’s latest asset, a new crane barge christened the SANDY C. Funded, in part, by a $10.5 million Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant, the SANDY C, along with two high performance mobile cranes delivered in 2013, are literally transforming the port into a modern marine cargo center.
Border crossings are a key part of our nation’s transportation system. They can make easier or more difficult the movement of people and goods—and they can promote or represent barriers to international commerce. Fortunately, innovative technology offers cost-effective solutions to help make the process of crossing a border run more smoothly.
According to the Department’s draft report “Beyond Traffic,” it is estimated that by 2040 freight volume will grow to 29 billion tons – an increase of over 45 percent – with much of this growth anticipated to impact border crossings.
Since border congestion can stifle commerce and negatively impact our economy, the Federal Highway Administration wants to find creative solutions.
Once again, demand for our TIGER competitive grant program has been overwhelming.
With 337 applications coming from urban areas and 248 from rural communities, the continued high level of interest in this widely successful program underscores the desperate need for transportation investment nationwide. In its eighth year with $500 million in available funding, TIGER applications totaled $9.3 billion. Communities across the country know that if we want a strong, multimodal transportation system that will meet our needs in the future, we need to make meaningful investments today.
The efficiency of freight movement affects the bottom line of businesses nationwide -- from the first mile, when a product is shipped, to the last mile, when it arrives at its destination. For businesses in the Northeast, this means cost – the cost of delivery and, increasingly, the costs of delay.
In New York City, 80 percent of freight is moved by truck -- leading to some of the worst and most expensive congestion in the country. The myriad of solutions to address the freight congestion in the Big Apple will call for complex undertakings such as the Cross Harbor Freight Program proposed by the Port of New York and New Jersey (the East Coast’s largest port). The project could improve freight movement across New York Harbor by offering a tunnel and various non-highway alternatives, such as rail.
At the same time, easier and proven solutions such as off-peak deliveries, or nighttime deliveries, continue to be part of the answer to freight congestion. There is no question that truck deliveries made when there is less traffic on the highways - can save time and money. With the rise in online shopping and other deliveries -- traditional approaches to freight shipping will change.
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.