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.
Summary: Yesterday, DOT announced that $2 billion in unspent earmarks can be freed up for states to use for new investments in infrastructure. This is an important milestone in ending the use of earmarks and investing in U.S. infrastructure – but more remains to be done.
Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that roughly $2 billion can be freed up for states to use for rebuilding our nation’s transportation system. All of this funding was previously unspent “earmarks” that were more than a decade old, so yesterday’s action takes potentially wasteful pork barrel spending stuffed into transportation bills by Congress and puts it to good use. Instead of sitting idle, these funds will now be available to help improve our infrastructure, keep drivers safe, and provide opportunities for communities nationwide.
These steps build on actions that began in the earliest days of the Obama Administration, when the President worked together with Congress to change the way that business is done in Washington - by increasing transparency and accountability for the way that taxpayer dollars are spent, including helping end transportation earmarks. Today, those efforts are yielding real results. Clearing out this legacy backlog of earmarks frees up stranded dollars to repave roads, fix bridges, or build new interchanges, which will create jobs and lay the foundations for long-term economic growth. Yesterday's action also builds on a similar action taken in August 2012, when USDOT made over $470 million in unspent earmarks immediately available to states for projects that create jobs and help improve transportation across the country.
U.S. ports and our marine transportation system – and the hardworking men and women behind these operations – are essential drivers of the American economy. Every day, our ports and waterways handle millions of tons of domestic and international cargo, including food and agricultural products, petrochemicals, and automobiles. In 2014 alone, $1.7 trillion worth of U.S. goods moved through our ports, representing 75% of imports and exports by weight.
But ports, like our highways and bridges, face challenges. As a country, we are investing too little, and as container ships grow larger and larger, more cargo must be unloaded into increasingly tight spaces. And ports face unique operational challenges as they move ever-expanding volumes of cargo between ships, trucks and rail lines. Today, not a single U.S. container port is in the top 15 container ports globally according to the Journal of Commerce. Expanding trade will continue to put pressure on the existing system, increasing congestion and threatening U.S. economic competitiveness; looking forward, the demand to move goods and raw materials on the U.S. transportation system is predicted to increase by 45 percent by 2040.
To support U.S. competitiveness in a global economy, it is essential that we expand, upgrade, modernize and maintain our maritime transportation infrastructure and strengthen our workforce. That’s why the Obama Administration has been working to identify opportunities to increase investment in U.S. ports. Recently, the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced $800 million in available funding for the nation’s freight network and highlighted the opportunity for investments in 21st century ports...
The latest freight projections are in from our Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and they show that the number of freight tons moving on America’s transportation network is likely to grow by 40 percent in the next 3 decades while the value of freight will almost double, increasing by 92 percent. This affirms the projections in our Beyond Traffic study and reinforces the need to boost our freight capacity and unleash the full power of our nation's economy.
Today, we announced that up to $377.5 million will be available over 5 years to support solution-oriented transportation research at colleges and universities under our University Transportation Centers (UTC) program. For Fiscal Year 2016, that’s a substantial investment of up to $72.5 million in the talent and ingenuity cultivated in American higher education.
Our colleges and universities are among the best in the world. And, since 1987, the UTC program has funded valuable academic research that contributes to the long-term safety and vitality of transportation in America. But the challenges facing our transportation system over the next 30 years are daunting. So today, I’m calling on our research institutions to dig deep and think big...
The Bridge Evaluation and Accelerated Structural Testing (BEAST) lab at Rutgers.
America's transportation system bears a critical burden: it must move people and deliver the goods and materials that Americans need and want safely and efficiently, to help America's businesses compete effectively in the global economy.
This requirement isn’t easy to achieve. And, it’s about to get a lot more challenging with projected population and employment growth. But, a provision in the recently passed Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act offers DOT an opportunity to make significant headway in nationally and regionally significant projects.