Remarks Prepared for Delivery by
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao
First 100 Days Listening Tour
Vehicle Research and Testing Center and
Transportation Research Center, East Liberty, Ohio
April 24, 2017
I am so pleased to be here today with Senator Portman, who has done so much to ensure that NHTSA’s Vehicle Research and Test Center [VRTC] stays in East Liberty. This Center is testing and proving exciting new technologies, and creating good jobs for families in Ohio. As you know, creating economic growth and good jobs are at the top of the President’s agenda, Senator Portman’s agenda, and my agenda as Secretary of Transportation and former Secretary of Labor. So that’s something I want to highlight today.
I just toured this facility, which is the oldest and largest proving ground in the country. It is huge! 4,500 acres and 7.5 miles of test track. It’s also the only facility of its kind in the country, housing both a NHTSA test center and a proving ground. No wonder companies come here from all over the U.S. and the world to test their vehicles!
That’s not surprising, since the automotive industry is so important to Ohio’s economy. 629,000 workers—or 11% of Ohio’s workforce—are employed in auto-related jobs. And more jobs will be created, now that Columbus has been designated a Smart City and raised nearly $1 billion from the private sector to support smart growth. This is a great example of a public-private partnership, which the President believes is so important to revitalizing our country’s infrastructure.
This investment will support research and testing in autonomous technology, which is the hottest growth opportunity in surface transportation. Automation has the potential to significantly increase mobility and safety. But first, manufacturers must demonstrate that it is safe and reliable. That’s why centers like this one are so important. I understand this VRTC track is connected to the roads around Columbus, so that self-driving cars can be tested under both controlled and real-life conditions. So this Center can play a critical role in moving this important technology forward.
Let me share one more thought before we open our discussion. Last year, the previous Administration designated ten national proving ground sites for autonomous technology. But this Administration is taking another look at this program.
With that, let me thank Senator Portman again for his gracious invitation to visit this Center, and now I’d like to hear from you.