Remarks Prepared for Delivery by
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao
Tuesday, November 12, 2019
Thank you for that introduction, Kevin. It’s great to be here today in Orlando!
Let me thank the City of Orlando for hosting us, and recognize some very special guests: Gov. Ron DeSantis, Mayor Jerry L. Demings
One of our top priorities at the U.S. Department of Transportation is to help repair, rebuild, and revitalize our country’s critical infrastructure to enhance safety, productivity, and quality of life for everyone.
That’s why I’m so pleased to be here today to formally announce a $900 million investment in BUILD grants for significant infrastructure improvements across the country, including Orange County and the Orlando region. In this round of BUILD grants, there were 666 eligible applications totaling $9.6 billion in requests. 55 projects in 35 states were chosen to receive funding.
Just to give you a little background, BUILD grants are major investments in road, rail, transit, and port projects. Projects are evaluated according to many criteria, including their potential to improve safety, economic competitiveness, quality of life, environmental outcomes and state of good repair.
These grant projects align with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s top three priorities. The first is: safety, which is always #1.
The second priority is rebuilding and refurbishing our country’s critical infrastructure.
And the third priority is preparing for the future by engaging with emerging technologies to address legitimate public concerns about safety, security, and privacy, without hampering innovation.
With these priorities in mind, I'm particularly excited to announce a $20 million BUILD grant for Orange County. These grants will support the county’s Reimagining Mobility project. This is an investment in cutting-edge, multi-modal transportation for commuters and recreational users in this area.
The project includes four elements. First is a Mobility Network Hub, connecting multiple modes of transportation and including amenities such as parking, restrooms, and storage. It will feature infrastructure that supports a fleet of autonomous passenger shuttles, as well as a network of bicycle paths and on-street lanes and “recovery zone” support facilities. It will also include GreenLink multi-modal routes that will reduce stormwater runoff and pollutants and include a bridge for cyclists, pedestrians and autonomous vehicles. This new dedicated bridge over the heavily traveled 6-lane Lake Nona Boulevard will provide bicyclists and pedestrians safer access to the Lake Nona Town Center and Hub.
Among other key benefits, this innovative project will reduce congestion, improve air quality and increase road safety.
BUILD funds have also been awarded to two other Florida cities. Jacksonville received $20 million for the modernization of the SSA Marine Inc. cargo terminal on Blount Island. And Miami received $22 million to enhance a 10-mile mass transit corridor.
Let me note that the U.S. Department of Transportation is placing special emphasis on working with rural communities around the country to promote safety, innovation, and economic competitiveness. For example, in North Carolina, $22.5 million in BUILD funding in Robeson and Cumberland Counties will help widen roads and refurbish overpasses and bridges, promoting safety and innovation.
In Maine, the city of Augusta received $25 million in grant funding to rebuild an aging bridge on Maine's National Highway System and improve the community’s economic competitiveness.
We all know that rural transportation networks are vital to our nation. Nearly 70% of America’s lane miles are in rural areas, 2/3 of rail freight originates in rural areas. And rural networks are important to urban residents too – who constitute 44% of the travelers on rural roads. So it is very concerning that one-fifth of Americans live in rural areas, yet nearly half of our highway deaths occur on rural roads.
These investments are especially timely because—thanks to this Administration’s pro-growth policies—our country’s economy is booming. The unemployment rate across the country is at a 50-year low. Wages are rising for the first time in decades. And GDP continues to grow at a healthy rate.
Also, a new trade agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico will further boost economic growth. This agreement is a much-needed overhaul of the 25-year-old North American Free Trade agreement. In fact, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) does more than any prior agreement to eliminate non-tariff barriers and unfair subsidies that work against America’s farmers, workers and employers.
So congratulations Orlando and Florida for winning this award! The U.S. Department of Transportation is your partner in providing, safer, more modern and efficient infrastructure for your community. We look forward to continuing to work with you on these important projects!
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