Secretary Anthony Foxx
Remarks at the White House Press Briefing
Washington, DC • May 12, 2014
"Remarks as prepared for delivery"
Thank you, Jay.
I would like to be here celebrating all of the work happening throughout America to renew and reinvigorate our nation's transportation networks. Unfortunately, this may be the most dire moment the American transportation system has faced in decades.
As soon as August, the Highway Trust Fund, the account that pays for building and repairing our nation’s roads, will start bouncing checks. Unless Congress acts, up to 700,000 Americans will lose their jobs over the next year. And roadwork, bridge building, transit maintenance… all these projects will be delayed or shut down completely. Which means freight won’t move. Which means trade will slow. Which means businesses won’t hire.
And, by the way, your morning commute will be longer because the roads you’re driving on will crumble – and no one will show up to fix them.
We’re already starting to see it happen.
In Nashville, Tennessee, four bridges carrying 130,000 vehicles a day have reached the end of their useful life – and one of them has been shut down three times since last summer because concrete keeps crumbling onto the underpass, threatening cars below.
We have an infrastructure deficit in this country. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, we need $3.6 trillion in investment in our infrastructure by the time our decade is through in order to raise it to an acceptable level. Now, that’s an all-in number. And it includes things other than transportation.
But the thing is – our infrastructure deficit is only going to get worse without action. We cannot meet the needs of a growing country and a growing economy simply by maintaining our current level of effort. We must do more.
Over the next generation, this country will demand more of its transportation than it ever has before. By 2050, this system will need to move up to 100 million new people and 14 billion additional tons of freight – almost twice what we currently do.
Even if Congress – today – funded our transportation system at recent levels, we’d still be on the track towards a slower, less safe nation, where rush hour becomes rush all-afternoon.
So what we need right now is to rally around a set of ideas that increase annual investment, speed up our permitting and review systems at every level of government and ensure that future transportation projects do even more to grow jobs today and long into the future.
That’s why a little over a week ago, this administration sent the GROW AMERICA Act to the Hill: We did it to bring these ideas to the table.
The GROW AMERICA Act would do more than level off the Highway Trust Fund; it would substantially increase annual funding to help us relieve congestion, alleviate freight chokepoints and create jobs right now.
We believe there’s a lot of room for agreement around the ideas in this bill – growing our overall investment, setting the global pace for safety, strengthening our freight networks, streamlining the permitting process to get projects done faster, giving communities of economic interest a bigger voice and opening more opportunities for private capital to invest in America's infrastructure. These are elements of what a 21st Century ransportation system looks like.
We remain optimistic.
For more than half a century, broad, bipartisan majorities in Congress have consistently recognized that as America grows, so must our investment in transportation.
I believe they can do so again.
Thanks very much. And I’m happy to take your questions.
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