On Saturday, Washington's Metrorail system opened the doors on its largest service expansion in 20 years, the new Silver Line. The long-awaited line brings rail transit service to a whole new set of Northern Virginia communities, including the ever-popular Tysons Corner and extending west to Reston. Eventually, the second phase of the Silver Line will extend all the way to the region's largest airport, Dulles International, and beyond.
It's a significant $3.14 billion investment in the region's future, supported in part by $900 million from the Federal Transit Administration's Capital Investment Grants program --formerly known as New Starts-- and $75 million from other DOT programs.
Crowd checks out the Silver Line at Saturday's opening, courtesy NBC News 4 Washington
You can take it from the President; you can take it from Secretary Foxx; you can take it from everyone here at DOT: America needs a transportation reset, and the GROW AMERICA proposal we sent to Congress in May is one way to get there.
And if you're still looking to understand why we need to change the way we invest in our transportation infrastructure, look no further than Vice President Joe Biden, who took to the White House Whiteboard yesterday to spell it out. It's a no-nonsense five minutes from a real straight-shooter, and we urge you to watch and share.
Click here for the full text of Secretary Foxx's remarks at the National Press Club on which this blog post is based.
Almost since my first day as Secretary of Transportation, I have been ringing the alarm bell about the looming insolvency of the highway trust fund --the federal source that helps pay for our nation's highways and transit.
Last week--after weeks and weeks of alarm, an online Highway Trust Fund ticker we've updated every month, an April bus tour, meetings with dozens of governors and mayors and stakeholders, and a lot of my own shoe leather on Capitol Hill-- the U.S. House passed a measure to avert the crisis with a ten-month patch. Later this week, the Senate is expected to take up a similar measure.
But let's not kid ourselves: this is a short-term patch, and if it passes, it's hard not to imagine that Congress will simply hit the snooze button on this issue the next time it rolls around.
Earlier this week, while in Albuquerque taking part in the Western Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (WASHTO) 2014 meeting, I had a great opportunity to see firsthand what New Mexico and the 17 other WASHTO member states are doing to get projects done sooner. Their work can be summed up in two words – innovation and investment. Those words are also the cornerstone of FHWA’s “Every Day Counts” (EDC) program to promote state-based project delivery efforts.
The WASHTO conference theme, “Crossroads to the Future,” was right on target, in part because New Mexico and its western counterparts are stepping forward to meet the challenges they face with resolve and ingenuity.
Unfortunately, the kind of progress achieved in New Mexico and throughout the WASHTO region is at risk. Much depends on the willingness of Congress to pass a long-term transportation bill that gives our states the funding and policy certainty they need to continue planning other projects like these...
President Obama has been very clear that we need to do more to improve our infrastructure in order to create jobs, provide certainty to states and communities, help American businesses, and grow our economy. With the GROW AMERICA Act we sent to Congress in May, we've presented a concrete, long-term proposal that would do just that and pay for it by closing unfair tax loopholes and making common-sense, pro-business tax reforms.
While we wait for Congress to take action, the President will continue to use all the tools at the Administration's disposal to protect our nation's long-term economic security where we can. And there is no question that America's transportation infrastructure is one area where we have both the need and the opportunity to make a significant and lasting impact.
That's why today, under a failed bridge on I-495 in Delaware, the President announced the Build America Investment Initiative to increase infrastructure investment and economic growth.
One part of that initiative that we're particularly proud of at DOT is the Build America Transportation Investment Center, our new one-stop shop for state and local governments, public and private developers, and investors seeking financing strategies for transportation infrastructure projects...
Most of the time, when people think about transportation, they think of our nation’s roads and bridges, or maybe our airports, railroad tracks or transit lines. But there’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes that makes all of those forms of transportation, along with many others, more safe and efficient. Yesterday, I had a chance to see some of that work firsthand, when I joined President Obama in visiting DOT’s Turner Fairbank Research Center. During our visit, we were able to see some of the innovative technologies DOT engineers are working on that will make important improvements in how Americans drive in the future.
For example, the President got to do a little driving in a simulator that features vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication. This technology will eventually help stop crashes before they happen and make it easier for us to avoid traffic jams.
He and I agree that's the kind of transportation progress we like to see...
President Barack Obama prepares to drive a vehicle simulator during a tour of the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)
Recently I posted on this blog about my visit to a Siemens plant in Louisville, Kentucky, where investments in rail have created new jobs.
Well, to quote Yogi Berra, my visit on July 8 to Columbus Castings in Ohio was like “déjà vu all over again.” Once again, I saw proof that improvements in our rail system create new orders for manufacturers and suppliers, and new jobs for American workers.
During my tour, I saw skilled employees making components for one order that is modernizing Amtrak’s long-distance services. Columbus Castings added more than 30 new jobs for just this one order.
Fifty years ago today, in 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Urban Mass Transportation Act. It was our country’s first attempt to address the challenges of public transportation as a nation, and it focused on preserving transit as a transportation option.
Reflecting on the impact of the Urban Mass Transportation Act, President Johnson said, “The Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964 was the first national recognition of the daily trials faced by the 70 percent of our population who live in the cities of this country. Our overburdened and underfinanced mass transportation systems were nearing paralysis. In 20 years, no other country in the world allowed its passenger rail service in urban areas to deteriorate as badly as we did –and we are the richest, most powerful, and most technically advanced nation on earth!”
The Federal role in public transit was instigated by the slow-motion disaster of crumbling transportation systems half a century ago. Today, however, President Johnson's dismay retains its relevance...
Last week, I swung through three states in two days, hopping from Kentucky to Rhode Island and then down the I-95 corridor to Connecticut.
Drivers in these states, like drivers in so many others, know their roads and bridges are in need of investment. In Kentucky, almost a third of the roads are rated in poor or mediocre condition. And in Connecticut and Rhode Island, close to three-quarters of the bridges are structurally obsolete. Twenty-mile backups on I-95 are all too common in those states.
I wish I could say I was visiting those states to off help, asking their governors, “What more can the federal government do? Where can we invest more in your bridges? How about your roads? Your transit systems?”
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to ask those questions.
Due to inaction in Congress, I was forced to deliver an entirely different message: “Soon, you won’t be receiving more transportation funding –you’ll be receiving less.”
Since I came into office a year ago tomorrow, I have been sounding the alarm bell on the need for greater transportation investment and a stable Highway Trust Fund.
To quickly recap:
- In January, we began posting our Highway Trust Fund tickers online and updating them monthly to allow the public to watch our transportation dollars dwindle towards zero.
- In April, we raised awareness about this problem by taking a bus tour through eight states.
- In May, we sent to Congress the GROW AMERICA Act, our four-year, $302 billion transportation funding proposal.
Today we have an update –and the news isn’t good.