Fast Lane readers know that yesterday I took the Department's message to the people. And not just a handful of people either --our virtual town hall discussion reached thousands of participants from coast to coast, even as far away as Alaska, Hawaii, and Guam.
Heat map depicting relative volume of town hall participants by zip code
While I certainly appreciated the opportunity to make the case for a long-term transportation bill that truly funds our nation's needs and provides states, counties, and cities the certainty they need to plan for their future, I was even more grateful to see the steady stream of more than 300 questions pouring in from the town hall website, email, and Twitter. That tells me that Americans are engaged in this issue, an issue that touches their everyday lives, their families, their jobs, and their businesses.
So, now what? Well, now we do the heavy lifting. Now we get a little noisier...
Last week – just hours before we were scheduled to begin cutting transportation funding to states – Congress found a way to postpone the immediate crisis, and extend transportation funding ten more months, until next May.
While we at DOT are glad to avoid those painful cuts, we –along with thousands of commuters, construction workers, freight shippers and manufacturers– know that it’s still not the long-term solution that America’s transportation system really needs.
If you agree, then I want you to join me this Wednesday, August 6, at 1:00pm Eastern time for my GROW AMERICA National Town Hall...
Earlier today, I had the pleasure of joining Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn and several other dignitaries at a ribbon cutting ceremony for Shop #3 at the Nippon Sharyo plant in Rochelle, IL. As the name indicates, this is the third expansion at this plant since 2012. Very soon, workers will start building 130 new, next-generation rail cars for California and the Midwest that are funded through our High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail program.
Not that long ago, Shop #3, as well as Shops #1 and #2, were empty fields. Now, because of the Obama Administration’s investments in passenger rail, our Buy America program, and the hard work of so many, I was able to spend the day touring a state-of-the-art U.S. railcar manufacturing plant. What’s more, we’re rejuvenating a manufacturing industry that had gone fallow. New skilled workers are arriving, equipment and material being delivered, high-tech machines whirring and in the near future…shiny new rail cars will be rolling out the door.
It’s exciting for Rochelle, important for Illinois and historic for the Nation...
Yesterday, Secretary Foxx wrote about the Washington Metro's new Silver Line that, "connecting thousands of residents and visitors with major employment, education and economic opportunities," is a significant investment in the community's future. And last week, the Federal Transit Administration helped celebrate the launch of another significant investment, Tucson, Arizona’s new Sun Link streetcar service.
It couldn’t have come at a better time. A recent report from Arizona Public Interest Research Group showed that Tucson had a 25% per capita increase in transit ridership over a 5-year period. According to the study, that’s due in large part to population growth in the Sunbelt and an increasing preference for public transit among both seniors and the Millennial generation. All of those factors reflect what we’re seeing nationally: a decline in driving and the highest transit ridership in generations.
Sun Link is a good example of modern streetcar services that are bringing a new transportation option to communities across the country – or in some cases, bringing back an old one...
Like many Americans, when Jesus "Jay" Valentin --a UPS driver-- goes to sleep at night in his New Jersey home, he's got a lot on his mind.
He thinks about tomorrow's deliveries and worries about what the traffic will be like and what the weather will mean for road conditions. He calculates how much next month's mortgage payment will leave his family –his wife Jenny and four kids– for savings. He wonders how he will pay for his daughter Tiffany’s college education –she’s 16 now and thinking towards the future.
Last Friday, I had the chance to meet Jay and some of his coworkers at the UPS hub in Secaucus, NJ. It was an eye-opener in many ways...
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...