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.
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)
At a recent Christian Science Monitor breakfast, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx talked about agency funding, safety, and challenges from his first year as Secretary. Topics included the solvency of the highway trust fund, the consumer use of drones, and recent General Motors vehicle recalls.
Click the image below to watch a rebroadcast of the July 1, 2014, event on C-Span
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.”
In his first official blog post one year ago today, newly sworn-in Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx wrote that, "Whether it is a bus, road, train, plane, or ship, our transportation system --at its best-- connects people to a better quality of life."
A year later, that initial statement remains the clearest description of what Secretary Foxx and this Department have worked so hard to do over the past 12 months--connect Americans to a better quality of life.
And we're happy to report that, with the Secretary's leadership, we've made significant headway toward that goal...
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.
From DOT: Yesterday, we marked the 58th anniversary of the Highway Trust Fund, an instrumental source of road funding for all 50 states, U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia. Authorizing legislation for the fund, the Federal-Aid Highway Act, was signed into law and went into immediate effect on June 29, 1956. And for 58 years, the fund has supported repairs, maintenance, and new construction of roads, bridges, and tunnels across America.
Today, we're concerned about the 59th year. Unless Congress acts soon, the Highway Trust Fund could begin bouncing checks as early as August. That means states won't be reimbursed as planned for road projects. And that means trouble for travelers, businesses, and consumers from coast to coast.
That's why, today, we're continuing our series of guest blog posts from frontline elected officials who have to manage the consequences of the looming shortfall. We think Dayton's Mayor Nan Whaley makes it very clear how everyday American life counts on good transportation; we hope you'll agree...
With the economy starting to make a recovery, our aging transportation infrastructure cannot keep up with the rising demand to move goods and people. Nationwide, cities and transportation stakeholders have long lists of infrastructure improvement projects necessary to meet the demand, but there just is not enough funding to make them a reality. And worse, the Highway Trust Fund is on the brink of insolvency.
It is my hope that Congress will soon reauthorize Federal transportation policy and provide a robust, long-term stream of funding to stabilize the Highway Trust Fund and support our nation’s transportation infrastructure needs.
I was very pleased that Secretary Foxx recently took the time to visit the City of Industry and get a first-hand look at two of our most important infrastructure projects, the Alameda Corridor East Construction Authority’s (ACE) Nogales Street Grade Separation Project (Nogales) and the California SR-57/SR-60 Confluence Project (Confluence Project). These two projects are classic examples of how strategic local infrastructure investments can trigger public benefits such as increased mobility, improved safety, economic growth, and environmental protection.
Benefits that can extend beyond city limits and ripple across the country...
Compared to cities across the country, Tampa is lucky. While we have significant needs, we haven’t had to close any bridges, and our interstate is generally an efficient way to move around our city. Our infrastructure is stable and reliable.
The problem is that we don’t have enough of it. Over the years, Tampa, like most urban areas, has grown. More and more people are moving into cities and starting new businesses. We’re growing and creating jobs, but to be blunt, we don’t have the transportation options to support our redevelopment.
A few weeks ago, Secretary Foxx visited Tampa to take a look at our I-275 widening project. For those not familiar with our city, I-275 runs right through the heart of Tampa, connecting the University of South Florida with downtown and the Westshore business district to the beaches of Pinellas County. This project has been in the works since 1989.
You read that right. 1989...
It should be clear to Fast Lane readers by now that we at DOT are not the only ones trying to alert Americans to the fact that our Highway Trust Fund is on a collision course with insolvency.
On ARTBA's Transportation Makes America Work website, you'll learn that our highways and railroads carry 14.6 trillion tons of freight each year, freight worth $19 trillion. It's an eye-opening way of showing that transportation means business, and that business is in jeopardy...