Speech

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Innovations Conference on Asphalt and Transportation

Secretary Ray LaHood

Remarks as prepared for delivery

Innovations Conference on Asphalt and Transportation
East Peoria, IL
April 3, 2013

Thank you, Amir.

Good morning everyone. It’s great to be back at ICAT.

As you probably know, this year’s conference focuses on “Partnering to Build a Better America.” This is something I talk about often—and it’s a principle that guides all of us in the Obama Administration.

Our country was built on compromise and courage. And like generations before us, we need to come together, put aside our differences, and invest in the big and bold ideas that make America great. 

Lincoln did it with the Transcontinental Railroad. Eisenhower did it with the Interstate Highway System. And today, President Obama is leading us to a better America.

Right now, we have a choice to make. We can watch the rest of the world get ahead by investing in their infrastructure.

Or we can think big and be bold. We can build the kind of transportation network that encourages CEOs to hire and locate here.

From day one, President Obama and the Department of Transportation have delivered on a big and bold promise to build a 21st century transportation network that is reliable, efficient, and above all safe.

Between the Recovery Act and core infrastructure funds, we’ve improved over 350,000 miles of U.S. roads.

We’ve repaired or replaced over 20,000 bridges.

We’ve help to build or improve more than 6,000 miles of rail and upgrade 40 rail stations.

We’ve purchased 260 passenger rail cars and 105 locomotives—all of which are built right here in the U.S.

And we’ve invested in more than 350 miles of new rail and bus rapid transit, over 45,000 buses and over 5,500 rail cars.

Across the country, we’ve seen how these transportation investments have created jobs, promoted economic development, and helped us to compete in a global economy.

Where we have invested in modern streetcars—in cities like New Orleans and Tucson—we’ve seen new businesses open up their doors, new residents move in downtown, and new life transform what once what a forgotten part of town.

Through our investments in rail, we’re supporting good-paying manufacturing jobs in cities across the country.

Through our investments in NextGen, we’re helping airlines to save fuel and reduce emissions.

Through our investments in our ports, we’re helping to move goods more quickly—which is good for trade.

I could go on and on about the economic benefits of transportation investments.

But the point is—transportation investments are good for our economy—now and in the future.

Transportation investments are also critical to our number one priority: safety.

Every day, people board planes, trains and buses—and they don’t think about safety, because we do.

In 2011, we saw the lowest number of deaths on our nation’s highways since 1949. That’s the lowest rate ever recorded. This is in large part due to safer vehicles, improved awareness of safety, and strong enforcement.

And as a result of the transportation bill, MAP-21, we have a new authority to keep people safe on our nation’s transit systems.  

This means we can ensure that the buses, subways, streetcars, and light rail systems Americans ride every day are the safest in the world.

MAP-21 does a lot of other great things for transportation.

It provided $81 billion for highways and $21 billion for transit capital investment.

It provided states and communities two years of steady funding to build roads, bridges and transit systems.

And it ensured the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund through Fiscal Year 2014.

On top of all that, we’ve worked to cut through red tape so we can get projects moving – and people working – sooner.

For instance, DOT has worked with Federal partners to expedite the permitting and review of 19 major infrastructure projects around the country.

And under the leadership of our Federal Highway Administrator, Victor Mendez, we’ve worked with our partners at the state level to speed project delivery.

Through our innovation initiative, Every Day Counts, we’re encouraging states to use proven, but under-used technologies that will improve safety, speed construction or protect the environment.

Warm Mix Asphalt is a great example of the technologies advanced by Every Day Counts.

Through everything we do, we’ve worked to put people back on the job—building the best infrastructure in the world.

And today, you can see the impact of our transportation investments in communities across America.

But the truth is—we’re not done.

Your economic competitor is not the state next door—it’s the rest of the world.

If we want America to continue to lead—to be a magnet for jobs and manufacturing—we must work together to invest in our infrastructure.

Right now, we have an opportunity to think big and be bold.

In his State of the Union address, President Obama put forth a plan to rebuild and upgrade our infrastructure so our businesses have the tools they need to compete.

President Obama has proposed a “fix-it-first” policy to ensure that repair and maintenance of our existing roads, bridges and public transportation systems take priority.

And he proposed a “Rebuild America” Partnership that will attract private capital to build the infrastructure businesses need most.

President Obama’s plan is exactly the kind of vision we need for a 21st century America.

But we can’t do it alone. We need people on the state level to continue to advocate for transportation funding.

And we need local leaders to work with the businesses back home. We’ve seen the results of public private partnerships time and time again—and we know these partnerships are going to play a big role in future transportation investments.

The path ahead is not going to be easy.

It requires us to be bold.

But together, we can build a better America.

And now, I am happy to take a few questions.

Updated: Tuesday, April 16, 2013