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Secretary Anthony Foxx: Remarks for Public Swearing-In

Transportation Moves America Forward

July 11, 2013

Thank you, Mr. Vice President. Both you and President Obama have demonstrated exemplary leadership over the last four and half years. You have helped our nation recover from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and you helped to put us on a strong course for the future – thanks in part to renewed investment in transportation.

And as everyone here knows, there is no bigger fan of Amtrak on the East Coast than Vice President Joe Biden!

I want to thank all of you for joining us today, particularly my wife Samara and our two children, Hillary and Zachary.  I also want to thank my wonderful pastor, Dr. Clifford Jones and his wife for joining us for today's invocation.

I want to thank the modal administrators, deputies, our government affairs staff, our public affairs staff, and the other members of the Office of the Secretary senior leadership.—especially my new friend and partner Deputy Secretary John Porcari. Thank you very much.

The truth is, when you're going through the confirmation process, you have to spend a lot of time with these wonderful folks. And I asked them to make the practice harder than the game.  And they did that so much so that when I got to the confirmation hearing, I was expecting to see the modal administrators on the dais. But I found Senators. I appreciate their help getting me here —and I know they’ll continue to be my trusted partners here at DOT.

Most importantly, I want to thank all of you – the hardworking employees at DOT—for what you do every single day.  Thank you for your great work. People will say over and over again that the work of the people at DOT --the quality of the employees and the professionalism and the work ethic-- is best in class. 

And I agree with that, not only through my observations during the confirmation process, but also from my observations as Mayor of Charlotte.

The DOT played a critical role in revitalizing the Queen City. While I was Mayor,

  • DOT helped us extend our light rail system,
  • begin a new streetcar line,
  • expand our airport,
  • break ground on an intermodal facility,
  • and take on many other important infrastructure projects.

So, when President Obama asked me to serve as the next United States Transportation Secretary, I was both thrilled and humbled to be joining you.

This Administration has an important mission: It is to build a stronger America, to create jobs, and to prepare the next generation to succeed in a global economy.

Through everything they do, President Obama and Vice President Biden are thinking about the long-term health of our country.

Just as families across America make everyday decisions to invest in their kids and grandkids, President Obama and his team are investing in our nation’s future.  

And if you think about it, transportation is the best example of what one generation can do for the next.  Look at our road system, our bridges, our rail systems, or our ports. In most cases they weren't built by us; they were built by the generations that came before. And it is our solemn obligation as a Department is to continue the generational advancement that comes in our nation's infrastructure.

Transportation is not just about getting from one point to another. Transportation connects people to opportunity. Transportation gives us a better quality of life.

A transportation system ensures that a working mom spends less time in traffic and more time with her kids.  A strong transportation system helps American businesses ship their products across the country and the world. A strong transportation system helps seniors get to medical appointments and connects veterans with job training.

Transportation moves America forward.

And that's why it is so important that we, as a Department, work harder than ever before to give the American people what they demand when it comes to infrastructure.

Americans want their time back—not hours of traffic. Americans want 21st century jobs—jobs that they will only find through 21st century infrastructure.

How do we deliver on this promise?

We focus on our number one priority. My overriding priority as Secretary is to make our transportation system the safest and most efficient transportation system in the world. With the help of everyone here at DOT, I know we’ll be successful. 

The American people are counting on us to deliver a safe transportation system. For generations, Americans have gotten on planes, trains, buses, cars, boats, and even bikes—not having to think about whether their chosen mode of transportation is safe or not.

Or, for that matter, whether it will be there when they need it.

They trust that our system will work—and work safely. They trust us—the Department of Transportation—to keep them safe. And we will.

We must continue to uphold this sacred trust with the American public. And over the last four and half years, the good news is you’ve already been doing this.

In 2011, DOT passed a milestone rule that gives pilots the opportunity to get more sleep before flying. This ensures our airline pilots are fully rested and more alert when they report for duty. And yesterday, DOT finalized a rule that requires more hours of in-flight training for co-pilots to fly a U.S. airline. Both of these measures are wins for aviation safety.

In 2011, we saw the lowest rate of deaths on our nation’s highways since 1949. That’s the lowest rate ever recorded. And today, seat belt use is at an all-time high, and 41 states have banned texting while driving.

2012 was the safest year in railroading history. In fact, train accidents have decreased five years in a row.

And for the first time, DOT has oversight in transit safety—thanks to the transportation bill that President Barak Obama signed last year.

Each of these accomplishments is good news for transportation safety.  But as we are reminded by recent events, our work is never complete. And that’s why we must be even more vigilant when it comes to safety.

Secondly, we must work to improve the efficiency and performance of our existing transportation system. 

It’s no secret that we're living in an era in which we have to work harder than we ever have to stretch our transportation dollars even further. The American people are counting us to be good stewards of their tax dollars—while still maintaining and building the infrastructure they need.

But, DOT, you know how to do this. You’ve been improving the way we deliver the benefits of transportation for four and half years now.

The Federal Highway Administration’s Every Day Counts initiative has been promoting innovation and saving money on projects across the country. One of the best examples is Warm Mix Asphalt. That may not be a household name yet. Warm Mix Asphalt is a new paving technology that allows asphalt to be produced and placed on the road at a lower temperature.  This uses less fuel, reduces emissions, and extends the paving season in colder climates, and allows people to keep working longer.  Under Every Day Counts, the use of Warm Mix has skyrocketed, resulting in an estimated savings of more than $100 Million. By 2020, we project that Warm Mix Asphalt will save more than $3.5 Billion dollars---simply by using less fuel in the production and placement of asphalt.

We’re not just saving money on our roads and highways. The Federal Transit Administration is cutting red tape to get new rail and bus projects off the ground faster than ever before—while maintaining our commitment to both the environment and safety. This means shovels in the ground sooner, people on the job quicker, and an estimated savings of half-a-million dollars a year nationwide for taxpayers. 

We're also modernizing our airspace by moving towards NextGen satellite technology. Right here in metro Washington, DC, airlines are already using NextGen procedures to fly into Reagan National and Dulles Airport. We estimate that this will save $2.3 million in fuel per year and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 7,300 metric tons. That’s not only easy on the pocketbook—it’s good for our children, and it’s good for our planet.

These are just a few examples of the great work you have already done to improve efficiency—to save time and to save money.  Our job now is to build even more momentum—and to get the most out of every taxpayer dollar.

Finally, over the long-term, we must draw on every ounce of innovation and creativity to ensure a transportation system that is strong for the long-term.

These two little children right here and those in your household and the households of your friends and neighbors are counting on us to give them an America that is stronger than the one we inherited. From new technologies to public private partnerships, we must use every tool at our disposal to make our transportation system better.

We’ve already seen great examples of public-private partnerships—the Historic Millwork District in Dubuque, Iowa, or the M-1 Rail Project in Detroit.

We’ve also seen our TIFIA loan guarantee program leverage $43.8 billion in infrastructure investments across America in cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, and Dallas.

The progress we’ve made so far is great. We will extend, elaborate and refine this progress going forward. America has always fostered ingenuity through its resourcefulness and perseverance. We have been a nation that dreams of the impossible.

I'd like to take a moment of personal privilege and acknowledge my 96-year-old grandmother who's here with us today.

This is--this is really important. My grandmother grew up in a little town called Carthage North Carolina--the county seat--at the turn of the 20th century. And her father, Pete Kelly, had a truck and he used that truck to raise 13 kids and send all of them to college.

Folks, transportation is a lifeline to families all across this country. The work we do every day matters.

And I feel this commitment right here. And looking at the folks in this room, I know you do, too.

So, let’s get out there. Let’s work. Let’s make this country what it ought to be. Let's build.  Let's improve. Let's maintain. Let's grow.

This country will be better because of the work we're going to do here at the Department of Transportation.

Thank you very much. God bless you. Let's get to work!

Updated: Monday, July 15, 2013