Transportation Research Board Chairman’s Luncheon Washington, DC Wednesday, January 16, 2013
“As Prepared for Delivery”
Hello everyone. It’s great to be here with all of you.
When President Obama first asked me to do this job, we had a lot of work ahead of us.
We were facing the greatest economic crisis in over a generation, and our infrastructure was in desperate need of repair.
But President Obama had a vision—a vision of an America built to last.
Over the last four years, we’ve made unprecedented investments in our nation’s transportation system.
I have personally visited over 200 cities around the country, meeting with local leaders and delivering on what they need.
We’ve put people to work on our roads, bridges and rails—in communities big and small.
And we’ve made it easier to ride a bike, hop on a train or catch a bus.
In fact, I am thrilled to tell you about our new streamlined approach for the New Starts competitive grant program.
In 2010, we made a promise to change the way we rated and evaluated capital transit projects so that more good ideas could get into the federal funding pipeline.
I’m proud to say we’ve delivered on our promise.
Our new streamlined approach will ensure that local officials—who know best what their community needs—can invest in the infrastructure we need now.
Now, as I’ve said many times before, safety is our number one priority.
And we’ve worked hard to ensure the safety our nation’s transportation network.
In 2011, the nation saw the lowest number of deaths on our nation’s highways since 1949, that’s the lowest rate ever recorded– And it’s due to safer vehicles, improved awareness of safety, and strong enforcement.
Over the last four years, we’ve worked with our partners to encourage people to buckle up, get drunk drivers off the road, and end our distracted driving epidemic.
In fact, we launched a national campaign to stop drivers from using hand-held cell phones and texting behind the wheel.
Today, 39 states ban texting while driving; 10 states ban hand-held cell phone use.
In the skies, we are enhancing safety and cutting delays by moving toward NextGen, which maximizes the benefits of GPS-based surveillance and navigation.
And we improved outdated pilot flight and duty rules to give commercial passenger pilots the rest they need to operate.
In addition to our safety efforts, we are fulfilling President Obama’s bold vision for American rail—laying the foundation for high-speed rail corridors in 34 states and the District of Columbia.
In California, the nation’s first true high-speed rail system will break ground this year.
In the Midwest, we now have trains that reach 110 MPH.
And in the Northeast corridor, we have invested more than $3 billion for long overdue upgrades and replacements of vital infrastructure and new equipment.
Over the last four years, we’ve helped communities invest in innovative projects that make a real difference in people’s lives.
Under the popular TIGER grant program, we invested $3.1 billion to fund 218 projects in all 50 states.
These projects include a new streetcar in New Orleans and a complete revitalization of downtown Dubuque.
And now, our TIFIA loan program is serving as yet another great resource to help communities meet their unique infrastructure needs.
TIFIA—that’s the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act—provides direct loans, loan guarantees and standby lines of credit for major infrastructure projects throughout the nation.
Since its launch, the TIFIA program made possible 31 projects and turned $10.5 billion in DOT support into over $42 billion in infrastructure investment across America.
In other words, TIFIA helps our transportation dollars go further.
And MAP-21, the new transportation bill signed into law by President Obama this summer, transforms TIFIA into the largest transportation infrastructure loan program in history, making up to $17 billion in credit assistance available for critical infrastructure projects.
MAP-21 does a lot of other great things for transportation. It includes $81 billion for highways and $21 billion for transit capital investment.
It provides states and communities with two years of steady funding to build roads, bridges and transit systems.
And it will ensure the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund through Fiscal Year 2014.
MAP-21 allows us to continue to improve the way we move the freight that fuels our economy.
MAP-21 streamlines and consolidates programs.
And MAP-21 helps us shorten project delivery – a priority for both President Obama and Congress.
When we deliver projects faster we deliver their benefits faster – like enhanced safety, less congestion and a cleaner environment.
The project delivery improvements included in MAP-21 are based on an innovation initiative known as Every Day Counts, which was launched by our Federal Highway Administrator, Victor Mendez.
The concept behind Every Day Counts is the same as this year’s TRB conference– better, faster, and smarter!
Finally, MAP-21 helps us keep our transportation system safe.
This law gives the Department, for the first time, oversight over transit safety—a long overdue step that will ensure the buses, subways, streetcars, and light rail systems Americans ride every day are the safest in the world.
Overall, MAP-21 provides $2.6 billion for federal safety efforts.
The bottom line is that we’ve made great progress.
As we move ahead, we’ll need people from across transportation to come together and work with us to meet the transportation needs of a 21st century America.
At DOT, we will continue to support solid research and innovation—the building blocks of safe, reliable and affordable infrastructure.
And we will to continue to use federal investments to create more transportation options for hardworking Americans.
Our future depends on our ability to dream big and build big.
President Lincoln once said, “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”
Well, we are looking at tomorrow. We see what needs to be done and we are doing it.
On behalf of the entire Obama Administration, we look forward to continuing to work with you to make our nation’s transportation network the envy of the world. Thank you.