I started day four of my “Invest in America, Commit to the Future” bus tour by participating in a roundtable discussion with Congressman Bennie Thompson and local officials at Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi. It was a great opportunity to hear firsthand about the challenges facing the region and the need to create ladders of opportunity to connect folks to jobs, schools, and a better quality of life.
At the Department of Transportation, we’ve been talking for months –if not years– about America’s infrastructure deficit. If you've been reading this blog, then you’ve heard me talk about 100,000 bridges old enough for Medicare, billions of dollars in backlogged transit projects, and the growing costs of waiting as cities and states put their transportation plans on hold. And you've seen our highway trust fund ticker and know how close we are to running out of money altogether.
But a week ago, that all changed. Because last Wednesday, President Obama laid out his vision for a four year, $302-billion-dollar transportation plan to modernize this country’s infrastructure and put us on the path to solving this problem...
Last night, I had the privilege of sitting in the well of the House of Representatives and listening to President Obama deliver his State of the Union address to the nation.
Depending on the channel you were watching, you may have even seen me applauding when the President struck the theme of opportunity–and applauding extra hard when he later talked about the opportunities created by transportation. The road to opportunity can take many forms as the President told us; it can be quality pre-school for young children, or it can be access to health care for those with pre-conditions.
But, as President Obama also reminded us last night, sometimes the road to opportunity can literally be a road. Or, for that matter, it can be a transit system that connects a community to new jobs or a port that helps businesses sell to more markets. All of these types of transportation can be what the President calls “ladders of opportunity,” ways for all Americans to connect to a better quality of life.
With the U.S. population projected to grow by 90 million people over the next 30 years, and strong evidence that access to affordable transportation plays a significant role in social and economic mobility, we must face this challenge head on. Even in a difficult fiscal and political climate.
But, let's remember one of the key lessons in American history: challenging times can present opportunities to find new allies, a fresh vision, and creative, new approaches to long-standing problems . I am proud to say that this Department is pressing forward in a number of exciting and transformative policy areas. And yesterday, at the launch of Transportation For America's (T4A) new alliance to help revitalize our nation's investment in transportation, I highlighted one of my favorites --Ladders of Opportunity.
As a former mayor, Transportation Secretary Foxx is especially focused on transportation investments and policies that connect people safely to jobs, education, and health care; that grow local economies and the U.S. economy; and that improve quality of life.
When people ask me about my priorities as Transportation Secretary, I always say that safety must come first at DOT.
But we must do more than ensure safety and maintain our current infrastructure. With the U.S. population expected to grow by 100 million in the next 30 years, we must also make sure our transportation system is prepared to meet that growing demand. It will be a big challenge, but it also represents a powerful opportunity.