Over the past week I've had the pleasure to be joined by Congressional leaders from two different states for tours of two very different --but equally impressive-- rail sites. The Amtrak maintenance site in New Jersey and the B&P Tunnel in Maryland are good demonstrations that America's railways need predictable, dedicated funding.
On August 6, 2014, Secretary Foxx hosted a virtual town hall discussion on the need for a long-term transportation bill that invests today in tomorrow's infrastructure.
Fast Lane readers know that yesterday I took the Department's message to the people. And not just a handful of people either --our virtual town hall discussion reached thousands of participants from coast to coast, even as far away as Alaska, Hawaii, and Guam.
Heat map depicting relative volume of town hall participants by zip code
While I certainly appreciated the opportunity to make the case for a long-term transportation bill that truly funds our nation's needs and provides states, counties, and cities the certainty they need to plan for their future, I was even more grateful to see the steady stream of more than 300 questions pouring in from the town hall website, email, and Twitter. That tells me that Americans are engaged in this issue, an issue that touches their everyday lives, their families, their jobs, and their businesses.
So, now what? Well, now we do the heavy lifting. Now we get a little noisier...
The Secretary wants to explain why we need a long-term transportation bill, how it would improve the transportation you rely on, and what you can do to help make it happen. And, he wants to hear from you, too.
After all, we can't do this alone...
Last week – just hours before we were scheduled to begin cutting transportation funding to states – Congress found a way to postpone the immediate crisis, and extend transportation funding ten more months, until next May.
While we at DOT are glad to avoid those painful cuts, we –along with thousands of commuters, construction workers, freight shippers and manufacturers– know that it’s still not the long-term solution that America’s transportation system really needs.
If you agree, then I want you to join me this Wednesday, August 6, at 1:00pm Eastern time for my GROW AMERICA National Town Hall...
The good news is that Congress has avoided bankrupting the Highway Trust Fund. The bad news is that there is still no long-term certainty, and this latest band-aid expires right as the next construction season begins.
It is encouraging that the Senate voted earlier this week to act on a long-term transportation bill this year, and I hope that they will continue working toward that goal. While Congress may be able to wait until May, the country cannot. Americans deserve a multi-year transportation bill that provides the certainty that businesses and communities deserve, creates jobs, and makes necessary policy updates to lay the foundation for lasting economic growth.
To that end, I will be convening a nationwide virtual town hall on transportation in August to bring together business leaders, transportation advocates, state and local government officials, and everyday Americans who are concerned with the future of America’s transportation infrastructure. Together, we will keep working for a long-term solution by engaging people throughout America to prompt Congress to act.
"The good news is that Congress has avoided bankrupting the Highway Trust Fund. The bad news is that there is still no long-term certainty, and this latest band-aid expires right as the next construction season begins..."
Earlier today, I had the pleasure of joining Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn and several other dignitaries at a ribbon cutting ceremony for Shop #3 at the Nippon Sharyo plant in Rochelle, IL. As the name indicates, this is the third expansion at this plant since 2012. Very soon, workers will start building 130 new, next-generation rail cars for California and the Midwest that are funded through our High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail program.
Not that long ago, Shop #3, as well as Shops #1 and #2, were empty fields. Now, because of the Obama Administration’s investments in passenger rail, our Buy America program, and the hard work of so many, I was able to spend the day touring a state-of-the-art U.S. railcar manufacturing plant. What’s more, we’re rejuvenating a manufacturing industry that had gone fallow. New skilled workers are arriving, equipment and material being delivered, high-tech machines whirring and in the near future…shiny new rail cars will be rolling out the door.
It’s exciting for Rochelle, important for Illinois and historic for the Nation...
"I applaud the Senate's strong bipartisan vote, which sends a clear message that we need action on a long-term transportation bill this year, and reaffirms that Democrats and Republicans can come together to do it. There is no reason to delay the real debate about long-term funding and badly needed policy updates until we reach another crisis point, which could be May 2015 and at the beginning of the next construction season."
Recently I posted on this blog about my visit to a Siemens plant in Louisville, Kentucky, where investments in rail have created new jobs.
Well, to quote Yogi Berra, my visit on July 8 to Columbus Castings in Ohio was like “déjà vu all over again.” Once again, I saw proof that improvements in our rail system create new orders for manufacturers and suppliers, and new jobs for American workers.
During my tour, I saw skilled employees making components for one order that is modernizing Amtrak’s long-distance services. Columbus Castings added more than 30 new jobs for just this one order.