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Federal Highway Administrator Mary Peters
Excerpts from remarks as prepared for delivery
26th Annual Kentucky Transportation Conference
Holiday Inn Captial Plaza, Frankfort, Kentucky
January 29th 2004

OPENING

It's great to see so many transportation leaders.

Due to commitments in his district, Congressman Hal Rogers was not able to participate in this year's conference and he asked me to pass along his regrets. Kentucky is fortunate to have both he and Congresswoman Anne Northup serving on the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee. I look forward to working with both of them this year to secure enactment of a six- year surface transportation reauthorization.

JOB CREATION/ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

I'm glad to represent President Bush and Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta. The President has provided clear direction to his team, and we are making significant progress toward his major goals:

  • Revitalizing the economy -- expanding jobs and opportunities for families and businesses across America.

  • Keeping Americans safe and secure, at home and abroad.

We've had some very promising news recently about the economy -- record 8.2 percent growth in the third quarter and more than a quarter of a million new jobs added since last summer. The President's message (I'm paraphrasing) in his State of the Union address:

Our economy is on the rebound. We want to keep on track for a more prosperous future.

Transportation is the engine that drives the economy. The transportation sector accounts for more than 11.7 million jobs and contributes over $1 trillion annually to the U.S. economy, generating more than 10 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. But the progress that the Bush Administration has made to revitalize the economy and put Americans back to work could be seriously hampered unless we, in transportation, do our jobs.

The information superhighway does not replace our enormous network of roads and bridges, rail, ports, and airports. "Just in time" freight delivery relies on our transportation network to get orders delivered "in time." There should be little surprise that one of the earliest signals of the recovery was an upsurge in truck freight traffic. Having a job is not enough, people need to get to them and back home again.

SAFETEA – KEY POINTS

Secretary Mineta, on behalf of President Bush, submitted the Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2003 -- SAFETEA -- to Congress last May.

SAFETEA provides a record level of investment in our nation's surface transportation infrastructure over the next six years. It is a responsible approach, based on what the Highway Trust Fund can support, without burdening workers with costly new taxes.

Long-term federal surface transportation funding is the foundation for state planning. Lack of certainty about reauthorization limits the ability of our state and local partners to plan and coordinate transportation investments. The extension that expires February 29 should be followed by long-term legislation. We remain focused on a six-year bill. There have been some encouraging signs from Capitol Hill in recent days. Secretary Mineta will keep up the pressure to ensure that Congress acts promptly so that we can continue to provide this country with the transportation system it needs for a thriving economy.

SAFETEA SPECIFICS

SAFETEA proposes significant policy reforms. It doubles the amount of funding for safety over TEA-21. It would invest about $15 billion to reduce highway fatalities and prevent injuries through a comprehensive safety initiative.

  • Gives states more flexibility.

  • Expedites needed highway improvements.

    --  Continues record-high annual authorization of $450 million for the Appalachian Development Highway System (ADHS).

    --  The Infrastructure Performance and Maintenance Program targets $1 billion a year of Highway Trust Fund dollars to preserve existing highway facilities and alleviate traffic chokepoints.

STEWARDSHIP AND STREAMLINING

Streamlining the regulatory and reporting process is another key component of the President's strategy to build momentum for job creation. Last year, for example, he signed an Executive Order on Environmental Stewardship and Transportation Infrastructure Project Review. SAFETEA contains important provisions consistent with the President's Executive Order.

The key is to bring all parties to the table, get everyone working together, to cut through red tape and streamline the complex web of environmental reviews. It's a common-sense approach that is showing we can build vital transportation projects without jeopardizing the environment.

There has already succeeded in advancing projects that have languished for ten years or more. Regarding the Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges Project, FHWA will make every effort to help your state identify and use innovative finance tools to help move the project to design and construction.

SAFETY

Secretary Mineta has mobilized his entire team to raise the bar on safety for the traveling public. The Secretary has said, "Our top priority is to use every tool available to reduce death and injury on our highways."

Nearly 43,000 people are killed and three million injured annually. Did you know that traffic fatalities are a leading cause of death in this country for virtually every age group -- and the leading cause of death for people between four and 34?

That's unacceptable. In Kentucky, 921 fatalities in 2003, up from 917 in 2002 and an increase of 22 percent since 1994.

There is something very simple that we can do to save lives. And it doesn't cost a lot of money, either. It's a cliché but true. Safety belts save lives. Belts are the most effective device for saving lives of motorists.

The national rate is now 79 percent, the highest level in the nation's history. For each one percent increase in use (nationally) 270 lives will be saved annually. I know this is a sensitive subject in your state. Safety belt use in Kentucky is about 65 percent. That's very low, 44th out of 50 states. Average use in primary law states is 83 percent.

We have an opportunity to prevent deaths and injuries. FHWA will continue working hard to support safety belt usage.

INNOVATION

We have created a new legislative initiative to encourage the building of roads that last longer. We are looking for longer lasting, innovative, fast, efficient and safe ways to fundamentally change the way we do business and serve our customers. We propose to dedicate a portion of our overall federal surface transportation program to motivate states to embrace innovation and creativity at a faster pace.

Simply stated, we want to work with you and the entire transportation community -- in partnership -- to build highways faster, make them last longer, and make them safer. We've all seen examples of excellence -- things being done faster, things being done better. Why can't we do that all the time, everywhere? Why can't we make a great leap forward?

This is an integrated approach to the highway construction process with three strategic goals --

Improved safety

Reduced congestion due to construction --Work zones alone are estimated to account for nearly 24 percent of non-recurring congestion -- delays caused by temporary disruptions

Improved quality

The Secretary is excited about this new initiative. We feel that we can make it a reality only through a strong partnership with the highway industry.

LOOKING AHEAD

We are looking much further ahead than reauthorization. Elders of the Iroquois Indian Nation would think how their decisions affect the next seven generations. So let me leave you with a view of some of the visionary programs we are working on that will bring long-term benefits to Americans.

Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) embrace technology to help with safety and congestion.

IVI, the Intelligent Vehicle Initiative, brings life-saving technology to vehicles on the road today and places new emphasis on developing cooperative vehicle-highway systems to make intersections safer as well.

511 provides a simple, common sense means of obtaining local travel information anywhere in the United States. Northern Kentucky, along with Cincinnati, were the first in the nation . . . and you now have statewide service. About 18 percent of U.S. population has access to high quality 511 service. FY 2004 goal is to reach a third of the population.

CLOSE

The American people deserve the safest, most secure and most efficient transportation system in the world.

Businesses large and small depend upon it. America's workers and families depend upon it too. We are America's road to freedom and prosperity.

America is counting on us.

-end-

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