Remarks as prepared for delivery
Rick Capka, FHWA Administrator
Opening ceremony for High-Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes
June 1, 2006, Denver, Colorado
I want to congratulate state and local officials for their leadership in providing new travel choices for drivers. Believe me, they appreciate the opportunity!
Denver and Colorado are at the forefront of traffic congestion relief efforts with this innovative approach to improving mobility. Only three other states -- California, Texas and Minnesota -- currently have High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes.
The highway, transit and safety law signed last August by President Bush gives states more options to use tolling and other strategies to improve mobility and fund transportation improvements. Every state has the flexibility to choose HOT lanes and other innovative solutions to keep people and commerce moving, not idling in traffic.
You know, congestion doesn't have to be a fact of life. We are finding and trying new approaches to make sure America keeps moving and HOT lanes are one of the best. Reining in congestion is crucial because it is one of the single largest threats to our economic prosperity and way of life.
Congestion wastes fuel and costs an enormous amount of money. Even worse, congestion takes a major bite out of our day -- time that could be spent with families and friends. The numbers are incredible.
Whether it takes the form of trucks stalled in traffic, cargo sitting on the dock at overwhelmed seaports, or airplanes circling over crowded airports, congestion is costing America an estimated $200 billion a year.
Consumers lose 3.7 billion hours and 2.3 billion gallons of fuel sitting in traffic jams.
Denver has an annual delay of 51 hours per traveler, the 16th worst in the nation, according to the authoritative Texas Transportation Institute.
With these facts in mind, a few weeks ago Transportation Secretary Mineta rolled out the Bush Administration's new "National Strategy to Reduce Congestion on America's Transportation Network" -- a national congestion relief initiative. It provides federal, state, and local officials with a clear plan to follow as we work together to cut traffic jams, relieve freight bottlenecks and reduce flight delays.
A big part of the plan focuses on our largest metropolitan areas. We will seek "Urban Partnership Agreements" with as many cities as are willing to participate. These agreements will embrace several proven, effective strategies, including variable priced tolling programs designed to spread traffic flows throughout the day and get more out of existing highways...
More dedicated lanes for buses carrying rush-hour commuters...streamlined review of highway projects...and flex schedules and/or telecommuting options for employees.
HOT lanes make more efficient use of existing highway capacity and give drivers a choice for a reliable trip. I'm proud that U.S. DOT was able to provide Colorado $2.8 million to jumpstart the project. This kind of help is part of our national effort to help state and local governments tackle transportation challenges.
Congestion is not a scientific mystery, nor is it an uncontrollable force. For about the cost of a good cup of coffee -- and less than a RockyDog -- HOT lanes give drivers an alternative for a quick trip when they need to get to work, home, errands or their child's ball game on time.
The Bush Administration is committed to keeping the economy strong and growing. I know we have the tools, the technology, the plans, the partners and the commitment to make today's congestion a thing of the past.
Congratulations Denver and Colorado for taking innovative steps to keep American moving!