Remarks by Victor Mendez, Administrator, FHWA
Opening of I-495 Express Lanes
Tysons Corner, Virginia
Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 11 AM
It's a pleasure to join you this morning.
This is an important day not only for Northern Virginia, but for the entire National Capital Region as we celebrate the first major improvements to the Capital Beltway in a generation.
Transportation is supposed to connect people and places and economies. That's certainly what the Beltway has been doing for decades.
But as we see with the new HOT lanes, we're always looking for ways to make those connections better.
There are a couple of important achievements that are worth celebrating here today.
One is the ability to reduce congestion on this very important road by offering people safe transportation choices.
We fully expect these HOT lanes to encourage ride-sharing, carpooling and the use of mass transit. Whether people choose to use the HOT lanes or stay in the regular lanes, they can expect a less congested and more reliable trip.
That means people will spend less time stuck in traffic, they'll have easier access to local businesses and they'll use less fuel.
The second important achievement is the novel way in which this project was financed.
There's no doubt that with government resources being limited, we're going to see more public-private partnerships for major projects like this one.
As you probably know, in addition to $300 million in federal aid, this project also received a $589 million loan from our TIFIA program as part of the overall funding package.
It's a great example of what TIFIA is designed to do, which is to help the partners leverage federal dollars to secure other funding in the private market.
TIFIA has been a very popular and successful program.
It's helping projects like this move forward more quickly than they would if they relied on conventional funding.
In fact, our new transportation bill - MAP-21 -- contains a major expansion of the TIFIA program, making it the largest transportation infrastructure loan program in history.
And we're not wasting any time putting the beefed-up program to work. We're already getting a tremendous response.
Between the time the President signed MAP-21 in July and the end of October, we've already gotten 21 letters of interest from projects that plan to seek TIFIA credit assistance.
But TIFIA is just one part of MAP-21. The new bill funds our highway programs for the next two years, giving us hope that we'll see projects getting started all across the country so we can create jobs and continue our economic recovery.
MAP-21 is also going to help make our roads safer, by building on the Department's aggressive safety efforts, including the fight against distracted driving.
Secretary LaHood has worked throughout his time in office to do something about the deadly epidemic of people using their cell phones while they're driving.
I'm pleased to say that Virginia is one of 39 states and the District of Columbia that ban texting behind the wheel.
We hope that the remaining 11 states will follow Virginia's lead and ban this deadly practice.
But in addition to laws, one of the best ways to promote safe driving is by setting a good example for our colleagues, our friends and our family.
And so in closing, I urge you to always buckle your seat belt, put away your cell phone when you're driving, and simply drive safely.
Thank you very much.
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