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Remarks by Gregory G. Nadeau, Deputy Administrator, FHWA
100th Illinois Transportation and Highway Engineering Conference
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

It’s a great honor to join you in celebrating the 100th anniversary of this outstanding event.

I bring greetings from a two-time participant – Victor Mendez – who, as you know, is now the Acting Deputy Secretary. I’ve assumed his duties at FHWA.

That includes the privilege of representing him and the Department here today.

Victor spoke at the 97th and 98th annual meetings. But I especially wanted to be here for the 100th to salute the full century of service this body has given the people of Illinois and the nation.

And I’m pleased to be joined by a number of my colleagues from FHWA, who are sharing their expertise at several panels and break-out sessions.

When this conference first convened 100 years ago, our nation didn’t have a federal-aid highway program. That program didn’t start until two years later – 1916 -- when President Wilson signed the Federal-aid Road Act.

So, in a sense, the nation has been following the trail blazed by Illinois for the past 100 years!

We certainly need your insight and your wisdom once again because we’re in the middle of an incredibly important time for our transportation community.

We’re facing issues in the short and the long term that must be addressed if we’re going to continue creating jobs, growing the economy and keeping America moving safely.

Recently, President Obama and Secretary Foxx laid out their plans for addressing those critical priorities and a way to pay for it.

First, the President laid out his vision for a four-year, $302 billion transportation bill designed to help close the country’s "infrastructure deficit" – too many miles of road in need of repair, too many bridges old enough for Medicare.

Almost half of that money would come from the savings from pro-growth business tax reform.

Second, he released the details behind that proposal when he sent his FY 2015 budget to Congress. And he pledged to send a reauthorization bill to Congress that backs up each line in the budget with programmatic language.

I’ll lay out some of the numbers in the budget in just a minute. But first, it’s important to see the budget for what it is - a statement of priorities.

President Obama’s priorities come through loud and clear:

  • Modernize our nation’s infrastructure;
  • Ensure the health and growth of our critical highway programs;
  • Support millions of good paying jobs;
  • Give state and local governments four years of certainty to plan and invest;
  • Ensure that the Highway Trust Fund remains solvent.

That last priority – keeping the Trust Fund solvent -- is the most pressing one in the near-term. The fund could see a cash shortfall somewhere in the August-September timeframe unless Congress steps in.

The Department is reviewing its cash management procedures so we’ll be ready in case what once seemed unthinkable actually happens.

The impact of a cash shortfall on the states would be serious. Reimbursements to the states would be delayed, maybe even reduced.

The Secretary has made the solvency of the Trust Fund a highly visible public issue. At his insistence, the Department has started posting the Trust Fund balance on our website so the people who drive on our roads and ship their goods on our roads know where things stand.

Beyond the immediate Trust Fund issue, the budget proposal gives us a chance to look ahead. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Of the $302 billion requested by the President, $199 billion would fund our highway programs – a 22 percent annual increase. For FY2015 alone, the President has requested $48.6 billion for roads and bridges.
  • He’s proposed a new $10 billion multi-modal grant program to improve the movement of freight.
  • And he wants to continue to grow two of our most popular and successful programs. TIFIA, which was greatly expanded in MAP-21, would be funded at $4 billion over four years. I hope you heard Regina McElroy talk about that program this morning. And the TIGER competitive grant program would be funded at $5 billion over four years, more than doubling that program.

As a quick aside, the Secretary recently announced a new, $600 million round of TIGER grants called TIGER 2014. The application window will be open through April 28.

The President’s proposals are not only important today. They’re going to be important as we prepare for tomorrow.

By 2050, it’s estimated the United States will have 100 million more people than it does today.

And by 2040, the amount of freight moving on our system will rise from 18 billion tons to 28 billion – a 60 percent increase.

We must make sure that all parts of our system – not just roads, but rails and transit and ports and airways – are able to handle all those people and all those goods.

The challenge becomes even more important when you consider what other countries are doing.

Consider this: Since the early 1990s, the United States has consistently invested just six-tenths of one percent of our GDP in highway infrastructure – one quarter the amount invested by China.

Even countries with fairly "mature" infrastructures – like Canada, France and Russia – invest relatively more than we do.

The President’s vision puts us on a path toward closing the gap. And it honors the legacy we’ve inherited from our parents, grandparents and earlier generations who built the Transcontinental Railroad, the Interstate Highway System and the Hoover Dam.

The President’s budget has started an important conversation about America’s transportation future. But we welcome all good ideas for moving forward.

Secretary Foxx has committed the Department to working with members of Congress from both parties on a sustainable funding solution.

Chairman Boxer in the Senate and Chairman Shuster in the House are fully engaged in the debate and we look forward to working with them and all Members Congress to find a bipartisan solution to our transportation funding challenges.

EFFICIENCY

But funding is only part of the equation. We, as a transportation community, need to do our part as well.

We need to show Congress and the American people that if they’re willing to entrust us with their money, we’re able to deliver projects as efficiently as possible.

There will never be enough money to do everything we want. We have to make the available money go as far as possible in order to make a compelling case for future investment.

And so, the Secretary has made efficiency one of his top priorities.

The President certainly shares that commitment, proposing steps to cut the permitting and project delivery process in half.

Our Every Day Counts innovation initiative, which Victor launched at FHWA in 2009, has been a catalyst for much of this discussion.

As most of you know, Every Day Counts is a state-based initiative for deploying innovations that shorten project delivery, improve safety or protect the environment.

Several of the EDC strategies have been codified in MAP-21, making better, faster and smarter project delivery the law of the land.

Secretary Foxx has taken a strong interest in EDC, and one of the technologies has really caught his imagination.

It’s Warm Mix Asphalt, which he mentions in almost every speech as an example of how we can save money if we’re willing to put innovative technologies to work.

As a former mayor, he’s especially impressed that using Warm Mix could save the nation more than $3 billion in fuel costs by 2020.

To achieve that goal, Warm Mix has to become standard practice across the country. Thanks to states like Illinois, and aggressive efforts like those of the Illinois Toll Highway Authority, that’s what’s happening.

But Warm Mix isn’t the only EDC initiative Illinois is adopting. The state has embraced a number of others – as well as the spirit of innovation that’s at the heart of Every Day Counts.

New Programmatic Agreements are in place in Illinois, new bridge technology is in use, and Adaptive Signal Control is being put to work in the Chicago area.

Always looking ahead, you’re now working on Intelligent Compaction, new interchange designs and high friction surface technology. And your leadership in Traffic Incident Management has inspired a national effort to help keep first responders safe and traffic moving.

By the way, we’re now off and running on EDC Round Three.

We’ve gotten some outstanding suggestions from around the country, and we’re in the process of going through them and deciding which ones we’ll advance in the next round.

STATE-BASED DEPLOYMENT

But there’s a larger issue at stake than just new strategies and new technologies.

We’re also creating a National Transportation Innovation Network that will become the pathway for the rapid deployment of innovation across the country.

The process of creating that network is well underway. Twenty-six states have set up State Transportation Innovation Councils. And a number of others are getting ready to launch theirs.

Here in Illinois, the State Transportation Innovation Leadership Team – or STILT – is up and running.

I understand the team will be meeting next week to discuss how to use our STIC Incentive funds and funds from the Accelerated Innovation Deployment program. Thank you for your leadership!

The STILT and councils like it put the state in the "driver’s seat" to choose the innovations that meet its unique needs and get those innovations into standard practice as quickly as possible.

And they underscore the idea that all innovation – like all politics – is local.

The Councils can choose from a full and robust menu of ideas. They’re encouraged to consider innovations from EDC, SHRP2, AASHTO’s Technology Implementation Group – or any other source.

They’re intended to be diverse and well-rounded so that council members from the public and private sectors, and from state and local agencies can learn from each other and share new ideas.

We’ve put a lot of time and work into encouraging and nurturing these Councils because we believe they’re extremely important.

First, they affirm a state’s commitment to identify and deploy innovations.

Second, they ensure that innovation deployment will remain a standard business practice beyond the tenure of any governor or CEO, and beyond the life of any specific innovation program.

And, ultimately, as the National Innovation Network takes root, they’ll ensure that innovation remains a permanent part of the nation’s transportation culture.

We believe these are important goals and we appreciate your contribution.

Every Day Counts shows that working together, we can bring innovation to the market quickly, and help the public enjoy the benefits of new projects sooner.

And in these times of tight budgets and fiscal constraint, greater efficiency in project delivery gets everyone more bang for the buck.

Two bridges for the price of one isn’t just a metaphor. It’s an achievable goal that’s well within our grasp.

SAFETY

I want to conclude with a word about our top priority at DOT – and that’s safety.

The Secretary is committed to building on our impressive safety record, and making sure Americans are safe no matter how they choose to travel.

That includes a continued focus on keeping impaired or distracted drivers off the road.

I’m pleased that Illinois is one of 42 states and the District of Columbia to ban texting behind the wheel.

But we also know that not every accident – and certainly not every illness – can be prevented. Getting patients the care they need – and the insurance to afford it – is a priority of President Obama.

As a member of his administration, I want to remind you that time is running out to sign up for a health care plan under the Affordable Care Act.

The deadline to enroll is next Monday – March 31. So we’re down to the last few days.

So if you know anyone who’s still uninsured, tell them to go to HealthCare.Gov, which is working great now! Or they can call 1-800-318-2596.

Finally, I’m pleased to carry on a tradition that Victor Mendez started at FHWA.

He always ended his speeches – at every event, before every group -- with a reminder to everyone to serve as safety ambassadors for friends, family and colleagues.

And so here’s a friendly reminder to always buckle your seat belt, put away your cell phone when you’re driving, watch out for joggers, pedestrians and people riding bikes, and simply drive safely.

Thank you very much!

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Page posted on March 26, 2014.
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