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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 57· No. 2 > A New Era in FHWA Leadership

Autumn 1993
Vol. 57· No. 2

A New Era in FHWA Leadership

Slater, Garvey Cite Employment of Technology, Protection of the Environment as Major Thrusts for FHWA

by Ronald A. Zeitz

Rodney E. Slater is the 19th chief highway executive since the founding of FHWA's first predecessor in 1893.Rodney E. Slater

On June 16, 1993, a new era in the leadership of the Federal Highway Administration officially began with the formal swearing-in of Rodney E. Slater as the FHWA administrator. Slater, who was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on May 28, and his deputy administrator, Jane F. Garvey wasted no time in establishing their focus and putting their imprint on the mission and direction of FHWA.

Together with Secretary of Transportation Federico Peña, they have outlined a straightforward set of objectives for the Department of Transportation and FHWA:

  • Get the economy moving and create jobs by making strategic transportation investments.
  • Make these investments in ways that will help clean up and even beautify our environment.
  • Integrate all modes of transportation into a seamless system for moving goods and people both within our cities and borders and to and from the United States.
  • Develop and apply new technologies that will create whole new industries.
  • Ensure that all of our investments improve daily life by making travel safer, more convenient, and more "human."

In late July at the Pacific Rim TransTech Conference, Administrator Slater described these objectives as an interrelated program to meet the challenges of a revolution in transportation technologies.

"Our goal in all of our transportation investments is long term. We believe that, if we invest wisely and build partnerships, we can spur the development of new technologies -- even whole industries -- and contribute to a cleaner environment at the same time. Many of you here know that we are in the midst of a revolution in transportation technologies that will transform our economy and our daily lives as much as the arrival of the railroad, commercial aviation, and the interstate system did," he said.

In the same speech, he outlined the role transportation has in fueling this revolution to expand the economy.

"We must not only follow the example set by the generation before us, which envisioned a nation linked by the interstate system," he said. "Rather, as we stand at the threshold of the 21st century, we must harness technology to increase the efficiency of our existing transportation network and enhance the role of transportation as an engine for economic growth and job creation."

Slater sees research, development, and technology as the key to better use of transportation facilities. In his confirmation proceedings he stated, "I believe that research and development at the department has to be increased, because what we have to do is find more effective and efficient usage for our various modes of transportation. IVHS (Intelligent Vehicle-Highway System) provides an excellent opportunity for us to revisit how we are using our system as it is, and it forces us to not take the easy way out of just deciding to build more highways."

Speaking to the National Conference of State Legislatures Transportation Committee, Slater praised the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act as the crucial catalyst to developing new transportation technologies.

"ISTEA gives us a strong lead. Under ISTEA, computer-based management systems will improve our ability to monitor and to program projects for pavements, bridges, safety, congestion relief, public transportation, and intermodal transportation systems. We're making steady progress on IVHS that could revolutionize driving by increasing our navigational ability under all circumstances, making commercial vehicle operations more efficient, and perhaps allowing for control of vehicle flow," he said.

Jane F. GarveyJane F. Garvey is the deputy administrator of FHWA.

Deputy Administrator Garvey emphasizes the direct relationship between transportation technology and preserving the environment. In a speech given at the Third Interdisciplinary Conference on Urban Air Quality, she cited the almost limitless mobility that Americans enjoy because of the automobile, and she warned that the two strongly held values of mobility and environment must become more compatible.

"We must encourage and support the implementation of cost-effective strategies which do not limit mobility. These strategies include such technical advances such as cleaner-burning gasoline and diesel fuel, vehicles powered by electricity and other alternative fuels, and improved emissions control systems with stronger inspection and maintenance programs to ensure their continued effectiveness." She added that the use of alternate transportation facilities such as mass transit are efficient modes that are also environmentally acceptable.

Both Slater and Garvey preach the importance of intermodalism. Slater refers to it as "such an important part of ISTEA."

"We've seen intermodalism illustrated, dramatically, during the tragic flooding of the Mississippi," Slater observed. "Because normal transportation patterns have been disrupted, shipments that normally go by one mode are going by another or by a crazy-quilt combination of modes."

The emphasis on intermodalism stems from a lesson learned in the '80s, said Garvey. "No one transportation system can do it. We found we will need a balanced transportation system."

Both agree that diversity in the FHWA workplace is an imperative. Citing President Clinton's goal "to have an administration that looks like America," Garvey acknowledges that there is still much to be done.

Working through partnerships and cooperative relationships with states, universities, industry, foreign countries, and international organizations will become an increasingly important way to accomplish the missions of FHWA. The expansion of FHWA's global involvement has been particularly dramatic. There are many examples.

FHWA will expand the network of international technology exchange centers to acquire foreign technologies, promote U.S. expertise, and transfer U.S. technologies to other countries. FHWA recently established a technology exchange center in Finland. Information gathered through the center is circulated to the U.S. highway community through FHWA, state departments of transportation, and the Local Technical Assistance Program technology transfer centers.

A plan to provide FHWA expertise to assist Russia in improving its highway system is currently in the final stages of approval. The proposed project will rehabilitate 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) of major roads and will serve to help establish a road construction industry in the country.

The Pan American Institute of Highways, administered by the National Highway Institute, is an international network of 36 technology transfer centers in 13 countries of the Americas. These centers work together to solve the technological needs of the hemisphere, and they provide technical support to national and local governments, universities, road associations, and individuals.

Even before he had been confirmed as administrator, Slater underscored the importance of true international participation. In his confirmation proceedings, he recalled his service as the chairman of the Arkansas State Highway Commission and said, "When I talked about transportation, I always talked about it in terms of linking Arkansas with the nation and the world because we play on an international stage and we are players in a global economy."

As the new leaders of FHWA, Slater and Garvey have affirmed the commitment of FHWA to do its part to support the national policy, as stated in ISTEA, "to develop a National Intermodal Transportation System that is economically efficient and environmental sound, provides the foundation for the Nation to compete in the global economy, and will move people and goods in an energy efficient manner."


Ronald A. Zeitz is the Senior Editorial Consultant for the FHWA News. He has more than 25 years of experience in public affairs, much of it as a senior executive in such companies as GTE Telenet (now Sprint International), the Xerox Corporation, and ITT. He has written numerous articles on telecommunications and its impact on business. He recently served as a copy editor for the Vice President Gore's National Performance Review. His first full-length Civil War novel is presently undergoing editorial review.

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