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Remarks by Victor Mendez, Administrator, FHWA
25th Rhode Island Transportation Forum
University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI

Friday, October 26, 2012 at 8:30 AM


  • Governor Chafee
  • Senator Whitehouse
  • Dr. Dooley, President of the University of Rhode Island
  • Mike Lewis, RIDOT Director
  • Henry Sherlock, Construction Industries of Rhode Island and a major sponsor of this event
  • Dan Berman, acting FHWA Rhode Island Division Administrator
  • Professor Wayne Lee, URI Transportation Research Center

It's an honor to be part of your 25th Rhode Island Transportation Forum. I wanted to be with you today to congratulate you on a quarter century of outstanding service to the people of Rhode Island and to encourage you to keep up the good work for at least another 25 years.

FHWA has a very successful and productive research partnership with the University of Rhode Island and RIDOT. And we look forward to keeping that partnership going for years to come.

Partnership is a very important concept to me personally and in the field of transportation.

We couldn't have safe, environmentally sound transportation systems without partnerships and working relationships among groups with different roles and often different agendas.

We certainly couldn't design, build and maintain our roads and bridges without the combined contributions of researchers, engineers, planners, contractors and government.

This Forum not only celebrates that partnership, it makes it stronger. And so I wanted to be here today to thank you for that very important contribution.

What really makes this Forum notable is that it brings all the partners together year after year to focus on a very consistent mission: Serving the public better.

That mission is at the forefront of our work at FHWA. We try to never lose sight of the fact that real people use our transportation system as a regular part of their daily lives - taking their kids to school, getting to work, going to the doctor, shipping their products.

But, as we all know, fulfilling that mission is not without its challenges.

Our infrastructure needs repair at a time when our resources for doing that are extremely tight.

Congress and the public - rightfully - demand maximum value for the way tax dollars are spent. And all of this is taking place against a backdrop of extreme partisanship in our political system.

This Forum provides the best solution for those challenges: We need more partnership and less partisanship.

I'm pleased to say that partnership is one of the most important features of an innovation initiative we launched three years ago known as Every Day Counts.

EDC introduces a better, faster and smarter way of delivering projects and putting new technologies to work to improve safety, reduce congestion and protect the environment.

From its earliest days, before it even had a name, Every Day Counts brought together the major stakeholders in the transportation community. AASHTO, ARTBA, AGC, NACE, APWA and ACEC were all involved in the creation of EDC and remain part of its continued success.

What began with input from stakeholders at a national level thrives today because of working relationships here at the state level.

Our FHWA Division Office, RIDOT and the state's transportation community have worked together to pursue the objectives of accelerated project delivery and the deployment of innovative technologies.

Each member of the partnership works under the guiding principle, “We do our part.”

We see that happening all across the country. Every Day Counts was never intended to be a program where Washington told the states what to do or pretended to have all the answers.

Instead, it was meant to be an initiative where states made the final choice on which strategies or technologies fit their individual needs, laws and regulations.

Here in Rhode Island, those choices are made by Mike Lewis and Phil Kydd at RIDOT in conjunction with Dan Berman and our Rhode Island Division Office.

To accelerate project delivery, RIDOT has chosen to move forward with three strategies:

  • Expanded use of Programmatic Agreements;
  • Design-Build;
  • Construction Manager-General Contractor.

In fact, thanks to the leadership of states like Rhode Island, those are among the strategies that have been included in the project delivery section of the new transportation bill - MAP-21.

The fact that our work with Every Day Counts drew the notice of Congressional leaders as they drafted the bill is something we can all be proud of.

I always tell people that when you do good work, people notice. And that's exactly what happened with Every Day Counts.

MAP-21 sets a new direction for our industry. It gives greater flexibility to the states in return for greater accountability toward national priorities.

And it gives the states two years of certainty for planning and investing in projects, which is going to put people to work and grow our economy.

But MAP-21 is just one step that's being taken to create good paying jobs in this country.

Late in the summer, Secretary LaHood announced $363 million in grants for state highway projects, including $4 million to Rhode Island.

And we've also taken $473 million that was earmarked to projects but never spent and returned it to the states. Rhode Island has just under $1 million to work with.

As the President always says, we can't wait to put people to work and continue our economic recovery. We need to continue the work of building an America that's built to last.

That same “we can't wait” spirit is present in our industry as well. It's clear that we can't wait to put the latest strategies and technologies to work so we can serve the public in a better, faster and smarter way.

I mentioned the project delivery strategies that Rhode Island is pursuing. But the state is also doing good work when it comes to putting our Every Day Counts technologies to work.
For example, the state used Pre-Fabricated Bridge Elements to replace the 57-year-old Frenchtown Brook Bridge in East Greenwich.

Thanks to this technology, the bridge was replaced in half the time it would have taken otherwise, resulting in much less disruption to the traveling public.

RIDOT is going to take a look at all future bridge projects to see if this technology can be used.

And I predict that in a few years, all bridges in this country will be built from pre-fabricated systems.

Rhode Island is also making progress in using another EDC technology - Warm Mix Asphalt. Warm Mix is helping transportation agencies all across the country save fuel - and thus save money - and reduce emissions.
And at a time when job creation is so important, Warm Mix also helps extend the paving season in colder climates - like yours.

The Warm Mix story here in Rhode Island started with a four-tenths-of-a-mile test section that was paved with a “double green” mix that included recycled tires and Warm Mix.

Based on the success of that test, Warm Mix is now standard practice in the state.

To bring everyone up to date, we've currently reached an important transition point with Every Day Counts as we introduce a second round of project delivery strategies and new technologies.

As we did with the first round, we're holding a series of regional innovation summits. The summits are focused just on the project delivery part of EDC and are intended to let people dive into the details so they can make informed choices about which strategies to implement.

We're introducing four new project delivery strategies in this Second Round, and we're continuing five from the first round, including Programmatic Agreements, the Accelerated Bridge construction strategies and the innovative contracting strategies.

Rhode Island will actually be hosting the summit for this region in early December.

In the spring, we'll hold virtual summits to introduce five innovations, known as 21st Century Solutions. We think of it as using an innovative type of summit to introduce innovation.

One of the Solutions we'll be introducing is a SHRP2 product to improve the training of first responders, so they can clear accident scenes quickly and safely.

I know SHRP2 is a subject of great interest here in Rhode Island thanks to the session RIDOT hosted to encourage stakeholders to use new SHRP2 products.

We hope by including first responder training in Every Day Counts, we can help move that process forward.

So this is a very important time for Every Day Counts as we move into our second round, build on the momentum from our first, and look to take project delivery to the next level.

We continue to focus on innovation - not for its own sake, but because it's helping us deliver results to the American people.

We're delivering safer, greener roads to the public - and doing it sooner.

And we're putting people to work today on projects and helping our economy grow tomorrow.

Any partnership would be proud to claim those accomplishments! And I thank all of you for continuing to work together with us on a better, faster and smarter approach to delivering transportation projects.

Let me wrap up with a few words about safety - the top priority of the US Department of Transportation.

MAP-21 provides significant funding for safety and builds on the Department's aggressive safety efforts.

But safety is a combination of factors. Infrastructure is one. The role of the driver is another.

Secretary LaHood has worked throughout his tenure to raise public awareness to the deadly epidemic of distracted driving.

Rhode Island is one of 39 states, along with the District of Columbia, that have laws banning texting behind the wheel. We need the other 11 states to follow Rhode Island's lead.

We also need drivers to take personal responsibility for their conduct when they're driving. Everyone should keep in mind the Secretary's simple message: Cell phones and driving don't mix.

As transportation professionals, we have a responsibility to set a good example for our family, friends and colleagues.

So in closing let me remind you to always buckle your seat belt, put away your cell phone when you're driving, and drive safely.

Thank you very much.

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Page last modified on November 12, 2012.
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