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Remarks by Gregory Nadeau, Deputy Administrator, FHWA
American Society of Civil Engineers
Transportation and Development Institute Congress
Orlando, Florida
Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Good morning, everyone. It’s a great pleasure to join you today and to represent Secretary Foxx and the Department of Transportation.

This is shaping up to be a critical summer for our nation’s transportation programs and – by extension – for the nation itself.

We have to decide whether to comply with the terms of an unwritten contract that each generation of Americans has made with the next – to leave the country better, stronger, safer and more prosperous than the way we found it.

Will we follow in the tradition of those who built the Transcontinental Railroad and the Interstate Highway System – or will we settle for just getting by?

The way we answer those questions is going to help determine the future for our children, our economy and our standing in the world.

The debate over those issues must ring with special resonance among the highly respected men and women of ASCE.

Your famous “report card” on the state of America’s infrastructure is widely cited and often quoted.

It’s like “according to” is part of your official name. After all, think of all the stories and speeches that start, “According to the American Society of Civil Engineers.”

But you’ve done more than just generate headlines and quotes with your “report card.”

You’ve clearly and succinctly – in a way everyone can understand – helped shape the debate over the need to strengthen and improve America’s infrastructure.

I can assure you that all of us at US DOT and the Federal Highway Administration have gotten the message loud and clear.

The Obama Administration is focused every day on what we can do to expand opportunity for every American.

That includes building a first-class infrastructure that attracts first-class jobs, moves American goods efficiently and allows people to travel safely.

I think the way to deliver that kind of system is to follow two parallel paths.

Each path complements the other, and so it’s important that we look at both here this morning.

The two paths both start with the letter I, and so I think of them simply as the “Two-I’s” – investment and innovation.

INVESTMENT

Let’s start with investment – a topic that has a great deal of urgency today.

Earlier this spring, Secretary Foxx traveled by bus through eight states in the South and Midwest.

He visited communities where jobs and opportunities are being created because major projects are being built.

And he also went to places where important work is NOT being done because projects are still waiting for funding.

He concluded that America has an “infrastructure deficit,” which he describes as too many miles of road in need of repair and more than 100,000 bridges old enough for Medicare.

The Secretary usually gets a laugh with that last line – but that’s not his intent.

Like your “report card,” he’s trying to explain as clearly and simply as possible the difficult situation we find ourselves in.

We’re all familiar with how this came to be.

Over the past 20 years, total federal, state and local investment in transportation has fallen steadily as a share of GDP – while population, congestion and maintenance backlogs have grown.

Congestion on our roads costs Americans more than $100 billion dollars in wasted time and fuel each year, while our businesses spend an extra $27 billion to ship their goods.

And we continue to lag our overseas competitors when it comes to investing in infrastructure – which poses a real long-term threat to our economy.

You know that story well. You should – after all, you helped write it.

But there’s good news on the investment front.

Several weeks ago, we sent the GROW AMERICA Act to Congress.

It’s our proposal for reauthorizing our surface transportation programs, and our vision for investing in our infrastructure, supporting millions of jobs here at home and laying the foundation for a more competitive economy.

I’m not going to go through all the details of our bill, but I do want to highlight some important themes.

  • The GROW AMERICA Act builds on the work we’ve been doing in the area of safety - now and always our top priority.

  • It stabilizes the Highway Trust Fund and gives states and local governments four years of certainty to plan and invest in the type of significant projects that offer the biggest benefits in terms of jobs and mobility.

  • At $302 billion – nearly $200 billion of that for the highway program – it represents a 37 percent increase over MAP-21, and a level of funding that focuses the conversation around what the country needs long-term, not just what it takes to meet today’s immediate demands.

  • It leaves in place the basic program structure of MAP-21 and the focus on data-driven decision-making and investment.

  • It takes an approach to freight that’s less highway-focused and more multi-modal.

  • It creates a new Critical Immediate Investment program, which is part of the President’s Fix It First initiative. This program is designed to jump-start work on improving the condition of our roads and bridges.

  • It would create what the President calls “ladders of opportunity,” by giving people safe, reliable and affordable travel options to places that can help them enjoy a better quality of life – places like jobs, school or their doctor.

  • And it continues the outstanding progress we’ve made in shortening project delivery.

Our bill has moved the discussion forward on shaping the next reauthorization. But we don’t pretend to “own” all the good ideas.

The Senate Environment and Public Works committee has put forth its plan, and we expect the House to do the same.

The Senate bill keeps funding at current levels, adjusted for inflation. We believe that more funding is needed.

And so, as I mentioned, we propose a 37 percent increase over current spending, which is paid for through one-time revenue from business tax reforms.

But that’s the long-term plan. As you’re well aware, we also face a more immediate issue in the dire state of the Highway Trust Fund.

As of the end of April, the Trust Fund had a balance of $8.7 billion.

If expenditures continue as projected, and no action is taken to shore up the Fund, we’ll likely experience a cash shortfall in late August.

We’ve been very clear about what’s at stake.

In addition to posting a tracking chart on our website to keep everyone in the loop, the Secretary has been traveling the nation and visiting Capitol Hill.

There should be no doubt about the impact a Trust Fund insolvency would have: States would have to decide which of the 112,000 active road and bridge projects to continue, which to defer and which to bring to a halt.

Nearly 700,000 jobs would be at risk if those decisions had to be made.

We’re currently finalizing our cash management procedures in the event the fund runs short of cash later this summer.

But it’s clearly a situation we hope to avoid.

INNOVATION

While we work with Congress to enact a long-term reauthorization and shore up the Highway Trust Fund, we have to keep our part of the bargain.

It’s our responsibility to show Congress and the American people that if they entrust us with tax dollars that we’re able to manage that money carefully and spend it wisely.

That means getting the most for every tax dollar by shortening project delivery and becoming more efficient so we can actually deliver more projects in less time for the same money.

That’s where the “second I” – innovation – comes in.

In 2009, we launched an innovation initiative with our government and private sector partners called Every Day Counts.

With each round of EDC – and we’re about to introduce Round Three – we focus on a dozen or so strategies and technologies that will help our partners in state and local government shorten project delivery, enhance safety and protect the environment.

The states are in the driver’s seat in terms of which initiatives to deploy.

It’s like choosing from a menu, with our FHWA team in each state making strong, informed recommendations.

Many of the ideas have become widely accepted. And some, like Construction Manager General Contractor, were codified in MAP-21, making improved project delivery the law of the land.

Just to cite one example, CMGC was used on the Sellwood Bridge project in Oregon, allowing the project to be finished one year earlier than it would have been otherwise, and with a savings of $25 million – money that can be used on additional projects.

We’re also seeing tremendous acceptance of EDC technologies.

Warm Mix Asphalt is one of them. As most of you know, it can be placed on the road at lower temperatures than conventional asphalt – saving energy and money, and extending the paving season.

It’s a technology that made perfect sense from a number of standpoints – but needed a boost from EDC to get states to take a close look at it.

Now, it’s not only being used in most states, but it’s become a personal favorite of Secretary Foxx.

It’s not that he has a particular love of asphalt. It’s because he likes the fact that using Warm Mix can save as much as $3 billion by 2020. Again, that’s money that can help increase capacity.

Geosynthetic Reinforced Soil is another widely deployed technology. It’s been especially helpful to local governments in reducing the time and lowering the cost of bridge construction – especially low-volume, short-span bridges.

Using this technology, Sandy Township, Pennsylvania, was able to build a new bridge using its own crews and equipment for $102,000. And by building the bridge in only 35 days, it saved local residents months of construction detours and delays as they traveled to work or school.

And we’re seeing wide acceptance of so-called slide-in bridge technology. Utah used this technology to deliver the I-15 Corridor Expansion project two years ahead of schedule and at a savings to taxpayers of about $260 million.

And a new Skagit River Bridge was slid into place in Washington State in 19 hours over one weekend. This fully re-opened a critical freight route in the Pacific Northwest just three-and-a-half months after the original bridge collapsed.

So there are plenty of success stories being written through Every Day Counts and our renewed focus on innovation.

Now, we’d like your help in writing even more.

As I mentioned, Every Day Counts is built on a state-based deployment model.

We encourage each state to form a State Transportation Innovation Council –or STIC – to lead their deployment effort.

Even if they don’t set up a formal STIC, we urge them to create some organization that will take the lead in finding and deploying innovation.

With your leadership in engineering, the respect you’ve earned in the transportation community and your ties to state DOTs and universities all across the country, we believe you have a lot to add to that work.

That’s especially true when you consider that our ultimate goal is make innovation a permanent part of the transportation culture beyond the life of any program or initiative, and beyond the tenure of any Administrator or CEO.

We want – and need – to engage you in helping achieve that goal.

And so I’m looking forward to meeting with your leadership this afternoon to talk about this further.

I hope to explore ways to get your membership more involved with Every Day Counts – especially at the state level -- and to help us in advancing more innovative and more efficient project delivery.

CONCLUSION

Those are our two parallel paths, our “two I’s” – investment and innovation.
And while they move on their own separate tracks, they’re really inter-connected.

Without innovation, our investment won’t go as far. And without sufficient investment, innovation becomes little more than a pilot project or technical exercise.

We look forward to working with Congress, with you or with any stakeholder that can help us make progress along one path or the other.

Having helped shape the national debate over the state of our infrastructure, we welcome your contribution on where we go from here.

Before I wrap up, I want to highlight the most important priority in everything we do – and that’s safety.

We can engineer and build roads and bridges to make them as safe as possible.

But a lot of safety comes down to the driver exercising common sense and acting responsibly.

Secretary Foxx is committed to addressing the national epidemic of distracted driving.

We’re pleased that 43 states – including our hosts here in Florida – and the District of Columbia have laws on the books that ban texting behind the wheel.

But we also urge every group we visit to set a good safety example for their family, their friends and their colleagues.

So, in that spirit, let me remind you to always buckle your seat belt, put away your cell phone when you’re driving, watch out for walkers, joggers and people riding bikes, and simply drive safely.

Thank you very much!

 

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Page posted on April 11, 2014.
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