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Remarks by Gregory Nadeau, Acting Administrator, FHWA

Canadian/American Border Trade Alliance

Washington, DC

Monday, September 29, 2014 at 11 AM

Thank you, Jim Phillips, for your continued leadership on the issue of a safe, secure and efficient border.

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

By my calculation, this is the fourth or fifth time I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with you – basically every year since I joined the Department.

I hope that sends a couple of messages. One, that I enjoy your company. And, two, that we take the US-Canada relationship very seriously.

The Secretary and I have been traveling quite a bit and talking to the American people about the work that lies ahead to prepare our infrastructure so it can continue to support a growing population and a growing economy.

The infrastructure along our borders is an important part of that equation.

The United States will have another 100 million people by 2050, and we’ll have to move almost twice as much freight as we move today.

In order to build a system to meet those challenges, we need a long-term investment plan so everyone will know what resources we have available.

We simply can’t afford to keep kicking the can down the road with a series of extensions at the 11th hour.

It also means we’ll need to focus on innovation in order to make that investment go as far as possible.

Those are the basic messages the Secretary and I deliver everywhere we go.

On the innovation side, the Federal Highway Administration has an initiative called Every Day Counts that’s a partnership with the states and the private sector.

It’s a state-based program that’s leading to the creation of a national network focused on faster project delivery and the deployment of new technologies.

There’s also promising news on the investment front.

Earlier this year, the Obama Administration sent the GROW AMERICA Act to Congress.

It’s a four-year, $302 billion 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.

We look forward to engaging with Congress in discussing this bill or any other ideas for moving the country forward.

Of course, we need to always remember that transportation isn’t just a mobility issue. It’s an economic issue. That’s especially true when it comes to trade.

Forgive me for preaching to the choir, but I think it’s important to reinforce to our Canadian friends that all of us in the United States know that Canada and its wonderful people are our most important trading partners.

I could spend hours, days, even weeks citing studies showing that Canada and the United States have the largest and most effective economic trading partnership in the world.

And even if you look at all those studies on a “micro” level, they’ll show you that the majority of our states have an equally important trade relationship with Canada.

This isn’t some fleeting anomaly.

It’s been this way for many years, and it will be for many more years as our two countries continue the most important trading relationship in the world.

But we can’t – and we don’t – take that relationship for granted.

Each country must make sure it has the infrastructure that allows the relationship to flourish in the years ahead.

The Beyond the Border Initiative has played an important role in that regard as a catalyst for many important, cooperative and innovative initiatives that hold the potential to improve the movement of goods and people across the border.

While there are many initiatives to talk about, I want to highlight one in particular - the Border Wait Time initiative.

The basic outlines of the initiative are well known: To take a data-driven approach to improving the flow of people and trade across the border.

Our Customs and Border Protection is the lead on this initiative, and I don’t want to steal their thunder.

But I do want to recognize FHWA for playing a valuable supporting role.

Through the Beyond the Border Work Plan, FHWA and our federal government partners have been working with Canada to identify technologies to deploy at Ports of Entries that will help CBP and its sister agency, CBSA, better understand how long people and freight are waiting to cross the border.

When it comes to the border in general, our State DOT partners, along with our Division Offices in each of the 11 states that have ports of entry into Canada, are really the unsung heroes.

Day in and day out, they provide and manage the massive infrastructure that’s needed to get all those cars and trucks into Canada, and allow Canadian drivers to come into the United States.

So while our infrastructure is probably something most people take for granted, we at FHWA never do.

It’s our duty and responsibility to our fellow citizens to ensure they have a world class transportation system to take their kids to school, commute to work, drive on vacation, and probably more important to this audience, reliably ship goods across the country and across the border in support of our bi-national trade.

Since President Obama and Prime Minister Harper signed Beyond the Border back in February of 2011, our two governments have been steadily working together to complete the work plan that was released later that year.

Fast forward two years and in December of 2013 the White House released the second annual Beyond the Border Implementation Report, which summarizes the progress made in the second year following the Plan’s release.

Here at FHWA, our Border Team has been constantly working with Transport Canada, CBSA, and CBP to develop the Beyond the Border Infrastructure Investment Plan.

The first Investment Plan was released in May of 2013 and the second, which will cover all land border crossings, is currently pending agency approvals and should be released before the end of the calendar year.

These are all examples of how the governments of the United States and Canada have worked together to advance our shared interests in perimeter security and economic competitiveness, achieving results that will improve the lives of residents, visitors, and businesses in both our countries.  

And this effort just doesn’t end there. It lays the foundation for future collaboration and cooperation between our two countries that will consistently provide for improved border security and trade.

While that work goes on, we continue to look at a number of key infrastructure projects on our side of the border.

The Gateway Connections project holds the potential to improve traffic flow at the Peace Bridge in Buffalo, New York – an extremely busy crossing for both cars and trucks.

The project would involve a new ramp to connect bridge traffic – especially commercial traffic – to the Interstate system and take it off local streets.

A Record of Decision was signed in June, but there are still some hurdles to clear before this project really gets going.

The New International Trade Crossing in Detroit is another major project currently under development.

That project has already received a Record of Decision and a Buy U.S. /Buy Canada waiver for steel and iron from FHWA for the Bridge and interchange portion of the project.

The newly formed Windsor/Detroit Bridge Authority is working with the State of Michigan to hammer out all the details before it proceeds to construction.

FHWA has supported this project from the start and is committed to being a good partner by providing technical expertise throughout the development and construction process.

We look forward to the day when the bridge will be completed and helping to expedite the flow of freight and people across the border at the busiest port of entry between Canada and the United States.

I know this group is also interested in how the U.S. is complimenting the Strategic Gateways and Trade Corridors that Canada developed a few years ago as a means to improve their competitiveness in the world market.

Here in the U.S., we have something similar in the National Export Initiative.

President Obama has made it a top priority to improve the conditions that directly affect the private sector’s ability to export – working to remove trade barriers abroad, helping firms and farmers overcome hurdles to entering new markets, and assisting with financing.

He announced the National Export Initiative in his 2010 State of the Union address to renew and revitalize our efforts to promote American exports abroad.

These efforts are paying off – and helping to change the way America does business.

In 2012, U.S. exports hit an all-time record of $2.2 trillion and supported 9.8 million jobs. Recent data showed 29 states reached record export levels in 2012.

This focus on exports and the role they play in creating jobs, should give both our countries additional incentive to make sure we have a border infrastructure that makes it easy, not hard, to do business.

Our focus on trade means we also must put a focus on freight movement, an area where the United States is taking a multi-modal, systems approach.

We have a freight policy council made up of the Department’s senior leadership and the modal administrations.

And we’ve put together a national freight advisory committee made up of stakeholders from the freight community.

The insight from both groups is helping us develop the first comprehensive vision for freight in our nation’s history.

But as we move forward with our freight planning, we also recognize the importance of close coordination with our North American neighbors to ensure our transportation systems can work together.

We know we can benefit from sharing and using common freight data, compatible planning techniques, and information on future freight trends.

And our nations should be able to coordinate our planning efforts to ensure that our common gateways are as compatible and aligned as possible.

Earlier this spring, state and local freight planners from the United States and Mexico met in San Diego to discuss freight methodologies and coordinate planning approaches.

We’re working with Transport Canada to organize a similar peer exchange by the second quarter of 2015.

We hope this will become the start of a trilateral initiative.

To build on this work, we’ll be working with Canada and Mexico to look at the overall North American transportation system and try to reach a common understanding of future system demand.

When DOT completes our National Freight Strategic Plan – and it’s due for release in October 2015 – we anticipate being in close alignment with freight plans in both Mexico and Canada.

And we’ll have started a process that will allow us to keep our plans in alignment moving forward.

Finally, I wanted to quickly update you on FHWA’s efforts in support of the Transportation Border Working Group, which I see as an excellent example of binational cooperation that’s been around for more than a decade.

The Group is about to have its fall meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia in less than a month.

To support the Working Group, the FHWA Border Team is deeply involved in studies and activities that will provide a more comprehensive understanding of the movement of people and goods across the border.

As you probably know, the United States hosts the meeting of the Transportation Border Working Group once a year in the spring.

This coming spring, my border team has selected Portland, Maine as the host city. Did I happen to mention that Maine is my home state?

Portland is a wonderful city to host this meeting and I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a lobster or two waiting for the group to enjoy.


In closing, I want to thank Jim and the Alliance for inviting me every year to this important meeting.

Government can’t do everything and it takes concerned interest groups, like this one, to focus on important issues and highlight them so they’re brought to public attention.

Cooperation is always the key – especially when it comes to identifying issues that might delay major projects or drive up their cost.

FHWA is committed to that cooperation and I know this Alliance is as well.

I salute your continued work to strengthen the strongest trading relationship in the world.

Thank you very much!

I would be glad to answer any questions if we have time.

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