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Remarks by Gregory Nadeau, Acting Administrator, FHWA

University of New Hampshire Civil and Environmental Fall Lecture

Durham, New Hampshire

Thursday, October 23, 2014 at 5:30 PM

Good evening, everyone. It’s a pleasure to join you.

I’m honored to be the first speaker in your new Civil and Environmental Engineering Fall Lecture series. I hope I’m a worthy lead-off hitter.

I want to thank Dr. Daniel for that very kind introduction.

I also want to thank Bruce Springsteen for his part in getting me invited here this evening.

The Boss is probably unaware of the role he played.

But it was at a Bruce Springsteen concert in Washington last year where I met Jo, who was at the concert with a FHWA colleague.

And we began the discussion that ultimately led to my being here tonight.

So, thank you, Boss, and thank you, Jo.

The decision to come here to kick off the seminar was really an easy one. I wanted to salute people who are doing research into innovative ways to build and maintain our infrastructure.

Our transportation secretary, Anthony Foxx, uses a very descriptive phrase to describe the state of our infrastructure.

He says we’re running an “infrastructure deficit.”

Too many of our roads are in bad shape and – as the Secretary describes it so well – more than 100,000 of our bridges are old enough for Medicare.

He usually gets a laugh with that line. But that’s not his intent – or at least his only one.

He’s trying to make a serious point about the challenges we face in giving the American people and America’s businesses the infrastructure they need.

It’s not an abstract debate.

The United States will have another 100 million people to move around by 2050 – well within the life of the students here today. And we’ll need to move almost twice as much freight as we do today.

I can confidently predict that all those additional people will NOT be teleworking. And I’m equally sure that large pallets of freight will not be delivered by drones.

So this whole debate about the state of our infrastructure has real world implications.

It’s about shorter, easier and safer commutes. It’s about getting home in time to go to a child’s soccer game. It’s about helping our businesses grow, compete and create jobs.

That means we need to see transportation as not just a mobility issue, but as an economic one.

That’s especially true in our under-served communities, where transportation can create what the Secretary calls a “ladder of opportunity” linking people to jobs, to health care and to other essential services.

After all, it’s hard for someone to hold and succeed at a good job if they’re unable to GET TO that job in the first place.

And so, to those of you starting careers in transportation or thinking about a career in transportation, it’s important to keep in mind what transportation is really all about.

Transportation isn’t just about GETTING places better. It’s also about MAKING places better.

We urge our people at FHWA to always keep that perspective in mind, even as they do what they were trained to do on the planning and engineering sides.

You can see that approach at work right here in Durham.

Under the leadership of Patrick Bauer and our outstanding Division Office team, we’ve partnered with NHDOT and its great team lead my Commissioner Chris Clement on a number of local projects, including bike-ped improvements along Main Street and improvements to the Depot that serves Amtrak and your bus service here at the University.

It’s a service I'm very proud to have played a role in launching back in my days with Maine Governor Angus King and as Deputy Commissioner of MaineDOT. I'll be hopping on the Downeaster to Portland right after my time with you headed for home. I may work in Washington, but I still live in Maine.

We sincerely hope these projects are making Durham and UNH an even better place to live, work and go to school!

And while the technical details that go into any project are critically important, we want to always focus on that bottom line, which is that REAL PEOPLE use our system as part of their daily lives or to run their business.

Of course, there are a couple of factors that go into building and maintaining that system. And I want to say a few words about them by way of prompting our discussion.

As with most things in life, it all starts with money, in this case an investment by Congress in our transportation system.

Like much of what’s been happening in Washington lately, that funding process has featured its share of 11th hour drama and a series of short-term extensions.

That’s exactly what transportation planners and builders DON’T need.

Even at its best – and we’re going to talk about ways to improve the project delivery process in a minute – it takes years to plan, design and build a major project.

When you start that process, you need to be reasonably sure the money you’re counting on will actually be there when its needed.

Right now, people at places like the New Hampshire DOT don’t have that certainty.

For example, over the summer, Congress patched the Highway Trust Fund just days before it was about to go insolvent.

The Trust Fund is the main source of funding for our highway program, and

an insolvency would have had a disastrous impact, putting tens of thousands of projects and more than 700,000 jobs at risk.

Of course, we were pleased that didn’t happen.

But the “patch” that Congress created only lasts until next spring, meaning we could be right back in the same 11th hour drama right on the eve of the next construction season.

How do you make plans in a scenario like that? Do you focus your resources on do-it-now maintenance and steer clear of major job-creating projects?

That would be fine if our population was likely to stay the same. But, as I’ve indicated, it’s not.

It’s clear what we need is a long-term funding plan that gives people in every phase of project delivery – planning, design, construction – the certainty they’ve been lacking.

The Obama Administration has offered the GROW AMERICA Act as a possible solution.

It’s a four-year, $302 billion bill that could be paid for without increasing the already-shrinking deficit by Congress passing common-sense, pro-growth business tax reform – the kind of reform that members of both parties are already discussing.

We offer GROW AMERICA as a starting point, because it focuses the debate where it should be focused – on the future – not on short-term fixes, temporary patches or the other gimmicks that have put us in the difficult position we find ourselves in today.

We look forward to sitting down with Congress and discussing the GROW AMERICA Act or any other proposal for funding transportation long term.

But funding is only part of the equation.

Even the most generous Congress in the best of circumstances couldn’t provide enough funding to meet all our transportation needs.

So it’s up to us – the transportation community – to make the case to Congress why they should invest in our infrastructure.

The best way to do that is to show that we “get it,” and that we’re committed to giving the public the best value for every dollar they invest.

Innovation is at the heart of that effort.

Five years ago, we launched an initiative with our state, local, private sector and academic partners called Every Day Counts.

EDC, as we call it, was designed to bring about a culture change in transportation by advancing better, faster and smarter ways of doing business through innovative strategies and innovative technologies.

But as I indicated earlier, transportation impacts people’s lives, and so we said from the start that Every Day Counts wasn’t a pilot project or a lab experiment.

We weren’t pursuing innovation for its own sake. We were looking for innovative ways to improve lives and communities by:

  • Shortening the time it takes to deliver new projects;

  • Making people safer on our roads;

  • Reducing congestion so freight can move more efficiently and people can get where they need to go with less hassle;

  • Protecting and improving the environment.

In each round of Every Day Counts – and we just started our third – we introduce about a dozen innovations.

They include ways to streamline the planning and approval process. And they include technologies that have been shown to work, and deserve broader use.

We’re not out to invent the “next big thing.”

The goal of EDC is to take proven and tested technologies and process innovations that work and bring them to the attention of stakeholders in every state.

And at a time when many question whether government even works, Every Day Counts is a terrific example of how federal, state and local governments can work productively together.

In fact, the state and local agencies are really the ones in the driver’s seat.

The best way to think of it is that we offer each state a menu of innovations, and help them make choices from that menu that suit the state’s specific needs. The EDC model is a mechanism to identify and implement innovation in a performance based manner.

After all, who knows what’s best for New Hampshire than the people who live and work here?

I know, it’s a daring concept!

It’s similar to what the legendary House speaker Tip O’Neill had in mind when he said “all politics is local.”

I believe that all innovation is local! Because in the federal aid highway program, state and local governments along with their private sector partners are the ones that deliver the projects.

To put that concept to work, we encourage each state to set up a State Transportation Innovation Council – or STIC – to make those choices.

45 states, including New Hampshire, have created STICs.

But EVERY state – whether it has a formal STIC or not – has used two or more of the innovations we’re promoting under EDC.

If people want to see how Every Day Counts is intended to work, they’d do well to come to New Hampshire.

The state has a very active STIC with a broad range of state, local and private sector members.

Thanks to the outstanding commitment of this University, the Local Technical Assistance Program is making sure local communities are well engaged.

And there are plenty of examples of where the state is putting EDC innovations to work.

For example, the new Memorial Bridge in Portsmouth was actually replaced using two EDC innovations.

One is Design-Build. It’s a form of innovative contracting that is exactly what it sounds like – the designer and builder function as a unit, which leads to a much more efficient process.

The state also used an innovation called Alternative Technical Concepts on this project, which allows contractors to bring their expertise and often proprietary concepts to the table and try ideas that have worked for them in the past with there confidential ideas protected in the bidding process.

Thanks to these EDC innovations, the new Memorial Bridge opened in August 2013, about six months earlier than others had proposed.

In addition to Design-Build, we’re advancing another form of innovative contracting known as Construction Manager-General Contractor – or CMGC.

The designer and builder aren’t the same person, but they work closely together during the design phase to tap into the builder’s expertise.

The City of Concord is using this innovation in its Complete Streets project, the first time it’s been used in the state.

We’re proud of the fact that Congress thought CMGC was such an important tool for saving time and money that it codified it in MAP-21, our current transportation law.

The state is also using a tool known as a Programmatic Agreement.

It’s a way to cut red tape by establishing a process in advance for handling routine environmental requirements on common types of projects.

The PA here in New Hampshire will streamline the environmental review process on about 70 percent of state DOT projects. Not only does this approach streamline environmental process, I believe it enhances environmental outcomes.

In the first round of Every Day Counts alone, more than 150 new Programmatic Agreements were updated or started. And New Hampshire is one of 37 states that currently has at least two Programmatic Agreements in place.

This is another EDC innovation codified in MAP-21.

The examples I just mentioned – Memorial Bridge, Concord’s Complete Streets project, and the use of Programmatic Agreements – represent one of the primary goals of EDC, which is to save TIME, which usually translates into also saving money.

But we’re also working with states to protect the environment, something I know is very important to all of you in this program.

One good example is a technology known as Warm Mix Asphalt.

In honor of Dr. Jo Daniel and her career-long focus on “all things” pavement, I’m pleased to say a few words about this popular Every Day Counts innovation!

As you may know, Warm Mix can be produced and placed on the road at a lower temperature than traditional Hot Mix. So it requires less fuel to produce thereby saving money and reducing emissions.

We launched EDC in 2009 and WMA was among our first set of initiatives. At that time it represented about 4% of asphalt produced in the U.S. By 2013, use of Warm Mix grew to about 30 percent. NAPA believes that in the next few years, it will be the standard. Over 40 states now have a standard spec for WMA.

We estimate we saved more than $600 million because less fuel was used in production. It's been estimated that we could save upwards of $3 billion by 2020.

Those are savings to state DOTs and local governments, which can invest that money in more projects.

And it’s equal to taking 150,000 cars off the road each year – a real boost for the environment.

And by 2020, when Warm Mix will be the only form of asphalt produced, it will be equal to taking more than 600,000 cars off the road every year.

That’s certainly something to celebrate!

You might be interested to know that Secretary Foxx has “adopted” Warm Mix as his favorite EDC innovation.

It’s not that he’s a pavement expert. He’s actually the former mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina.

But because he was a mayor, he knows how important it is to save every dollar possible and invest it back in the community.

And as the father of young children, he knows the importance of protecting the environment for future generations.

He’d be pleased to find out that New Hampshire has fully embraced Warm Mix.

Since the beginning of Every Day Counts, use of Warm Mix in the state has jumped from two percent to 51 percent by the end of the 2013 construction season.

Which brings up one other benefit, namely that it can be placed on the road later in the season, meaning you can extend the construction season and keep people on the job longer.

As a fellow New Englander, I know every day truly does count when winter is approaching.

All I can say is, thank you, New Hampshire for embracing Every Day Counts and building a legacy of innovation.

Thank you for putting innovation to work to save time, save money and save lives.

But the environment cuts both ways when it comes to transportation infrastructure.

Yes, we need to make sure we’re delivering infrastructure in a more sustainable way through things like pavement recycling, RAP, and Warm Mix Asphalt.

But we can’t forget the impact the environment itself has on our roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

Climate change and extreme weather events will continue to impact our system and stretch our transportation dollars even further.

And while the industry has a history of being “climate aware,” the $50 billion wake-up call known as Hurricane Sandy drove home the importance of making our transportation systems more resilient to climate change and weather events.

FHWA is addressing this challenge head on.

We have a number of activities going on that are designed to help our partners prepare for the future impacts of climate and weather.

For example, we’re finalizing a cutting edge study in Mobile, Alabama that’s narrowing the gap between climate change science and engineering practice.

Part of the study is focused on how to design new roads and bridges to make them more resilient to climate risks – or how to retro-fit infrastructure we already have.

The findings from this study will be useful to DOTs and MPOs across the nation.

In this part of the country, we’re supporting the Maine DOT in prioritizing vulnerable roads and bridges in six coastal towns, then doing a cost-benefit analysis on possible replacements that might better withstand rising sea levels and storm surges.

And throughout New England and the Northeast, we’re working with our partners to assess the impact of recent storms and come up with strategies to make vulnerable assets more resilient, whether it’s to future rain events, coastal storms or – less likely up here – extreme heat waves.

Creating a more resilient transportation system is a priority for FHWA.

And we’ll continue to develop the tools and resources needed to help our partners reach that goal.

So that’s a broad look at transportation, from funding right down to the pavement!

Someone once said that the best way to PREDICT the future is to CREATE it.

That’s what’s happening in places like this, at the Federal Highway Administration and at our partner agencies and companies all across the country.

We’re creating the future by fostering a culture that’s focused on finding and deploying innovation.

It’s a culture that will outlast any federal program, government official or state executive.

We’re building it state by state and project by project every time we ask, “Is there a better, faster or smarter way to do that?”

And it’s a culture that desperately needs you and people like you to contribute your ideas and your passion for making a difference.

I look forward to seeing the contributions you will make.

And I welcome our discussion.

Thank you very much!

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Page posted on May 21, 2015.
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