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Remarks by Gregory Nadeau, Acting Administrator, FHWA

ARTBA TransOvation conference

Redwood, Washington

Wednesday, November 19, 2014 at 11 AM

Good morning, everyone.

I appreciate the chance to join you here today.

I must admit that I was intrigued by the chance to visit Microsoft to see the people and the place behind the iconic brand.

And, of course, I welcome the chance to visit with our friends from ARTBA – our partners in so much important work.

We all recognize that transportation is reaching a pivotal moment.

States and local agencies are doing a tremendous job putting innovation to work to improve safety, reduce costs and save time.

And our construction partners, like ARTBA, are embracing innovation to help deliver a world-class transportation system.

We’re also at a point where ideas that were once the stuff of science fiction are becoming reality, and things that existed only on the drawing board are now actually on the horizon.

You’ve heard about cars that drive themselves, cars that talk to other cars, and cars that talk to the road itself.

It’s an exciting prospect that promises safer rides to school, easier commutes to work, a stronger economy and a cleaner environment.

But while we consider that exciting future, we also have an obligation to deal with current reality.

For instance, there are 253 million cars and trucks on the road in the United States today. I can assure you, they won’t all be replaced by talking cars or self-driving cars over the next ten years.

We also have millions of miles of road and hundreds of thousands of bridges.

A lot of that road needs repair and – as our Transportation Secretary, Anthony Foxx reminds us – more than 100,000 of those bridges are old enough for Medicare.

So while it’s important to think of ways to re-invent the future, if you’re late for work tomorrow morning or miss your child’s soccer game tomorrow night because you’re stuck in traffic, or if you can’t accept a better job because there’s no safe and easy way to get there – then the future is now!

Clearly, there’s a lot of critical work that needs to be done today.

Then, consider this: By 2050 – just 36 years from now – this country will have 100 million more people, and will need to move almost twice as much freight as we move today.

I can boldly predict a few things based on those numbers.

First, NOT ALL of those additional people will be teleworking. Most of them will be on the roads. And, second, we won’t be moving tractor-trailers full of freight using drones.

If we’re going to keep from being drowned by that tsunami of people and goods we’re going to need a strong system of roads and bridges to help keep our society and our economy moving.

Fortunately, this administration has a plan to do that. The plan is based on two pillars that I call the Two I’s – investment and innovation.

Let’s start with investment.

Earlier this year, we sent Congress a proposal called the GROW AMERICA Act.

It’s a $302 billion, four-year bill that gives states and communities the money – and, just as important, the certainty – to tackle big projects.

In the wake of the recent mid-term elections, people in both parties have cited infrastructure funding as an area where it might be possible to find common ground.

Will that actually happen? Is there reason for optimism? Your guess is as good as mine.

But it should be clear to everyone that we need to do something other than constantly kicking the can down the road when it comes to funding.

And the GROW AMERICA Act is good blueprint for moving forward.

But investment is only part of the equation.

We have an obligation as a transportation community to show Congress and the American public that we “get it” and can deliver the greatest value for every tax dollar.

And so along with our partners in the public and private sectors, we’re focusing on the second I – innovation.

Most of our work in this area is being done through an initiative called Every Day Counts, which we launched in 2009.

As many of you know, Every Day Counts is focused on two areas – shortening project delivery and getting proven technologies quickly and widely deployed.

In each round – and we just started our third – we introduce a dozen or so innovations, then work with the states to select the ones that suit their unique needs and circumstances.

We encourage each state to set up a State Transportation Innovation Council or STIC to lead its deployment efforts.

45 states now have a formally chartered STIC, and the handful that don’t have set up another organization to lead their innovation efforts.

But whether it’s a strategy for delivering projects sooner or a technology to improve construction, the real goal of Every Day Counts is deployment, not invention.

We aren’t looking to invent the “next big thing.”

Instead, we want to take things that we know ALREADY WORK, and see them deployed across the country.

As you know, that process can take time – not just in transportation, but in any field.

The fact is, it often takes a while for new ideas or new tools to be accepted in the marketplace, and for people to understand how they’ll improve the way they live or work.

New tools aren’t always better tools.

But new tools should force us to re-examine the strengths and weaknesses of old ways and old tools. They should cause us to ask if there’s a better, faster and smarter way of doing business.

In a nutshell, that’s what Every Day Counts is all about.

It’s a way to look at the tools we’ve been using, evaluate the potential of new ones, and rapidly deploy the ones that have the greatest potential.

Here, at a company synonymous with innovation, it’s interesting to note that several of those new tools take advantage of the latest electronic, digital and information technologies.

I call this group of new tools “E-Transportation,” and they’re already having an impact to streamline project development and delivery, and save or eliminate paper.

As you know, project delivery is a complex process.

You start with planning, then ensure the project is environmentally friendly, then design and build it, and finally operate and maintain it.

E-Transportation has the potential to make this process much more efficient, accurate and consistent, which translates into savings in time and money – and better projects.

Let’s start with an innovation from Round Two - Geospatial Data Collaboration.

This is a cloud-based tool that improves mapping and the sharing of data among project partners.

It offers a real improvement over the current model where geographic information is housed on an agency-by-agency basis, which makes it challenging for all the stakeholders to partner on projects.

The ability to collaborate and rapidly share updated maps and other data leads to faster consensus building and improved decision-making.

Agencies in two dozen states are in various stages of implementing this innovation.

E-Transportation can also have a significant impact in the environmental phase of a project.

Right now the NEPA process averages about three-and-a-half to four years on projects that need a full Environmental Impact Statement.

We’re rolling out a tool in Round 3 called eNEPA to help reduce that time so projects can be delivered sooner.

eNEPA allows environmental documents to be put on a common, Internet-based platform.

This helps the different agencies collaborate, share data and review those documents in real-time instead of having to mail them back and forth.

It also makes everyone more accountable.

eNEPA has the potential to cut the time it takes to review environmental documents by 10 percent.

And if this technology becomes widely used, it could save more than $12 million each year in reduced staff time and more than $100 million each year by reducing the impact of inflation caused by construction delays.

In the design phase we use another Every Day Counts innovation known as 3D engineered models to more effectively connect a project’s design and construction phases.

These models foster cooperation between the transportation agency and the road builders.

Contractors get the data they need to improve efficiency and effectiveness, and agencies get the data they need to ensure a quality product for the traveling public.

We’re now building on the initial success of this innovation by incorporating schedule and cost information and using data we gather after construction to create an accurate record of what was built.

The innovation that comes next on our project timeline is

e-Construction – an electronic construction management system that provides a secure environment for stakeholders to distribute construction documents on mobile devices.

The Michigan DOT has been a leader in using this technology to manage its large construction program.

Michigan officials estimate that eConstruction saves $12 million a year and they no longer have to keep up with SIX MILLION pieces of paper.

The innovation is also credited with reducing the average time to process a contract modification from 30 days down to just three!

That’s just a few of the three dozen innovations that are making up the first three rounds of Every Day Counts.

I hope you’ll check out the Every Day Counts and FHWA websites for more information.

Each innovation is exciting in its own right, and is having a measurable impact by saving time, saving money or saving lives.

But it’s even more exciting to think of the potential when the different EDC innovations are deployed together in a coordinated way across the entire planning, design and delivery continuum.

In other words, the best way to help transportation fulfill its true mission to improve people’s lives is to harness the COLLECTIVE CAPACITY of these innovations.

We’re making tremendous progress in that direction.

States are deploying innovations that move projects efficiently from concept to completion, and – once built – help them perform better, last longer and keep people safer.

They’re making the delivery process less time consuming and less costly, freeing money for use on other projects.

I urge you to contact the STIC in your state and join the growing, collective effort to deploy E-Transportation or any other innovative solution.

The numbers – 100 million more people, twice as much freight – leave us no choice but to proceed down the path of finding better, faster and smarter ways to deliver transportation to the American people.

Even the most generous Congress under the best of circumstances would not be able to meet that obligation through investment alone.

We can only meet America’s future transportation needs by combining long-term investment with a commitment to innovation.

And we welcome any idea that might improve someone’s commute, make their business more successful or their community greener.

We’re pleased that ARTBA is a partner in building that future.

Thank you very much!

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Page posted on May 21, 2015.
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000